MALAYSIA’S doubles shuttlers Aaron Chia, Soh Wooi Yik, Nur Izzuddin Rumsani and Goh Sze Fei have been improving by leaps and bounds.
In July, Aaron-Wooi Yik did the country proud by winning a bronze medal at the Olympic Games.
And on Thursday, Izzuddin-Sze Fei dumped Olympic Games champions Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin of Taiwan to reach the Indonesian Open quarter-finals.
They have grown and are gradually climbing the ladder to success and fame.
They are beating top pairs and making breakthroughs. Their attacking and tactical abilities have improved tremendously.
It’s a joy to watch. But what’s really delightful is that the young boys, despite the string of successes, remain well grounded.
Their attitude has remained unchanged.
They are still the humble players I’ve known since their junior days. They have not allowed these successes to get to their heads. They are gracious in defeat and humble in victory.
They recognise their limitations and welcome corrections from coaches and teammates. Their fan base has snowballed but their humility remains.
That, to me, is the hallmark of champions.
These boys remind me of the former greats who did not let success go to their heads.
All Malaysians remember the early 90s when we had such a breed of great players. The Sidek brothers – Misbun, Jalani, Razif, Rahman and Rashid – are classic examples.
They went through ups and downs, were criticised and celebrated, faced many adversities and challenges.
And they were hailed as national heroes – yet each one of them remained down to earth and humble to this day.
Three-time Olympics silver medallist Lee Chong Wei is another. He has achieved so much, he has risen to the pinnacle, yet there was never a show of ego. All that success did not change his character.
There are many others - players whom I’ve known over the last two decades, friendly and open. We can share, argue and debate about a topic and then have a laugh over a cup of coffee.
Players need to keep their feet on the ground if they are to aim for the sky.
On court, many may seem arrogant in the way they play and that’s fine.
That brings colour to the game and the confidence is needed to keep the opponent guessing.
Chong Wei and Lin Dan of China played that game of wits to excellence, Kento Momota of Japan and Viktor Axelsen of Denmark have shown it too, the aggression of Marcus Fernaldi-Kevin Sanjaya of Indonesia strikes fear into the hearts of rivals and Spaniard Carolina Marin’s loud cries irritate opponents into making mistakes.
That kind of arrogance is one thing, cockiness is another.
Unfortunately, some players don’t know the difference.
They have to realise that the people they look down upon on their way up are the same people they will need to prop them up when they are on their way down.
Success, fame, and popularity do not last but humility can take you far.
Thank you Aaron, Wooi Yik, Sze Fei and Izzuddin for staying grounded despite your successes – great things await you all for sure.
A Chinese proverb says: “Be like a bamboo – the higher you grow the deeper you bow.”
It’s something all athletes should bear in mind.