Badminton Life

Interview with Cheah Soon Kit

Date: 11/1/2012

Cheah Soon Kit born 9 January 1968 in Ipoh, Perak is a retired male badminton player from Malaysia, specialized in men's doubles. He has played for Malaysian team in 8 edition of Thomas Cup from1986 to 2000.During his playing career he has played with different partners such as Ong Beng Teong (1986-1989), Soo Beng Kiang (1990-1994) and Choong Tan Fook (1998) . His regular doubles partner is Yap Kim Hock (1995-2000). He has created much success with all these partners, which made him one of the biggest badminton stars in Malaysia. He is known for his superb jumping smash ability and his very stable game.

Soon Kit competed in badminton at the 1996 Summer Olympics in men's doubles with Yap Kim Hock. Which they bagged the first silver medal for Malaysia in the Olympic Games, the former eventually became the national coach for Malaysia's women's doubles team(2001-2007).

Cheah Soon Kit

1. What age did you start playing?

7 years old, I picked it up from my parents. At 10 years old I represented the Perak state team.

2. Was it your intention to be a professional player from the start ?

From the start is not to become professional player, it's all going through stages. First I want to represent the country. Then later on my intention is to win the All England as it was the most prestigious title at that time. Then it progress to winning the Thomas Cup.

3. When did you realize you were good enough to be a world beater ?

After finishing my high school (Form 5). At 17 years old I was drafted to national team. At that time there were no sports school or BAM Academy. When I entered the national team, there were world class players like Foo Kok Keong, Misbun Sidek, Razif and Jalani Sidek. So that's when I realised I was good enough to become a world beater.

4. How were you noticed at the national level ?

I'm the same age as Rashid Sidek. During our junior time, we were the best. After high school I was drafted to the national team for the bringing back the Thomas Cup project 1988/1990. At 18 years old I played in the Thomas Cup 1986.

5. Which year was you drafted into the national squad ?

17 years old , end of 1985.

6. Have you ever considered making a name in singles?

I was roped in as a singles player, but I can play both. During the Thomas Cup in 1988 I was asked to partner Ong Beng Teong temporarily as there were only one doubles pair in the Malaysia team which is the Sidek brothers Razif and Jalani Sidek.

Ong Beng Tiong and me won the second doubles match against Indonesia which helped Malaysia to enter the finals against China. I partner Ong Beng Tiong for a few months in international scene and we started to win a few international titles. I think to myself that I'm already there in doubles, if I were to switch back to singles I have to start from the beginning and at that time there were so many strong singles players like Ardy Wiranata, Zhao Jian Hua, Xiong GuoBao and Yang Yang. So at that moment, I just stick and focus on doubles.

7. Do you think Malaysia can capture it's previous glory?

We had missed a few chances in the past 10 years, We were very close like winning the Thomas Cup, Olympics, World Championships. Now at this moment, not to say we can't but it's an extremely an uphill task. For example to win the Thomas Cup, we must have a balance team, at least 4 strong points. Now we only have Chong Wei and Koo/ Tan. But not to say we can't make it.

8. Did any of your batch mates made the same grade as you ? If not, what was the reason ?

Rashid Sidek and Soo Beng Kiang. For those who didn't make it, probably the desire or will power is not enough. Not to say these elements are not there, but not enough.

9. How many years were you on the scene?

17 years old to 32 years old. 1985 to 2000, so there you have 15 years old. I've played in 8 editions of the Thomas Cup.

10. On your playing career which was the highlight of your career?

Winning back the Thomas Cup 1992 and winning the silver medal at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996

11. Which incident would you consider as a low point of your career?

Failing to win the Olympic Gamres in 1996 World Championship, in fact I missed it twice in 1993 and 1997 editions.

12. How would you summarize your career?

I'm quite satisfied, I think I've made an impact in Malaysia badminton by encouraging a handful of young players.

13. Do you still play ? What other sports other than badminton ?

Nope I don't play now, very seldom. Just coaching mostly. I don't play any other sports now, I used to play golf but it requires a lot time usage. I'm just concentrating on coaching at the moment.

