World junior doubles champion Tan Boon Heong and Hoon Thien How are currently put on hold before they are let loose on the international stage. But two former badminton greats feel that the duo should be given immediate exposure. STARSPORT's RAJES PAUL reports on what Tan Yee Khan and Eddy Choong have to say.
PETALING JAYA: It has been almost a month since Tan Boon Heong-Hoon Thien How emerged as the world junior boys' doubles badminton champion.
WAITING GAME: Tan Boon Heong (holding trophy) and his partner Hoon Thien How on their return home after winning the World Junior doubles title. The pair have to wait for at least three months before they compete in their first international Open tournament - in Thailand from March 29-April 3.
Despite the duo's biggest breakthrough in the junior level, Boon Heong-Thien How will have to wait for at least three months more before they get the opportunity to compete in their first international Open tournament – in Thailand from March 29-April 3.
But according to two former Malaysian shuttle greats Datuk Eddy Choong and Tan Yee Khan, delaying the participations of these juniors in senior international tournaments is seen as “killing the budding talent” in the country.
The 17-year-old Boon Heong and the 18-year-old Thien How are the third Malaysian pair to win the world junior title. They achieved it in Vancouver, Canada, last month – beating Asian junior champions Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jung-young of South Korea 15-6, 3-15, 15-12 in the final.
The two previous Malaysian champions in the series were Chan Chong Ming-Jeremy Gan in 1996 and Chong Ming-Teo Kok Seng in 1998.
These two pairs, however, failed to make impacts in senior international tournaments. Only the 24-year-old Chong Ming is currently in the national team in a new partnership with Koo Kien Keat.
Eddy, who has seven All-England titles to his name, including four in the singles, felt that Boon Heong-Thien How could also sink into oblivion as a pair if the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) were unable to provide them with immediate exposure in senior international tournaments.
“We can lose another pair of the future if this world junior champions are not given proper guidance. Just look at the past. The BAM could not help to sustain these players. Certainly, something must have gone wrong somewhere,” said Eddy.
“I sincerely feel that these players (Boon Heong-Thien How) should forget about competing in the junior tournaments anymore. They have to move up and compete with the big boys.
“It is good that Boon Heong-Thien How are now training together with the seniors. This is a good start but it is not enough. They must be sent out regularly to compete in international tournaments.
“Money was probably the issue in the past. Now with funds coming from the government, the BAM should be able to give these juniors the exposure that they really need.”
Eddy also felt that coaches who groomed these players to success at the junior level should be promoted to take care of the same players in the national senior team.
“On many occasions, the coaches are forgotten after they had successfully groomed the juniors to become winners,” said Eddy.
“I feel that the coaches should also move up together with these players into the senior team. It will help to educate and improve the standard of the coaches too. They will know that they have bigger challenges in their hands and will work even harder to polish the players' game.
“In our case, many coaches have been demoralised when they are not appreciated or credited for their efforts.”
Former international Pang Cheh Chang paired up Kedahan Boon Heong and Kuala Lumpur's Thien Hoon just one-an-half-year ago.
Cheh Chang, who is the doubles coach of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), has now been roped in to assist national doubles chief coach Yap Kim Hock at the training centre in Bukit Kiara.
Yee Khan, a former All-England doubles champion with Ng Boon Bee and a member of the victorious 1967 Thomas Cup team, also felt that it was a crucial time for Boon Heong-Thien How.
“It is a big risk if these players are neglected at this time,” said Yee Khan.
“A lot of things will go through their minds after winning the world junior title. There must be proper guidance. I have even offered my assistance to see these boys and talk to them.
“This is only a start for them and the national coaches must draft up a special programme to cater for their needs. They must have short and long-term goals to achieve.
“It is better to throw them into the field where they get the opportunities to rub shoulders with the world's best.
Tan Yee Khan
“At least, we know where they stand and whether they have the temperament to challenge the big guns. It is better to test them now rather than a few years later.”
Yee Khan said that he was impressed with China's way of handling their juniors.
Chen Jin and Gong Weijie emerged as the boys' singles champion and runners-up in the recent world junior meet.
Just two weeks after that in the six-star China Open, Chen Jin upset Agus Hariyanto of Hong Kong while Weijie stunned second seed Peter Gade-Christensen of Denmark to qualify for the quarter-finals.
In the quarter-finals, Chen Jin went down to teammate Bao Chunlai while Weijie got the opportunity to play against Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia before bowing out.
“China's world juniors are immediately thrown into the fire. And these players use it as an opportunity to prove themselves,”said Yee Khan.
“Some do well and some don't. But it is certainly a good platform for China to know where their juniors stand.
“It is pointless to keep our talent at home and find out later that they are not able to stand up to the challenges in senior international tournaments. A lot of time, money and energy are wasted. “
It is now up to the BAM to decide on Boon Heong's and Thien Hoon's future. They can keep them at home and probably see them stagnate or see how they fare when thrown into the fire.