WINNING gold in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha was an unforgettable moment for former shuttler Tan Boon Heong.
Boon Heong was only 19 when he combined with then 21-yearold Koo Kien Keat in the men’s doubles to end Malaysia’s 36-year wait for a gold in the Asiad in stunning fashion after beating Indonesians Luluk Hadiyanto-Alvent Yulianto.
“We never expected we could win the gold at that time,” said Boon Heong.
“We knew our opponents were too strong. We just went in wanting to give our best in every match.
“Only when we reached the final, we fought hard to win the gold.
“We didn’t really think about ending the 36-year wait. We were so happy after we won,” he added.
The underdogs tag had served Boon Heong and Kien Keat well at that time.
The duo had stunned some of the world’s top pairs like China’s Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun (quarter-finals) and Indonesia’s Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan (last four) en route to the final.
Boon Heong credited coach Rexy Mainaky as a key figure in the pair’s success.
“It was very important for us to believe in our coach as he supported us all the time and made us more confident,” said Boon Heong.
“We also stayed focused and kept fighting until the end.”
Boon Heong-Kien Keat are the last Asiad winners, and they came close to defending their title in the 2010 Guangzhou Games but had to settle for silver after losing agonisingly to Markis and Hendra in three games in a thrilling final.
In the current Asiad in Hangzhou, Malaysia’s best bets to end the 17-year wait will again be in the men’s doubles through Rexy’s boys Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and independent shuttlers Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi.
Kien Keat believes there are no clear favourites.
“Everyone stands a chance because there are no dominant pairs now,” said Kien Keat.
“I hope our pairs will boost their confidence level and fighting spirit. Aaron-Wooi Yik and Yew Sin-Ee Yi need to trust and discuss more with each other and overcome the mistakes when on court.’’
World No. 5 Aaron-Wooi Yik will be making their Asiad debuts while world No. 9 Yew Sin-Ee Yi will be competing for the second time after losing in the quarter-finals at 2018 Jakarta Games.
Their challengers are homesters Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang (No. 2), Liu Yuchen-Ou Xuanyi (No. 8); reigning world champions Kang Min-hyuk-Seo Seung-jae of South Korea (No. 4); Indonesia’s world No. 1 and 2018 Jakarta Games silver medallists Fajar Alfian-Rian Ardianto, India’s Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty (No. 3) and Japan’s 2021 world champions Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi (No. 6).
Defending champions Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya of Indonesia will not be competing in Hangzhou.
Before the individual event, the pairs will clash in the team event which is set to start tomorrow at the Binjiang Gymnasium.
Besides medals, ranking points towards qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics will also be on offer in the individual event which will be held from Oct 2-7.