DO-OR-DIE: Kien Keat-Boon Heong must believe in themselves
Koo Kien Keat (left) and Tan Boon Heong
THEIR form tells a different story but the coaches and Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong are optimistic of ending Malaysia’s 16-year wait to win an Olympic medal in the men’s doubles at Wembley Arena on Aug 5.
Boon Heong, normally non-committal when it comes to targets, is even going for broke as he wants the gold or nothing while men’s doubles chief coach Tan Kim Her is hopeful the World No 8 end their troubled partnership by clinching a medal in the London Games.
Boon Heong’s theory is simple — they are heading nowhere as a pair because of their fear of failure and he feels there is no harm in focusing on the gold rather than talking about survival as a cautious approach can only bring failure.
Despitebeingoneofthetitlecontendersin 2008, their lack of mental strength saw them losing to eventual champions Markis Kido- Hendra Setiawan in the quarter-finals and this is probably the reason why Boon Heong does not want to play safe.
“Athletes compete in the Olympics for gold and it’s the same for me. We have not been playing well and I just don’t want to go out there and give up. I want to fight for gold like anyone else,” said Boon Heong of their chances.
“We had a good chance in Beijing but we didn’t make it count and I don’t know if we cangetanotheropportunity.Thereisnotime left to keep pondering about our weaknesses but just go out there and try our best.
“Although we don’t perform as consistently as the other top pairs, our attacking game is still good and I have faith this one aspect can help us. I know we cannot win by defending and attack is our strong point and we want to utilise that.
“Itisnotjustanyotherevent.ItistheOlympics and it is an open race for gold. China and South Korea top pairs are the favourites on paper but they will be under pressure too as they have never won Olympic gold. We must just go out there and give it our best shot.” Kim Her tried to be more realistic, saying a medal is within reach although gold may be too tough an ask.
He named China’s Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng and South Koreans Chung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae as the frontrunners with Kien Keat-Boon Heong within striking distance of achieving a medal. “We cannot base current form as a guide as experience will carry a lot of weight in the men’s doubles. The last three Olympics saw the favourites failing.
“In 2000, Ha Tae Kwon-Kim Dong Moon were supposed to win but Candra Wijaya- Tony Gunawan (of Indonesia) won instead with the Koreans coming back to triumph in 2004 despite playing with injury. They were not even the favourites.
“It was the same four years ago when Markis-Hendra got the gold despite Jae Sung-Yong Dae being the favourites.
“A quality pair can win if they are consistent. Kien Keat-Boon Heong are a quality pair and have beaten the best before and they must play with this conviction in London.
“It is the turn for the favourites to feel the pressure and Kien Keat-Boon Heong can make a breakthrough if they show heart and battle all the way.
“A medal is within reach and the colour will be decided based on how confident they are.” Kien Keat-Boon Heong’s personal coach Pang Cheh Chang’s focus has been on improving their attacking game, service and return of service which he feels can make a difference.
But what will really make a difference is self-belief and if the pair can rediscover this, then Boon Heong’s target may well be achieved.
• Name: Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong • Date of birth: Sept 18, 1985; Sept 18, 1987 • Place of birth: Ipoh; Alor Star • Career achievements: 2006: Asian Games gold; 2007: Malaysia Open, All England, Swiss Open, Macau Open, Denmark Open champions, World Championships q-finals; 2008: Olympics q-finalists, World Super Series Finals and Macau Open champions; 2009: World Championships semi-finalists, Swiss and Macau Open champions; 2010: World Championships runners-up, Asian Games runners-up, Commonwealth Games gold, Malaysia Open champions; 2011: Malaysia GP gold champions; 2012: Malaysia GP gold champions • London expectations: Though in poor form, there is an outside chance for a medal. Have the experience but highly inconsistent and weak in defence. Will be relying on their attacking prowess to earn a medal before an expected split-up after the Olympics • Competition dates: July 28-Aug 5