IPOH, July 23 — Young shuttlers were euphoric at the launch of the Lee Chong Wei Badminton Academy at the Klebang Masters Badminton Club (MBC) as they mobbed their badminton idol.
It was everything in the world for 10-year-old Foong Pak Lam from SJKC Poi Lam as he got to play a match with Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the world No. 2 shuttler.
“I was so excited when I was selected with my friend Shafiq Hishamnudin, 13, to play against him. I have only seen him playing on the television,” said Pak Lam.
“We lost to him 5-1, but I’m happy to score one point against one of the world’s best badminton players,” he told Malay Mail.
The three-time Olympics silver medallist played six matches with the selected young shuttlers from various schools and badminton academies.
Some 700 guests, including parents, coaches and young shuttlers aged six to 18 from various schools and orphanages here attended the launch.
Phuah Yeong Zhen, 16, from SMJK Poi Lam was on cloud nine. “I don’t know how to describe my feeling. I have only seen him on television before. This is my first time (meeting him) in person,” he added.
Yeong Zhen, who represents his school in the boys’ singles, said he “always wanted to be like Chong Wei. For me he is the best in the world and I hope I can join his academy.”
Another student M. Dhariga Devi, 13, from Praise Boys and Girls Home, said she would definitely want to join the academy.
Meanwhile, Chong Wei said the objective of the LCW Badminton Academy is to maintain badminton as the country’s No. 1 sport.
“We hope via this academy, we can produce lots of good junior players which can be sent to the BA of Malaysia once they have mastered the basics of the sport,” he said.
Chong Wei said establishing the academy was his way of living out a pledge born out of difficult times, to help children who struggled like him in the sport.
He said the academy targets 700 players in Perak, being his birth state. He is also planning to open his academy in Kuala Lumpur and Johor in the near future.
MBC Co-founder Tan Say Yap said the academy’s training programme goes beyond physical training to include extracurricular activities like first-aid classes, injury management classes, nutrition workshops, video analysis, competition and team-building.
Say Yap said students under the programme can vie for the Lee Chong Wei Scholarship.
Say Yap points out that the Old Town White Coffee will be contributing a RM1 million Scholarship Fund to the LCW Badminton Academy for a period of five years.