PETALING JAYA, Oct 9 — It’s been 27 years since Malaysia won the prestigious Thomas Cup and badminton’s No. 1 fan and patron Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali believes Malaysia can lift the trophy again.
Speaking at the launch of the “Juara Tangkis Tun Dr Siti Hasmah” event, the wife of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reminded the country’s budding shuttlers that the recipe to world dominion is in plain hard work, being disciplined, respectful of their coaches, and teamwork.
“When Rashid invited me to this event today, I was tearing up just like I am now,” said Dr Siti Hasmah as she was flanked by former players Foo Kok Keong, Rashid Sidek, Cheah Soon Kit, Ong Ewe Hock, Rahman Sidek, Roslin Hashim, Zakry Latif, Woon Khe Wei and Koo Kien Keat at the launch ceremony in Damansara Perdana, Selangor.
“To see all of you, my friends and champions, all of who have white hair now but are still healthy and strong is wonderful.
“My role of being a patron of badminton at the time was to be a mother to all of them and the main thing I wanted to ensure when I was there was that they played together; as a team.
“And that is the hardest thing that a mother can do, to make the family one team especially in sports and we should be proud of that in 1992 the young ones stepped up. I will never forget that,” added Dr Siti Hasmah, recalling how Malaysia beat Indonesia 3-2 in the finals to lift the Thomas Cup trophy for the fifth time.
The 1992 Thomas Cup finals was played in Kuala Lumpur. Rashid played first singles and beat Ardy Wiranata in three sets 15-11, 10-15, 15-4. Razif-Jalani Sidek then lost to Rudy Gunawan-Eddy Hartono 15-9, 9-15, 15-3.
Second singles Foo put Malaysia back in front with a 15-6, 15-2 win over future Olympic champion Alan Budi Kusuma and the winning point was delivered by Cheah-Soo who beat Ricky Subagja-Rexy Mainaky 15-12, 10-15, 15-8.
Dr Siti Hasmah delighted the audience today when she recounted her role in pulling the two bickering doubles players to form one of Malaysia’s most formidable partnerships.
“These two, they fight with each other. I had to run to Soon Kit and say ‘Soon Kit there is no other partner, you’re going to get but Beng Kiang’, and then run to Beng Kiang and say, ‘Look, no other partner but Soon-Kit’, so you have to play with each other.
“In the end they partnered and delivered the Thomas Cup. I love them all for that as they really respected me as a mother and I know my role. I don’t have the technical expertise but the most important thing as a team, coaches and for the new players coming up they must have the enthusiasm and semangat to play badminton.”
The crowd lapped up her candidness.
Dr Siti Hasmah who is 93 years old and has stopped playing badminton since she was 75 after an injury. She said she would love to continue playing for the exercise and to stay healthy.
She also suffers from low impact vision which hampers her ability to see the shuttlecock as she can’t see white on white.
“I can’t see white on white so when the shuttlecock is coming towards me, it suddenly goes missing,” she joked.
“When it’s up in the ceiling it went blank,” she added as the crowd of about 60 people burst into laughter.
“However we as a nation should be proud for badminton as it is the No 1 sport that brings gold to Malaysia and not football,” she said, alluding to the Summer Olympics where Malaysia has consistently delivered a medal in every edition since badminton’s inception into the Olympic programme in 1992, except for Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 where the entire contingent returned without any medals.
“For the future and upcoming shuttlers my advice is you must follow the coach’s advice, be hardworking and most importantly be disciplined and consistent. Once you enter the national team you must remember it is a team and not an individual sport,” she added.
Cheah when asked later on what the tiff was between him and Beng Kiang said it was past history and he didn’t want to elaborate too much but admitted there was a little disagreement between them that stemmed from the immense pressure they were under to win the Thomas Cup in 1992.
Meanwhile, former Malaysian men’s No 1 singles shuttler Rashid is the head coach at Sports Affairs Badminton Club and will double up as the program director of Juara Tangkis Tun Dr Siti Hasmah.
The tournament is open for players Under-18 and together with the eight former players mentioned above they aim to identify, nurture and establish future Malaysian badminton champions.
These former players will form eight teams with 12 players each competing for the finals fo the Piala Juara Tangkis Tun Dr Siti Hasmah to be held in December.
Potential players will be selected based on recommendations and assessment from the state badminton associations and active badminton clubs from across the country.
“I am especially excited to kick-start this program as we identify new high potential talents, assess their passion and commitment towards the sport particularly their desire to win. This platform is about creating the opportunity for aspiring badminton players out there as well as promoting youth’s interest in the sport.
“Naming it after our first lady of badminton is very apt for no one has been as much of an avid fan and supporter of Malaysian badminton than Tun Dr Siti,” said Rashid the 1990 and 1994 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games bronze medallist in singles.
The club will be organised nationwide roadshows and coaching clinics from October until the end of November in Kedah, Pahang, Johor, Sarawak, Sabah and Kuala Lumpur.