Interview with Lee Wan Wah
Lee Wan Wah born 24 November 1975 in Ipoh, Perak is a male badminton men doubles player from Malaysia. His regular doubles' partner is Choong Tan Fook. Lee Wan Wah is known as one the best doubles player Malaysia has ever produced together with partner Choong Tan Fook. Lee Wan Wah and Choong Tan Fook was ranked world #1.
Lee competed 3 Olympics Games; Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 in men's doubles with Choong Tan Fookand has played in 7 editions of the prestigious Thomas Cup 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Reaching the finals in the 1998 and 2002 editions.
In 2008, Lee participated in Jakarta for the Malaysian Thomas Cup team, being Choong's partner. In the semi-final, Lee did not play because Choong was sick. Consequently, Malaysia was beaten by the defending champion China..
In October 2008, Lee left Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and established a company, Pioneer Sdn Bhd, with fellow badminton players Wong Choong Hann, Chan Chong Ming, and Chew Choon Eng,
1. What age did you start playing?
7 or 8 years old, my first tournament was when I was 12 years old in my club at Ipoh. So I started playing competitively at 12 years old. I started private training at the age of 13 years old.
2. Was it your intention to be a professional player from the start?
(laughs) Oh no, not really. I just played because I like the game. My father and most of family members and my sisters played. It's easy to pick up the game at that time, because at that time you can just have racket and a shuttle and you just play by the road side.
3. When did you realize you were good enough to be a world beater?
(laughs) Even I was in the state team, I didn't even dream of making in the national team. It's just that we had a chance, and we just go along with it. I got selected to the national team when I was 19 years old, which is very late. It was make or break for me at that age, if I didn't got selected I wouldn't continue playing forward anymore.
4. How were you noticed at the national level?
We played in national circuit at the under 18 category. I was quite lucky because last time, BAM coaches only select players during the tournaments. For me, my batch was the first batch to have the trial to enter the back-up squad. After the Thomas Cup 1992, there were few players who turned into coaches, and these coaches started a back up squad. My state sent me and a few other players for the trial and we got called up to join the national back- up squad.
5. Which year was you drafted into the national squad?
End of 1993 and early 1994. A the age of 18 plus to 19 years old.
6. Have you ever considered making a name in singles?
(laughs) No, I'm too lazy to play singles as it was very tiring.
7. Did any of your batch mates made the same grade as you? If not, what was the reason?
My partner Choong Tan Fook, I think that's about it. As for the reason, when I was playing it was kind of hard for me to answer this quite question. Now that I'm out of the team and I'm coaching, I can see that is not anyone has the talent. It depends on your talent and commitment. There's a lot of small things and different element that made you what you are. There are some players who have talent, but they are lack of anticipation (instinct of where the shuttle is coming). Some players who are not so good, didn't have chance to get the experience.
I was quite lucky actually, because i was drafted in at 19 and at 20 years old I made into the senior squad. At that time, the singles players broke up from the national team and form Nusa Mahsuri. So at that time there were not many players, so I was in the national senior squad the following year after I was drafted in
8. How many years are you already on the scene?
1994 -2011, 17years. I left the national team after Beijing Olympic Games 2008, but I was still very active and I retired last year. I'm still playing in a league in Japan.
9. On your playing career which was the highlight of your career?
I think it would in 2002 Thomas Cup in Guangzhou, China. In the semi-finals, we beat China in their home ground. Another one would be, the 1998 Commonwealth Games as it was my first major title.
10. Which incident would you consider as a low point of your career?
It has to be in the All England 2003, when we were so close of winning it.
