BUKIT JALIL: As a young boy, Lee Yong-dae of South Korea picked up badminton in a bid to lose weight.
Not only did he go on to shed some kilos, but the 25-year-old also grew to become one of the heavyweights in the doubles event.
In fact, he is one of the most admired players in the Maybank Malaysian Open at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
And the Olympic Games gold medallist says he owes it all to his mother.
“I was quite chubby when I was eight years old and my mother signed me up with a badminton club so that I could lose weight,” he said with a smile.
“Within a year, I lost some pounds ... I can’t remember how many kilos but I decided to stop as my mission was accomplished.
“But my coach said that I was good at it and encouraged me to continue. I did and I’ve never looked back!”
He entered the world scene in 2003 and, for 10 years, mesmerised the world of badminton with his flair, court craft and captivating moves en route to stellar success, including an Olympic Games gold medal (mixed doubles in 2008 with Lee Hyo-jung) and two silver medals in the 2007 and 2009 World Championships (men’s doubles with Jung Jae-sung).
He has played with different partners – and risen to the occasion. He is now playing with Shin Seung-chan in the mixed doubles and Yoon Yeon-seong in the men’s doubles.
“This year, the focus is more on men’s doubles. I started well with my new partner, Yeon-seong, six months ago but, last week, we performed badly at the Korean Open,” said Yong-dae, who won the bronze medal in the individual events and silver medals in the team events of the back-to-back Asiad in 2006 and 2010.
“We need to work that out as our main goal this year is the Asian Games (in Incheon in September)."
On Wednesday, Yong-dae cleared his first round matches in both the men’s and women’s doubles events at Putra Stadium.