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Sunday December 2, 2012

Coach Peng Huat still going strong even at 75

ONE look at Teh Peng Huat and you may think that he is just an ordinary septuagenarian. But wait till you really see him!

The still agile 75-year-old has boundless energy, which comes in handy as he continues to coach young shuttlers at the Berapit Primary School hall in Bukit Mertajam with the hope of unearthing another Lee Chong Wei – his most famous student.

Peng Huat may not be a household name among badminton fans but he has sacrificed so much for the game – all because of his undying love and relentless passion for it.

This man, who spotted and shaped national icon Chong Wei into the player that he is, has also worked with the likes of Chin Eee Hui, Goh Giap Chin, Nelson Heg, Tee Jing Yi, Goh Jin Wei and Cheam June Wei. Rising star Jin Wei, who recently scored 7As in her UPSR examination, is already the national champion in her age group.

Huat with his best Penang Coach Award in 2004. Peng Huat with his best Penang Coach Award in 2004.

Peng Huat’s love affair with badminton blossomed when he was 18. That was when he began “inventing” deceptive tricks to outwit his opponents. One of his famous tricks is the triple-motion movement.

A year later, in 1956, he began his coaching career. However, he had to put that on hold due to financial difficulties as he worked in a rubber plantation to support his family.

But his love for the game – especially coaching – never diminished. Peng Huat still remembers the time when the then 10-year-old Chong Wei refused an offer to train under him.

“Maybe he felt that I was too old to coach ... and he has never seen me play on the court before,” he said in jest. “I continued to monitor his progress. Two years later, he lost in a junior tournament and I extended my offer to coach him again. I even told him that if I could not make him an outstanding shuttler within three months, he could leave my training sessions.”

Chong Wei, of course, shone under his tutelage. “Chong Wei was a special kid with immense talent when I first spotted him. He was unique. Sometimes, he tended to be playful but he’s definitely hardworking and serious during the training sessions.

“He also picked up things easily back then.”

Asked what was the two-time Olympic Games silver medallist Chong Wei’s secret to being consistent, Peng Huat said: “He does things on court that are entirely different from others.”

“To be the world No. 1, you need to possess the skills and techniques ... and Chong Wei has it all. He can still be a threat at the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – all he has to do is practise all the techniques he has mastered and add a few twists to them.”

Peng Huat also commended Chong Wei for not forgetting his roots.

“Every year he would visit me during the Chinese New Year festival ... despite his hectic schedule. That, to me, is the hallmark of a true champion,” said Peng Huat.

While the player he once coached is now a multi-millionaire, Peng Huat – the recipient of Penang’s best coach award in 2004 – said coaching “is not a money-making career”.

“For coaches like me, it all comes from the heart. From back then to now, I charge students on a monthly basis ... But if the they cannot afford to pay the fees, that’s fine with me,” said Peng Huat. “Money is not important. I find joy in coaching and it gives me satisfaction to see my charges fulfilling their dreams. I have my own targets when I am coaching. I am not the come-and-go type of coach.

“I’d coach them from morning till night if they are determined and passionate.”

Peng Huat admitted that many have ridiculed him “because of my age”.

But the fit-as-a-fiddle coach silences them by “outperforming” his much young charges!

“Whenever I teach badminton, most of them wouldn’t accept me as a coach initially. So, I have to perform in front of them and only then will they accept me,” he said with a wry smile.

“I’m willing to coach even when I’m 90. If I have the ability and stamina to continue coaching, why should I stop?”

Asked if there were other challenges he has faced, Peng Huat said: “A coach has to work together with the player and vice-versa. It’s not easy, it’s a two-way teaching method. If the coach teaches, but the players are not hardworking, then nothing will happen.”

For someone who has been coaching for such a long time and who has churned out so many top shuttlers, Peng Huat has this piece of advice for budding badminton players:

“Every shuttler should constantly maintain his or her standard at all times in order to excel at the top level. They should know the basic skills and techniques of badminton. In order to excel, a player needs to be dedicated, passionate and hardworking. There is simply no shortcut to success – just look at Chong Wei.”

Enough said.