THEY may be like chalk and cheese but the national badminton pair of Lee Wan Wah and Choong Tan Fook has consistently been among the top ranked doubles outfit in the world since they combined forces over a decade ago.
When on the court, their almost telepathic-like understanding and overwhelming desire to succeed have helped them amass numerous titles through the years.
To have survived this long at the top level and overcome such tremendous odds, one would imagine they must be almost alike to have forged such a successful partnership.
On the contrary, for those who know them, it is stunning that two players with such vastly different lives have managed to click so well on court.
“We don’t really have much in common apart from badminton,” says the 33-year-old right-handed Lee, who is happily married, about his relationship with the still single Choong.
“We have different tastes in music, movies and many other things but once we’re on the court, we can anticipate how the other is going to react.”
“Having a family takes a lot out of you so I prefer to spend more time resting at home then going out,” adds Lee, who prefers to listen to motivational music in his spare time.
Left-handed Choong, on the other hand, spends most of his free time listening to pop music and on the Internet, but readily confessed that he is quite “blur” about the technology. “Since my girlfriend (China’s Zhang Jiewen) is so far away, we have to use the Internet to communicate,” explains the 32-year-old shuttler.
“I don’t use it to play games or things like that. I keep it fairly simple, messaging or chatting and at most, maybe checking out the latest sports websites.”
Check out just how different they are. When asked to name their most memorable outing as a pair, they could not agree on one and were 10 years apart in their selection.
Choong named the recent Singapore Open win as their best achievement ever while Lee chose their 1998 Commonwealth Games gold medal over everything else.
“The Commonwealth Games 10 years ago was when we made our first major breakthrough in the badminton world and it will forever mean so much to me,” says Lee.
“Hopefully, we can create another breakthrough at the Beijing Olympics.”
The duo, who will compete in their third Olympics, will be aiming to win their first-ever medal. Their form has been on the rise and they will be among Malaysia’s best hopes to secure a medal.
“Seedings don’t count in the Olympics as everybody wants the gold medal,” says Lee.
“If you have prepared well and worked very hard, and can give your very best, there is every chance you can make it. Being seeded sometimes puts pressure on the favourites.
“We are seeded fourth in Beijing but that could work in our favour as there will be less pressure on us to deliver. If the opportunity arises, we will certainly grab it and claim a medal.”
- This is the last article in a five-part series brought to you by 100PLUS, the official isotonic drink partner of the Badminton Association of Malaysia.