Cool Indonesian coach makes a difference for Jin Wei, Liek Hou

Thorough analysis: Nova Armada coaching Goh Jin Wei during a training session. — LOW BOON TAT/The Star

THE brevity of Nova Armada’s playing career has long gnawed at his heart, leaving a lingering ache of unfulfilled dreams.

Although that chapter of his life was disappointing, Indonesian Nova has now crossed borders to mend the fracture of his own past through coaching professional and para shuttlers in Malaysia.

He has done well to guide women’s singles player Goh Jin Wei and para shuttlers Cheah Liek Hou and Fareez Anuar to achieve milestones of their own and that has given him full satisfaction.

Nova first discovered badminton when he was seven years old, and from that moment, there was no turning back for him.

Winning combo: Nova Armada with para athlete Cheah Liek Hou.Winning combo: Nova Armada with para athlete Cheah Liek Hou.

He continued to pursue his passion by joining a badminton club in his hometown Klaten in Java, and it was not long before he caught the attention of the national body when he was just 12 years old.

However, Nova admits that he could not achieve much in the sport, given Indonesia’s wealth of talented players, and his badminton journey came to an abrupt halt three years later due to a lung condition in 1997.

“I joined the national team alongside Indra Wijaya and Jeffer Rosobin, but my tenure lasted merely three years, cut short due to lung disease,” said the 50-year-old Nova.

“It was challenging to make significant strides in the sports, considering there were many big names from my country, like Joko Suprianto, Ardy Wiranata and Alan Budikusuma.

“I felt disappointed as my competitive playing career spanned only three years.

But turning to coaching has kept his passion alive in the sport.

“Assisting my players in achieving milestones bring joy to the heart and a sense of satisfaction and that had helped sooth my own disappointments.”

Nova is the man behind the success of Liek Hou, Fareez Anuar and Jin Wei.

“I’m currently experiencing a mix of joy and tension,” said Nova.

Joy as he knows clearly where Liek Hou and Fareez stand but a bit tense as Jin Wei is still work in progress.

Liek Hou also has booked his spot in the Paralympics while Fareez is currently applying to compete as a wildcard after finishing sixth in the Road to Paris rankings.

In the recent World Championships last month, Liek Hou successfully defended his singles title in the SU5 category (upper body impairment) and also partnered with Fareez to win another gold in the doubles event.

“Liek Hou’s target is clear – he needs to secure a second gold. The focus for Liek Hou is on injury prevention,” said Nova, who had coached para athlete from 2004-2006 before returning to guide him since 2019.

“He excels in the front game and displays agility at the back of the court, so we have been regularly conducting training sessions to further refine his skills.

“We mustn’t push Liek Hou too hard considering he is already 35 years old.

“Fortunately, he maintains good discipline and never misses a training session.”

It’s amazing that Jin Wei has made the Olympics cut too as she was struggling to return to top form after going through colectomy surgery in 2019 but through Nova’s strong encouragement and support, she has made it.

“The preparation for debutant Jin Wei is tricky. Our aim is to reach the quarter-finals. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves by setting medal target,” said Nova, who has been training her for the last two years.

“Her playing style has set her apart from other Malaysian female players. She is able to give good fight against the top 16 players like Gregoria (Mariska of Indonesia), Pornpawee (Chochuwong from Thailand) and Zhang Beiwen (of United States), though she may struggle against those in the top eight.

“I’m confident that she can break into the top 16 in the world rankings if she achieves full fitness.”

Nova has stood by Jin Wei’s side through her challenging Olympics qualifying process, providing unwavering support as she made the courageous decision to resume her professional badminton career three years ago.

Pay attention: Coach Nova Armada instructing his players during a training session.Pay attention: Coach Nova Armada instructing his players during a training session.

Despite the public’s loss of faith in Jin Wei and the barrage of negative comments urging her to retire on social media platforms, Nova remained resolute in his support for her, and it ultimately proved to be the right decision.

“They (the public) were unaware of the nature of Jin Wei’s illness, and I too was taken aback when I discovered it,” said Nova.

“The surgery she underwent involved cutting her small intestines, limiting her food intake.

“It is difficult to imagine that as an athlete, she needs to consume large amount of food for ample nourishment, but she could only manage a little.

“In the past, her performance and smashes were good and her killing instinct was commendable as well.

“If she had only talked about it (playing) without showing genuine commitment, I would not have helped, but seeing her continued determination and passion, I supported her.

“Considering her strong desire to attempt a comeback and at a young age of just 22 back then, we discussed and agreed to give it a shot until she turns 25.

“If by then she hasn’t returned to the top 10, we will stop and not waste any more time.

“Let others talk, as long as she is determined, that’s all that matters to me.”

With just three months remaining until the Paris Olympics, Nova has revamped the training regime for Jin Wei and Liek Hou to ensure they would be in peak condition for the event.

“In Jin Wei’s case, there’s a need for improvement in her stamina, endurance and rallies,” he said.

“If opponents engage her in long rallies, she tends to tire quickly after a few points.

“Our aim is to enhance her stamina since her smashing ability and overall gameplay are already strong.

Nova’s solid rock support and faith over his charges despite their ups and downs, certainly make him a standout coach.

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