Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik can usher in new golden age of Malaysian badminton

Nineteen years after watching a gallant Wong Choong Hann lose to China’s Xia Xuanze in the 2003 World Championships, I can finally say Malaysia has world champions in badminton.

Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik broke the jinx in the country’s 10th final after nine failures, and hopefully, this will be the catalyst for more titles from them and other national shuttlers.

BAM coaching director Rexy Mainaky on his knees as he pays tribute to Chia. Image: Badminton Photo

Fittingly, I watched Chia-Soo be crowned kings of world badminton in Burger King, and I was not alone.

Several other patrons were also glued to their smart devices while having a bite.

Since the winning point, I have been receiving many WhatsApp messages from friends, some of whom are not even badminton fans!

Soh (facing camera) and Chia share an emotional embrace after winning the final in Tokyo earlier today.

The victory is a special moment for Wong, who became the Badminton Association of Malaysia’s (BAM) coaching director in 2019.

When news broke of his appointment, Wong said he considered the job “national service”. He told this website: “I have to raise the bar across the board and look forward to the challenge.”

Although we have yet to win an Olympic gold medal, Wong, his team of coaches, and the national players deserve their moment in the limelight.

Coming hot on the heels of a successful Commonwealth Games campaign where the shuttlers won two gold medals, Chia-Soh’s 21-19, 21-14 victory over Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan could be the confidence booster our players need going forward.

There have been many heartbreaks in the past.

Since 1987 – 10 years after the first World Championships – Malaysian players contested nine finals without success.

Datuk Razif Sidek and brother Jalani lost to Li Yongbo-Tian Bingyi (China) in 1987, Cheah Soon Kit-Soo Beng Kiang fell to Rudy Gunawan-Rocky Subagja (Indonesia) in 1993 and four years later, Cheah partnered with Yap Kim Hock but Sigit Budiarto-Candra Wijaya (Indonesia) were too good.

Wong was Malaysia’s first men’s singles player to reach the final. Datuk Lee Chong Wei reached four finals but lost to Lin Dan (2011, 2013) and Chen Long (2014, 2015).

The last time we had a pair in the final was in 2010 when Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong lost to Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng.

I was in despair that Chong Wei failed to win the world crown. When he retired in 2019, I expected it would be five years or more before Malaysia would have a shot at the world crown.

Since then, Lee Zii Jia has made it his mission to win the grand prize but fell in the last 16 in Tokyo. There are many other promising players coming through the ranks.

The new sponsorship deal with Malaysia’s oil and gas company, Petronas means more money for development. That can only mean good things, as we must not neglect the grassroots.

With proper development, hopefully, we do not have to wait nearly 50 years to get another world champion.