Ending your high-profile sports career is not the end of the world as Robert Lin Woon Fui has found out.
Lin has always been good at reinventing himself and is now venturing into ‘Celebrity Athlete Management’ with a partner who is based in China.
“My job is to shortlist athletes who I feel have the potential to shine,” said Lin.
“We will then see how we can package them into being ‘celebrities’ or ‘idols’ to create role models. Part of our job is to brand them as fashion icons or lifestyle Key Opinion Leaders (KOL).”
It is certainly a far cry from his job over the last decade as player-coach at AirAsia Badminton Academy.
“I’m still learning the ropes but my partner is guiding me and I look forward to this challenge,” said 36-year-old Lin, who has coached several Hong Kong celebrities and prominent local businessmen in the past.
Lin began his career in the men’s singles but found success after partnering Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari in doubles competitions. The pair went on to reach a career-high world No. 4 in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings in 2006.
Their notable feats included defeating world and Olympic champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng on several occasions.
The Malaysians were so feared by China that they were nicknamed “Chinese men’s doubles killers” as they had a knack for beating its top pairs.
After winning several tournaments, including the national title in 2005, Lin and Fairuzizuan went separate ways in 2007.
Lin then began mentoring and playing alongside younger players such as Gan Teik Chai and Goh V Shem.
He won two bronze medals – team and individual events – in the 2007 SEA Games with Gan and gold with Goh at the 2008 Malaysia International Challenge.
Goh would take on board the lessons he learnt from Lin and went to win a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Tan Wee Kiong.
In 2009, AirAsia came calling and Lin knew it was too good an offer to turn down. He wanted to create the next wave of champions and as he was focused on coaching, but still played occasionally.
“I enjoyed my time with the national team but went into semi-retirement when I joined AirAsia,” said Lin.
“My new venture is about preparing for life beyond badminton.”
“What happens when athletes retire? They can become coaches but not everyone is cut out for this.
“So I wanted a way to bring Malaysian athletes into the international arena in a different away and at the same time, help them develop a second career,” he added.