KUALA LUMPUR: Doubles shuttler Koo Kien Keat is a tough guy. But yesterday, he broke down in tears at the Bukit Jalil Sports Complex.
The 22-year-old Kien Keat was hurt, distraught and disappointed over coach Rexy Mainaky's latest outburst over his performances in two recent tournaments in Europe.
With partner Tan Boon Heong, the duo failed in their defence of the All-England and Swiss Open titles, crashing out in the first and second round respectively.
Rexy was annoyed over their early exits and said that he saw a lack of commitment from Kien Keat.
The Indonesian bawled Kien Keat out over his lifestyle and said that he hoped rumours about Kien Keat’s love for parties and spending a lot of time with girls were not true. Rexy also said that Boon Heong now lacked trust in his partner.
Although caught by surprise with Rexy's scathing remarks, Kien Keat said he would not hold them against his coach. Instead, he would focus on getting back on his feet in a pursuit for glory in the Beijing Olympics.
“I have never cried over badminton. This is the first time ... I have not even cried over a girl. This is so embarrassing but for the first time, I feel so hurt,” said Kien Keat.
“I think, this is the most severe criticism that I have received from Rexy. As a top player, the pressure has just become so great. It is getting harder to play and enjoy the game like I used to do.
“I played poorly at Europe. I admit it. It has nothing to do with lack of skill or physical ability but it still has got to do with my mental preparation. I am working on it.”
Kien Keat said that he had been misunderstood.
“It is hard to accept the fact that my coach and my partner do not trust me. That hurts. I would have hoped that they would believe me instead of some people spreading the rumours,” he said.
“But I do not blame them either. Maybe, I was misunderstood. I have lots of friends, and yes, some of them are girls. But maybe that was misconstrued.
“But if that is what my coach does not like (mingling with girls), I will have to reduce my communication with them.
“I do not know why my lifestyle is questioned now. This is how I have been since I partnered (Chan) Chong Ming and Boon Heong. Yes, I do party and change my hairstyles often but I know my limits. I do not go partying when I have a duty to fulfil. I know that I have been a responsible player.”
After having a heart-to-heart talk with national assistant coach Pang Cheh Chang before a light workout at the gymnasium yesterday, Kien Keat said that he would give full commitment to his tasks as a player.
“Rexy said that I lack the commitment in training and I have grown big-headed.
“I do not see it but if Rexy is saying it, then, there may be some truth in it. I will work on (correcting) this,” he said.
“I am also criticised for putting up a one-man show during a match. Probably that is my weakness. I tend to take control of the game. But this has been a habit and I will learn to change that too.
“I respect Boon Heong and we have a professional relationship on the court and I intend to keep it that way.”
After coming so close, Kien Keat said that he was not giving up hope on playing in his first Olympic Games.
Currently ranked at number three in the world, Kien Keat-Boon Heong are as good as assured of a place in the Games.
“I will do anything that is required to help Malaysia win a medal at the Olympics,” he said.
“I know, I am emotionally down right now. But I am looking at everything on a positive note.
“Hopefully, I will bounce back before the Thomas Cup Finals (in May) and the Olympics (in August). That is my focus right now.”