14. What do you think of the new points scoring system?

I think it's good, quite interesting and create better sponsorship opportunities. From my point of view, in spectators and players perspective; the excitement is not as good as the 15 points scoring format, especially in doubles where the players reached in the deuce stage. I've tried the 21 points, physical and intensity is not tested but it focuses a lot on speed and power.

15. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene ?

Liem Swie King for his jumping smash. Park Joo Bong for his ability to anyone and then become a World Champion.

16. As a player, what was your strength? Weakness, if any?

Smashing, attitude and never give up vibe. Sometimes this drive created some misconception (haha), as some people told me that I'm way too fierce when I was playing but they got to understand is that I want to win. As for weaknesses, to be at the top level, we try not to have any weaknesses in any department.

17. Is it important to have a favourite stroke? What was yours then?

Yes of course, it's very important but it's also important to hide it. My favourite strokes would be smashing and defence.

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?

There are many players, but the first would be Lim Swie King for his jumping smash. Park Joo Bong for his great knowledge in the game. Razif and Jalani Sidek for their great defence. Yang Yang and Zhao Jian Huo for their agility, speed and power game. Lee Chong Wei for his consistency in the game. Lin Dan for his attitude, when he wants to win he can beat anyone.

19. Who do you regard as the all time best player? And by the way Rexy named you as the his all time best player.

Oh really haha, I would say Rexy Mainaky and Ricky Subaja as well. We've always facing each other in the finals and etc, because we are at the same age group.

20. Who were your coaches during your international days?

Fang Kai Xiang, Chen Tsian, Razif Sidek and Park Joo Bong, they were all hired by the BAM. But when I was younger I had personal coaches; Ang Seng Keat and Lee Hock Hoe, they were a great influence. Without them I wouldn't be where am I now; they gave me strong knowledge and foundation in the game.

21. Can you spell out the difference in coaching styles from China, Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia?

Every coach has his different perception and different culture. Korea they are more focused on respect and discipline. Denmark is more professional thinking and more independent. China is more on speed and power and agility. When I was coach by Malaysia coach Razif Sidek, I 've already reached the top level, so he's more into sharing knowledge.

22. Do good players make good coaches?

No, not always. Not a good player also cannot become a good coach as he had not been there, to coach the player to become top level.

23. You are coaching at the moment, whats the diffrence?

As a player is more into disciplining yourself. In coaching it's totally different. Coaching commercial and professional players is different as well. It's quite challenging, you got to always look outside the box and tackling the moods of the players.

24. What are the basic requirements to playing good badminton ?

Master all basic skills. From 8 years old to 15 years old; master all basic skills, From 15 years old to 18 years old; you got to think what they want, stay focus on their dreams to suceed in badminton or focus on other things. From 18 to 21 years old; if you have decided to pursue in badminton, you must stay discipline, committed, drive and never give up.

25. You are known for the famous jumping smash, any specific training?

Well, probably it's because during primary school I've represented my school in high jump. I think that probably helps tremendously. Other than that, it's more on spending hours practicing on court and perfecting the timing. Jumping requires a quality of right timing to execute it properly.

26. You are one of the best men's players Malaysia has ever produced, what's your vision in Malaysia badminton?

Continuing the trend of winning with the upcoming players; as currently we have Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong , Lee Chong Wei. We need up coming players to continue this trend. Another vision would be winning back the Thomas Cup, We have good players, but we're not doing enough to bring back the glory.

27. Who do you think is current upcoming players ?and why?

I don't see anyone at the moment.

28. Is there any ways for BAM to improve their systems for better results on international scene?

We cannot follow some methods from other countries like China. Some kids don't even go to school. Malaysia is an economic country; the young kids need to go school. If they don't make it in badminton, they can rely on other skills other than badminton.

BAM has to think how to cultivate the talents from sports school. BAM has to start to trust their former greats and ex players to contribute to the country. Another thing is to get a former great to be the coaching director, monitor the players and coaches. This coaching director, has the power to call the shots and has great leadership atitude.

Li Yongbo the current head coach of China is a great example; we must get someone like him to run the show. He has so many players and coaches under him like running a football league club in English Premier League. BAM has to give this coaching director a time frame to prove himself, and if it doesn't work they can resign on his own.

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