KUALA LUMPUR: National doubles chief coach Yap Kim Hock has thrown a lifeline to the former national number one pair of Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah.
The newly-appointed badminton coach has decided not to split the pair. He feels that Tan Fook-Wan Wah still have it in them to win honours for the country and he has given them six months to prove their worth again.
“Although they are injury-prone, it will be a waste of the BAM's (Badminton Association of Malaysia) money if Wan Wah-Tan Fook are dropped just like that,” said Kim Hock.
“It is not easy training up a pair to reach the top level. It will take at least three years. I still consider Tan Fook-Wan Wah as one of the best doubles pair in the world and they can still play top-level badminton.
“They already have the experience and it is also good for the juniors to have Wan Wah-Tan Fook in the national team. The juniors will benefit from sparring with the senior players.
“There is nothing to lose and personally, it is also a challenge for me as a coach to bring them back to the top again.”
Kim Hock added that he had already submitted Tan Fook's and Wan Wah's names to the BAM for inclusion in the new national squad.
They are also listed to compete in the Thailand Open in Bangkok from Jan 8-12. The one-star tournament will be the first international outing in seven months for Tan Fook-Wan Wah. Their last outing was at the Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou last May. They provided the winning point for Malaysia in the semi-final against China.
Last year, Tan Fook-Wan Wah were the runners-up in the Japan Open in April. Injury kept Wan Wah out and Tan Fook went on to partner Chang Kim Wai to finish as the runners-up in the Malaysian Open and at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.
At their peak, Tan Fook-Wan Wah won three tournaments in a row in 1999. They reached the semi-finals of the 2000 Sydney Olympics in 2000 and won a bronze in the World Championships in Seville in 2000.
However, there have been doubts over the duo's future following the BAM's announcement that they intended to trim the national squad by the end of the month.
Tan Fook had been going in and out of the treatment room for a troubled knee while Wan Wah has taken a long break to recuperate from a knee surgery.
Tan Fook-Wan Wah, who first forged a partnership in 1995, resumed training last month.
Kim Hock added that he had talked to the duo about his plans for them and they had promised to get their act together for their challenges in the new season.
It was a public holiday on New Year's day yesterday but it was business as usual for the doubles squad.
With the exception of top pair Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng, the players went through three hours of training session under Kim Hock and Tan Kim Her at Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara.
“I am not bothered by what happened to Tan Fook-Wan Wah in the past. I want to give them one more chance,” said Kim Hock.
“I will try my best to bring them up to be a top pair again but they must keep up with the training programme in these six months.
“Wan Wah-Tan Fook will have to give a try and push themselves through the tough physical sessions. They have no choice if they want to become a top pair again.
“Besides the Thailand Open, I also plan to send them to the All-England (in Birmingham) in February.”
Kim Hock has revamped the daily training sessions since he took over from South Korean Park Joo-bong as chief coach of the doubles squad.
The players now go through four full training sessions per week. Half-day sessions are held on Tuesday and Thursday and the shuttlers have a rest day on Sunday. But the seniors, among them Wan Wah-Tan Fook, also get a break on Tuesday.
“In their condition, they need a longer period to recover because they are only starting back together. With a good recovery period, they can come back stronger, physically and mentally, the next day,” said Kim Hock.