Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wong Mew Choo

Since I was young, it has always been that when anyone in Malaysia mentioned about our badminton team, we mean our men's team. We are talking about Thomas Cup. Be it Single or double, we have never focused on our women's team.

And in 2003, Mew Choo brought some limelight back to our national women's team, when she won an unexpected Women Single's title for Sea Games. And then in 2007, she won the China Open Super Series. That means she thrashed the Chinese athletes at their homeyard.

The Star did an interview with Mew Choo. You can get it here

Full text reproduction here
Every country needs a heroine

Each time Wong Mew Choo enters a badminton competition, she is fully aware that she represents each and every Malaysian. And she is determined that all of us emerge victorious in the world arena.


MALAYSIAN badminton has a new heroine and her name is Wong Mew Choo. The 25-year-old national shuttler caught the attention of the world this year when, unseeded, she vanquished Chinese female badminton players including World No.1 Xie Xingfang in the final to win the China Open Super Series title in November.

(Mew Choo is the first Malaysian woman and the second non-China player to win a woman’s singles title on Chinese soil since the tournament began in 1986.)

Meeting Mew Choo face-to-face, one is surprised that this dragon slayer is kind of ? small.

After her fantastic performance in China – she is the first Malaysian woman in three decades to have won a major title for the country – an Olympic medal in badminton now looks like a distinct possibility.

“I could not have done any of this without the support of the country and the Government. When you know you have the rakyat behind you, it is very energising,” explains Mew Choo when asked what motivated her.

Nobody, not even her teammates, thought she could win. Of course everyone was over the moon when she did the “impossible”. But Mew Choo is no overnight sensation.

She has been “in service to the country” for the past 10 years.

“I did my Form Four under the umbrella of the Badminton Association of Malaysia at Sri Garden School in Taman Maluri.

“The BAM gave me lots of opportunities – all the training and coaching. They also sent me to a lot of competitions for exposure. I think it was at the SEA Games in 2003 when I won the gold that they took real notice of me.

“For me it was a surprise win but my life took a turn from that day.”

Mew Choo is mindful that representing the country is serious business.

“You have to try your best and never give up. I remember how we tried to get me qualified for the Olympics in 2004.

“We did our best but did not have enough time. It was only a few months. My world ranking when I started was in the 100s, but I managed to work my way up to 46. However, that year the Olympic selection closed at 42!”

So it was back to training under Misbun Sidek. “He is a great coach. I owe him a lot ? my fitness and competencies. He knows exactly how far to push me.”

Today, she trains under Wong Tat Meng. That is the other amazing thing about being part of the national team.

Mew Choo says she learnt to interact with all races easily. To her, her teammates very simply are Malaysian – representing the country everywhere they go.

Training and back-to-back competitions have taken a physical toll on her, though.

“There isn’t a part of me which hasn’t been injured; my ankles, heels, knees, elbows, shoulders. But the medical care is good and I’m grateful for that.”

Mew Choo does not mind all the sacrifices she has to make.

“I don’t get to see my family very often. When we are playing in meets, we are away for months at a time. And when we return to Malaysia, sometimes it is only for a few days before we are off again.”

Despite all that, she remains close to her family. They are the ones she calls after every competition – win or lose. “Of course, they are happy when I win but they are equally supportive when I do not.”

When she is back in Kuala Lumpur, she hardly has any time to herself because she trains six hours a day, every day.

Where many young people her age are focusing on making money and advancing their careers, she is quite simply proud to be able to be a national badminton player.

“My parents are very proud that I am representing Malaysia. I’m grateful to them as they have supported me all the way. From the time I expressed interest in the game, they were always there for me – shuttling me from game to game, investing time, effort and money to help me. When I was injured, they were the ones who paid the medical bills.”

In other countries, sports stars get paid a lot of money for endorsements. In Malaysia, most national players do it for a more altruistic reason as they are not allowed to sign on for endorsements.

Mew Choo says it is the backing of the BAM, National Sports Council and the encouragement of the public which has helped her to stay the course. After all, the petite young woman has been playing competitively since the age of 12.

“Badminton is something I am good at and I am grateful for this talent although I know I have to work doubly hard to prove that Malaysian sportswomen have got what it takes to be world champions.”

She believes that whatever progress or success she achieves is only the start for Malaysia. “We can do more. We can be winners.”

Today, Mew Choo has made every Malaysian believe that the impossible – the All-England, the Thomas Cup and the Beijing Olympics – may well be possible again.

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