BY RAJES PAUL
HE was not the best of the players. And he was not the bet of the pundits. Yet, Wong Tat Meng got the nod for the job as national mens singles coach. That was a surprise. But Tat Meng is promising more and pleasant surprises ahead.
|Swinging into action: Wong Tat Meng got straight down to work after his appointment, coaching Wong Choong Hann and K. Yogendran in Bukit Jalil on Friday. M. AZHAR ARIF/ The Star |
PETALING JAYA: Wong Tat Meng hit the pinnacle of his career when he was named national badminton coach on Wednesday. And he went straight back to his roots.
Upon learning of his appointment, Tat Meng rang Lim Jit Yee in Ipoh. Jit Yee was the man who coached Tat Meng when he was 12 and just picking up his first racquet.
He was proud of me and wished me well. My foundation in badminton started with him when I was12 to15 years old, said Tat Meng, who will turn 40 on March 8.
I told him that I did not make him proud as a player. But I am determined to make him proud as the national men's singles coach, he said.
On Wednesday, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) named Tat Meng as a replacement for Chinese Li Mao ahead of the more famous Sidek brothers - Misbun and Rashid.
It was a big shock as Tat Meng had been the least fancied for the job, given his less-than-stellar career as a player.
In fact, he is the first of the less successful players to helm Malaysian badminton after the likes of Punch Gunalan, Tan Yee Khan, Chen Changjie, Han Jian, Yang Yang, Fang Kaixiang, Morten Frost, Indra Gunawan, Misbun and Li Mao.
Tat Meng's best achievement was in finishing as runner-up twice to Foo Kok Keong at the 1988-1989 national championships. He was also a non-playing member of the national team that won a gold at the 1989 KL SEA Games.
I started playing badminton when I was 12. (Cheah) Soon Kit, 11, Chong Weng Kai,14 and I used to follow our fathers to the St John's Hall. When our dads took a break, the three of us would rush onto court and play our hearts out. It was fun, he said.
Under Jit Yee, who is married to former top woman shuttler Lee Wai Leng, Tat Meng won the Under-15 title at the National Schools (MSSM) meet.
At 16, he joined players like Rashid, Soo Beng Kiang and the seniors Rahman and Jalani Sidek at the Victoria Institution (VI) in Kuala Lumpur.
Then, his big break came with a place in the Project 1988-92 squad under Gunalan.
But I did not do well as a player. There are no international titles to show, he said wryly.
My game did improve when I was under coach Kaixiang. But he left and my game stagnated. If only he had stayed ....
Tat Meng, who quit after his failure to make the 1992 Thomas Cup squad, has been coached by Gunalan, Yee Khan, Changjie, Han Jian and Yang Yang and knows how a coach can affect a player - even by the smallest of margins.
(Wong) Choong Hann and (Lee) Chong Wei have reached a high level of play but there is always room for improvement. Small adjustments can make a big difference, said Tat Meng, who had assisted Li Mao before this.
He says Li Mao had instilled in him a renewed passion for coaching.
I have learnt great things from Li Mao, he said. I would not have had the confidence to take on this job if not for him. Li Mao brought the latest training methods.
He is a coach of the modern era. He uses speed and polishes the natural skills of players.
He does not believe that 1,000 smashes a day make a player good in smashing. With him, it is about the right technique and the smart way of training and executing skills.
Some players get uncomfortable with changes. But when they get a grasp of it, it works wonders. Look at how Chong Wei has improved under Li Mao.
Tat Meng also hopes to emulate Li Mao's work ethics.
He is committed and honest. There is a Chinese saying that if you know 10 things, share only nine. But with Li Mao, he gave more than 10. He was never satisfied with the work he put in, said Tat Meng.
But of course, there are always changes in the world of badminton. The game is getting faster and faster. Eventually, I want to improve on Li Mao's methods.
On his targets during his two-year contract with BAM, Tat Meng said: There will be two All-Englands, one Thomas Cup Finals, one World Championships, one Olympic Games and two Super Series Finals. My hope is to see Malaysia winning at least one of this seven majors.
I am confident that our current players Chong Wei, Choong Hann, (Kuan) Beng Hong and (Mohd) Hafiz (Hashim) will continue to improve. Any one of them can win for us.
Tat Meng may not be the man seen as Malaysia's saviour in badminton. But if his enthusiasm is anything to go by, his first coach Jit Yee can expect another happy call from his old charge.
(source: The Star Online)