Interview with Foo Kok Keong
Foo Kok Keong (born January 8, 1963) is a badminton star from Malaysia who rated among the world's best singles players from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, along with the Sidek brothers, Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kieng who were dominating the sport at that era. Not a stylish or a skilful player but he was noted for his quickness, stamina, and never-say-die tenacity.
He is one of the first player who created the diving retrieving shot. Till this day Foo Kok Keong after nearly 20 years he has retired, he's been recognised as one the best fighter in Malaysia and the world. Most Malaysian would still remember Kok Keong for his great fighting spirit which there's one incident where he threw up in the middle of a match, due to exhaustion and won.
Kok Keong played for the Malaysian Thomas Cup (men's international) team which finished second to China in 1990, and for the team which defeated Indonesia for the world championship in 1992.
His victories in individual competition included the Singapore Open and French Open singles titles in 1990, and the Asian Championships singles title in 1994. He was a runner-up in the Malaysia Open (1990, 1991), the British Commonwealth Games (1990), the World Grand Prix Final (1989), and the All-England Championships (1991).
1. What age did you start playing?
At the age of 10 years old.
2. Was it your intention to be a professional player from the start?
When I was a kid there's no intention at the start. Only at the age of 15 I started training.
3. When did you realize you were good enough to be a world beater ?
It's hard to say. I have backed up from the coaches. So I would say after the age of 15 when I found I have talent in that sport. When I was younger, I played a few sports. So after 15 years old, the coaches ask me to focus more on badminton as I'm better in that field.
4. How were you noticed at the national level ?
First I'm just playing for school and proceed to state level and I had results in MSSM(national junior championship) and lots of training. After that I won few state Open tournaments, then that's how I got noticed at national level. It's a long process.
5. Which year was you drafted into the national squad ?
I joined the national junior team at the late age of 18 years old after high school.
6. Have you ever considered making a name in doubles ?
I've played doubles but it's for fun, for training and small tournaments. In the end of the day, I still go back to singles as it's a problem to find a good partner (laughs) and probably my style of play is not a doubles player.
7. Did any of your batch mates made the same grade as you? If not, what was the reason?
Most of my batch mates, gave up half way by pursuing their studies or BAM didn't choose them at a certain age. Moreover during my time it's quite hard to make a break through as we have the Sidek brothers, elder and younger than me taking our place from behind and from the front. They were dominating Malaysia badminton.
8. How many years were you on the scene?
12years, 1982 to 1994
9.On your playing career which was the highlight of your career?
My highlight would be the Thomas Cup. There's some break through tournaments like Singapore Open and Asian Badminton Championship, normally I lose in the finals (laughs).
10. Which incident would you consider as a low point of your career?
I lose till I got phobia of losing (laughs). Well the lowest point would be when I lose in the first round, especially when I trained very hard.
11. How would you summarize your career?
Well I'm quite satisfied when I reached the number 1 in the world rankings in 1991 because I overcome a lot of difficulties and barriers. No other feeling is better than making a breakthrough in anything.
12. Do you still play ? What other sports other than badminton ?
Yes I still do play socially. I play golf and badminton these days.
13. What do you think of the new points scoring system?
It's different, as it's much faster. Some people may like it and some may don't. During my time is 15 points, it's hard to adapt it as it's so fast and there's no service over. I would prefer 15 points but it's hard to say.
14. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene ?
I admire the senior players at the start like Liem Swie King is good attacking player; Morten Frost has very good backhand and tactical game, Prakash Produkone for his stable game.
15. As a player, what was your strength ? Weakness, if any ?
Mental strength and fighting spirit. As for weakness it depends on who I play. A good player needs to cover up his weaknesses and make it to his or her strength.
16. Is it important to have a favorite stroke? What was yours then?
Yes most players has a specialized or a certain favourite stroke. My favourite would be the overhead cross drop shot and diving.
17. Were you good in other sports as well or badminton was just 'it?
Basketball and football. I played at a school and state level.
18. Can you name a few international players, current or retired, who you regard as best or famous for a specific technique or an area of skills?
Yang Yang and Zhao Jian Hao. They are different from others. Yang Yang is very steady player and Zhao Jian Hua is very tricky and skilful.
19. Who do you regard as the all time best player?
I have a lot coaches. I have coaches from China and Malaysia.
20. Can you spell out the difference in coaching styles from China, Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia? What are their Strengths and Weaknesses?
China more on speed and power, Malaysia training method is more on strokes. The rest is hard to say because I didn't have coaches from Denmark and Indonesia.
21. Do good players make good coaches?
It's hard to say, some players are not good but good in coaching like talking and advising and has the experience.
22. Any piece of advice would like give those aspiring players?
They have to really work hard. Watch a lot of international players play, analyze how these top player play. You must also know where your level is and know what to improve on. There's a lot of little things are involve. Physically you have to be fit, but if you are physically fit but no mental strength; it's also no use, it have to work both ways. It's all self discipline.
23. Any proper diet would you like recommend for badminton players?
Well of course there's a diet but for me, I eat whatever I want but moderately. The most important thing is you must know when your tournament schedule is and what time you should eat, around 1 hour or 2 hours before your match. It depends on individual, some Malaysian players can eat spicy food before going to court but I can't; you must know yourself. It's okay with some fried food sometimes, as we burn it out very fast.
24. Are you coaching at the moment?
Not yet, maybe I would an advisor for clubs in KL.
25. What are the basic requirements to playing good badminton ?
You have to start from young. You need somebody to encourage you and someone who knows what is badminton. Someone who knows the right foundation of the game like holding the racket and etc. then you'll go from there.
26. How was training regime like when you were playing? How do you trained up your infamous defence?
Morning and evening training, around 6 hours a day; it's not the quantity, it's the quality.
27. Who do you think is current upcoming players in Malaysia? and why?
To be honest I don't really follow the game much these days, but once in a while I update myself with a little news here and there. For now I would say Liew Darren, but if he's not going up I don't know who will come up already. It's not easy. If Lee Chong Wei retires, if nobody follow his footsteps it would be a waste and it would be difficult for other Malaysian to reach that level. Malaysia will not be a power house any more if Lee Chong Wei retires and no one is following is footsteps.
Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan actually fought very hard to reach to that level. Lin Dan reached to the top first, last time Chong Wei can't be compared to Lin Dan but now he's there to match with Lin Dan. Lin Dan and Chong Wei are heading the end of their career and there are a lot of China players coming up but Malaysia there's none. These young Malaysian players have to use these opportunities to follow the footsteps of Lee Chong Wei.
28. Do you see any players in the world to take over players like Lin Dan, Peter Gade, Lee Chong Wei and etc.?
There are a lot of players from China, Korea, Japan. A lot of players from other countries are coming up. If Malaysia are not very careful now, they will disappear.
29. As a living legend, what is your vision in Malaysia Badminton?
Definitely I would say, it would be great if we can produce a number 1 player like Chong Wei every year. If the same faces you see every year that means we are just maintaining but if you see new faces coming up, then we can say we are improving.
30. Is there any ways for BAM to improve their systems for better results on international scene?
That depends on their coaching committee; they have to think further and looking for new methods to train the players to be top. Sometimes local coaches are better and cost would be lower, but the coaching system and method is important, especially we have top player like Lee Chong Wei. We have to follow his methods and training. In the end of the day, is the player attitude is more important also.
31.Badminton - information.com is planning to start a badminton league. Do you think it will increase the level of the players especially the backup players? and why?
It's good for the development of the sports. Then you'll see a lot of other academies coming up besides the Bukit Jalil sports school. Yes I do support, it'll be like the English Premier League and there's betting.
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