KUALA LUMPUR: Former top doubles player Cheah Soon Kit will be appointed as the chief coach of the Klang Valley-based badminton club KLRC Bhd.
The club owner Datuk Seri Andrew Kam yesterday confirmed that the 1996 Atlanta Olympics silver medallist will start work with the club after a short break.
Soon Kit was the coach of the national women's doubles players for the last five years but quit the job with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) earlier this week.
“Soon Kit will be the new chief coach of the club. He has enough experience and has proved to be able to deliver as what we have seen when he was working with the national women's doubles players,” said Andrew.
Soon Kit's new position will see him reuniting with his former playing partner, Ong Beng Teong, but in a different role. Beng Teong is the club's director of coaching.
KLRC have many former national players under their payroll. And with Soon Kit joining their coaching set-up, the club may be taking on a more professional approach, including plans to have their own badminton academy soon.
Among their players who were given a new lease of life after leaving the national team are singles players Lee Tsuen Seng and Sairul Amar Ayob; and women's doubles shuttlers Lim Pek Siah, Joanne Quay and Ang Li Peng.
However, the club have started to rope in young players with potential as well from this year. Among the youngsters who have joined the club are former women's doubles players Haw Chiou Hwee and Ooi Sock Ai and also the men's doubles pair of Goh Ying Jing-Au Kok Leong, who won an international Grade A title in Greece last week.
Fourteen-year-old Zulfadli Zulkifli, who beat the bigger boys to win the Division Two (Under-21) title in the Kedah Open this year, is also another new recruit.
Chiou Hwee is currently partnering 28-year-old Pek Siah, who won the 2002 Commonwealth Games gold medal with Li Peng in Manchester.
And they could qualify for the Beijing Olympics in August. They are currently ranked 32nd in the world and will need to maintain their current position until the end of April to earn automatic qualification.
“Chiou Hwee is only 20 and the much older Pek Siah is guiding a younger player … this is the learning process,” said Andrew, who stressed that the club have no intention of competing with the BAM but are only complementing the national association's efforts.
“I see these players as valuable resources and they should not be wasted. We should not discount these talents who have spent many years developing their skills. We are just giving them second opportunities.”
And as word got around of what KLRC are doing, it is inevitable that what began as a passion for Andrew will take on a bigger scope.
“We plan to start our own badminton academy soon because many state and junior players have approached us,” he said.