KUALA LUMPUR: Razif Sidek’s eyes sparkle every time he watches his youngest son Mohd Fazriq execute a jumping smash, dive to retrieve a shuttle or make a cross court backhand return.
Men’s doubles Olympic bronze medallist Razif is certainly proud as his chubby son, only eight years old, is full of spunk and charisma.
“I have five children but this one is crazy about badminton,” beamed Razif as he watched his son’s antics on court.
At one stage, the fair-skinned Fazriq took a short break to tape his knee although there was no injury whatsoever – drawing laughter from his doting father.
“He plays the game every day. He loves watching badminton matches on YouTube and his favourite is, of course, Lee Chong Wei. He can watch a badminton match over and over again,” said Razif.
“One day, he told me that he wanted to quit schooling to play badminton every day and I almost fell off my chair.
“I took him aside and explained that education is important. We then made a deal: he will continue schooling and I will start coaching him.
“I have been giving him whatever tips I can.
“I just want him to enjoy the game right now.
“I hope he will do much better than me. He is still very young but I hope he will keep the fire burning and will one day compete in the World Championships or the Olympics.”
Twenty years ago, Razif teamed up with his brother Jalani at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and won the country’s first Olympic medal – a bronze in the men’s doubles.
Since then, there have been other bronze and even silver medals but the 50-year-old Razif is still waiting to see Malaysians celebrate an Olympic gold.
“I have gone from a player to a coach but somehow the Olympic gold has eluded our Malaysian athletes,” said Razif, who is a coach with KLRC.
“In 1992, Jalani and I lost to Park Joo-bong-Kim Moon-soo of South Korea in the semi-finals (11-15, 13-15) and they went on to win the gold.
“We did not have a playoff then and were awarded the bronze with China’s Tian Bingyi-Li Yongbo.”
Like Razif, his rivals then – Joo-bong, Moon-soo, Bingyi and Yongbo – are all coaching in Japan, South Korea and China respectively.
“We came even closer to winning a gold medal when I was the chief coach of the national squad at the 1996 Atlanta Games but Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock lost to Indonesia’s Rexy Mainaky-Ricky Subagja in the final,” Razif recalled.
“Sometimes I wish I could turn back the clock ...”
Razif, however, admits that he enjoyed every second of the Olympic Games.
“Badminton was introduced at the Barcelona Games and, naturally, the spotlight was on our badminton team that year. I am glad that Jalani and I made history by being the first shuttlers to deliver the goods, albeit a bronze,” he said.
“We enjoyed the whole atmosphere in our first Games. I remember being in the same shuttle bus as (American sprint legend) Carl Lewis as we headed for the training area from the Games Village.
“We saw so many other great athletes during the Games. But not many knew where Malaysia was. They knew where Singapore was but they just could not put their finger on Malaysia. I did my best to give them a geography lesson,” he quipped.
“The food at the Games Village was very appetising too. They had a free flow of western food and Asian cuisine.”
With the London Olympics officially kicking off on Friday, Razif is hoping shuttlers Lee Chong Wei and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong will end the nation’s long wait for the elusive gold medal.
“The competition has become more intense since the scoring format was switched from 15 points to the 21-point rally.
“The old format had service over but under the new format, you are busted if you make silly mistakes. Overall, it is more challenging,” said Razif.
“Chong Wei has a shot (at the gold medal) but I hope Koo-Tan will rise to the challenge too. The race is open and they must take their chances well.
“It has a been long wait. Hopefully, one of our shuttlers will end this agonising wait.”
Besides Razif-Jalani, the only other medallists for Malaysia are also shuttlers – Rashid Sidek and Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock.
If our shuttlers fail to end the drought, perhaps Razif – and the rest of Malaysia – may well have to wait till his son grows up to strike it right at the Games then.