After spending seven years guiding upstarts into champions abroad, coach Wong Tat Meng felt that he needed to take on the challenge of trying to produce Malaysia’s first Olympic gold medallist.
And the 55-year-old Malaysian did not hesitate to take on the responsibility to coach world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia.
It was not an easy decision for Tat Meng, as he is in charge of the fast-improving players from Hong Kong – world No. 14 Angus Ng Ka Long and world No. 17 Lee Cheuk Yiu – since June last year.
Angus and Cheuk Yiu have improved tremendously under Tat Meng and one of them may even win Hong Kong’s first medal in the men’s singles at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
However, helping Zii Jia is not just for Tat Meng’s personal glory as the 25-year-old shuttler has the quality to possibly end Malaysia’s long wait for an Olympic gold.
“This is a hard decision to make but I have strong reasons to coach Zii Jia. A chance to serve my country, a chance to come back home and a chance to help Malaysia win its first ever Olympic gold medal,” said Tat Meng.
“Most importantly, I also believe that he is a good prospect. He is not complete yet but my training programme will be tailor-made for him to improve his performance.
“I had to deal with different kinds of pressure and expectations from other countries that I have served and those high-pressure situations helped me to improve my coaching ability and gave me the courage to move forward when faced with challenges.
“Likewise, Zii Jia will face tremendous pressure too because he wants to achieve his own dream as well as Malaysia’s hope.
“And this gives both of us the drive to succeed.”
Tat Meng confirmed that Zii Jia had approached him about two weeks ago and he felt that the time was right for him to head home and help a fellow Malaysian fulfil his lifelong dream.
The early test will be the World Championships in Copenhagen from Aug 21-27 where Tat Meng can gauge Zii Jia’s level and also the effectiveness of his programme that should start as early as next month.
“Definitely, we will do our best to prepare for the tournament (the World Championships) and God willing, we can achieve a good result,” added Tat Meng, who also had coaching stints in Scotland, South Korea and Hong Kong in the last seven years.
Tat Meng’s departure has left Angus crying foul as he and his teammates were showing fine progress and they probably needed his guidance to do well at the Hangzhou Asian Games (Sept 23-Oct 8) and 2024 Paris.
Angus’ outburst was more out of frustration for letting a coach of Tat Meng’s calibre go and Hong Kong may not be happy but it is a timely return by the Malaysian to lift Zii Jia’s career.
Tat Meng’s one-year contract with Hong Kong will end next month and he should start coaching Zii Jia in July where the Korea Open in Yeosu (July 18-23) could be his first official international duty.