KOTA KINABALU, Aug 17 ― He may be one of Malaysia’s heroes, but the family of Olympic badminton finalist Tan Wee Kiong hopes that he will be able to come home more often.
Wee Kiong’s younger brother Wee Tat said that his family, especially their mother Tan Yok Hua, pines for her eldest son to spend more time at their home in Tawau, Sabah, where they have been living for some 15 years after moving from their hometown of Kundang Ulu, Johor.
Since the eldest of four siblings joined the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) as a 13-year-old, Wee Kiong, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, hardly comes home and the family has dinner together less than five times a year. All four children ― three brothers and one sister ― play badminton.
“Do you know, this entire year, we haven’t had dinner together once? The last time was during Christmas last year. During Chinese New Year this year, my youngest brother came home from the academy, but Wee Kiong couldn’t,” Wee Tat told Malay Mail Online after the men’s doubles semi-final badminton match at the Rio Olympics last night.
Wee Kiong and partner Goh V Shem are guaranteed a silver after they defeated the Chinese team ― Chai Biao and Hong Wei ― during the semi-finals. They will face another Chinese team ― Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan ― at the finals on Friday.
On the second day of Chinese New Year, Wee Kiong’s family flew to Bangkok to support him in a tournament but his brother Wee Gieen, 21, who is also training with the national badminton academy in Bukit Kiara with Wee Kiong, had another tournament to go to.
According to Wee Tat, their sister, Yun Ying, a talented badminton player in her own right at only 15 years old, also complains that the family does not get to take family photos or have family dinners together.
“We all want him to do well, and our mother wants him to put his badminton career first, but we also miss him. On the other hand, we also want him to do well, and bring glory to the nation.
“But after the Olympics, we hope we at least get to sit down and have a family gathering,” said Wee Tat.
The pain of not being a “regular” family who are able to see each other at dinner is often is temporarily forgotten during the moments when they get to watch Wee Kiong playing at the Olympics.
“It is quite surreal seeing him on television at the Olympics. His first Olympics and he’s in the finals? It's amazing. We are so, so proud of him,” he said.
The four children, all accomplished badminton players, were encouraged by their father Tan Cham Swee, who moved the family, sans Wee Kiong who had a place in the national sports academy, to Tawau where the family had bought land to get into the oil palm business.
Wee Tat and youngest brother Wee Gieen were also both playing with BAM, but Wee Tat left about three years ago to pursue different goals.
He now helps run the family-owned nine-court badminton hall and coach the Tawau Badminton Academy.
They are planning on holding a mass televised event of the men’s doubles badminton finals on Friday at the hall.
“Our extended family of cousins and uncles are watching together at our hometown in Johor, so here, we have only friends,” said Wee Tat.
Their father, godfather and uncle are in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to support Wee Kiong.
Wee Tat said he hoped his brother will stay calm and not be swayed by the pressure of winning the Olympic finals. He also hoped that Malaysians would come together to support the pair in their effort, instead of piling on pressure.
“But for me, win or lose, I think he’s done so well already. It’s his first time at the Olympics and he’s playing at the finals ― it's almost mission impossible. The others before him who managed to get that far before are usually experienced.
“I feel so much pride seeing him there already, it makes me tear up. He is my brother ― you cannot buy this blood connection,” he said.