BY RAJES PAUL
PETALING JAYA: It was a grand moment for Malaysia when the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) pair of Tan Boon Heong-Hoon Thien How staged a remarkable fight back to emerge as the world junior badminton boys' doubles champions at the Minoru Arena in Vancouver on Saturday.
The duo, who trailed 0-8 in the rubber game, fought for 56 minutes to pull off a surprise 15-6, 3-15, 15-12 win over Asian junior champions Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jung-young of South Korea in the final.
It was their third and the sweetest upset win in the championships.
They eliminated third-fourth seeds Li Rui-Cao Liu of China in the quarter-finals and ousted top seeds Yoo Yeon-seong-Jeon Jun-bum of South Korea in the semi-finals.
Tan Boon Heong ((left) and Hoon Thien How can lay claim to be doubles pair at junior level.
With the win over the second seeded South Koreans makes Boon Heong-Thien How the third Malaysian pair to win the world junior crown since the tournament's inception in 1992.
The previous winners were Chan Chong Ming-Jeremy Gan (1996) and Chong Ming-Teo Kok Seng (1998).
The 18-year-old Thien How, who clinched the winning point with a powerful smash, was on top of the world.
“This is unbelievable. We defeated the Asian junior champions. We are the world junior champions! It was a great win for us,” said Thien How in a telephone interview from Vancouver yesterday.
“It certainly makes up for the disappointment of losing in the quarter-finals at the Asian Junior Championships (in July to China's top ranked pair of Shen Ye-He Hanbin).
“Surprisingly, we won the first game quite easily. Our opponents looked tense. But in the second game, they tightened up their defensive game. We also made made many mistakes.
“In the rubber, we thought we were going to lose when we trailed 0-8. Fortunately, we caught up to 8-9. They pulled away 12-9.
“We reached match point at 14 and they wasted four chances to narrow the gap. Then, there was an opening and I smashed as hard as possible and the Korean returned the shuttle into the net.
“I just turned and hugged my partner for a while. We finally won it.”
The 17-year-old Boon Heong hoped the win would lift the gloom over the badminton team following the failure to win a medal in the Athens Olympics.
“This is certainly an unexpected win for us. We have ended a six-year title drought for country. We hope this title will also cheer up the Malaysian badminton team – especially after our senior team's disappointment in the Athens Games,” said Boon Heong.
“The next tournament for us is the Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia (December). It is an Under-18 tournament and we will try to win it too.
“Other than that, we do not know the other plans for us. We will leave it to our coaches. But for now, I better start concentrating on my SPM (Sijil Penilaian Malaysia) examinations (beginning on Nov 8).”
The BJSS doubles coach Pang Cheh Chang, who paired up Thien Hoon and Boon Heong in May last year, was proud of his charges' performances.
“Thien Hoon has been with the academy for the last five years while I picked the Kedah-born Boon Heong from the Selangor training centre two years ago. They hit it off well,” said Cheh Chang.
Last year, the duo won the National Under-18 title, bagged the Asian Schools Under-18 crown in Brunei and also emerged as the Under-21 champions in the Kuala Lumpur Open. This year, they captured the Division Two doubles title in the National Grand Prix Finals.