11. How would you summarize your career?
(laughs) I don't have regrets in my career. Of course, they are some things I wanted to do better I had the chance again but that's life we have to move on. I don't regret making decisions at that point of my life. Basically I have no regrets. (smiles)
12. What do you think of the new points scoring system?
It depends, in singles is more exciting now. In doubles it's faster now, but don't see any more skills in it. Now it only, serves and receive serves and who is faster. You don't see many rallies now. It's about who is faster and who takes the initiative to attack. Both scoring system has their good and bad points. If it's back to 15 points, you will see a few pairs who stand out from others. At 21 points, now is very competitive because everyone has a chance. You don't need a good serve to win points. Let's say if you are not playing well even if you're a top player you can even lose to lower rank players.
13. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene?
It has to be Park Joo Bong, I admire not only he's a good player but a good person as well. I can say that because he was my coach before. He is the kind of player who can play with anyone both as good in mixed and men's doubles. He won the All England Championship, with different partners. That is why I admire him so much.
14. What is your strength in your game?
My power is my strenght. Weakness is my movement (laughs).
15. Is it important to have a favorite stroke? What was yours then?
I don't think it's important to have a favourite. It is important to have a killing shot, a weapon which you can call your own. My partner and me, basically we are quite similar. We are quite a balance team, we can serve and defend very well because we are the old school 15 points graduates, so we need this all around play. You don't see much of this kind of game play anymore these days in 21 points scoring system. You seldom see players lifting up the shots, and winning in defensive position. Defends and service is my winning shots.
16. 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?
It's hard to think right now, but I can say not in individual players. Basically I can say about the countries playing style, Denmark has very good serve and technical game play. The best part is most of the time, they can stick to their game plan right to the end. For China, it's definitely speed and power. Indonesian is more in jabbing. As for Korea is jabbing as well, their quality of jabs are not that good but very consistent. Malaysia a little bit of everything.
17. Who do you regard as the all time best player?
I don't think there's an all time best player because they come from different eras. If you look at Datuk Eddy Choong's era there's not many players playing, so he's considered a legend during his era. Park Joo Bong has his own era, Rexy Mainaky has own era. It's different you know, you can't compare because they are not playing against each other. The game is different and equipments are different then from now. At that time they use wooden rackets, now you don't see wooden rackets. You can't really tell who's the best of all time.
18. As one of the legendary Malaysian players, what is your vision in Malaysia badminton?
My vision is for Malaysian badminton to organize more local tournaments and local levels tournament and more people to participate. Malaysia is very different, Malaysia has two levels, one is the professional level and the armature level, social level I would say. In between there's nothing. Whereas, I've been playing in Japan league for the past 4 to 5 years; if you are there you can see that they have all kinds of level of players. They have their national players at the highest level, and these players played together in league. All these small tournaments, you'll see the highest level to the lowest level playing together week in and week out.
The tournament has no price money but the respond and turn ups are very good. It's good for the sport, as more people plays then you can find more talent there. Where as in Malaysia, if there's no prize money in the tournament, the turn out wouldn't be that good. It's more about mentally, in Japan even the biggest level tournament such as the Japan Close, they don't offer prize money, it's more about the honour and recognition. This is the difference from Malaysia and Japan, which I see. The mentally of the players and people is different I would say.
19. Who were your coaches during your international days?
When I first came in, it was Rahman Sidek and Kwan Yoke Meng. After that when I was in the senior team, it was Razif Sidek and assistant Chen Kang. After that it was Park Joo Bong and Quay Kah Ling. Then it's Yap Kim Hock and then Rexy Mainaky.
20. Can you spell out the difference in coaching styles from China, Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia?
Denmark is more in match play, a lot of match play until you have good understanding of the game. China is mostly speed and power. Indonesia is more into rotation wise. Malaysia is a little bit of everything.
21. Do good players make good coaches?
Not necessarily. Good players they understand well the game. The hard part is transferring the knowledge and skill to the players.
22. What are the basic requirements to playing good badminton?
There are no basic requirements to play good badminton. Talking about playing good badminton is very big area. For me playing good badminton is playing your outmost level, for example, if you are not a very good player but you got your stroke right, it's already playing good badminton as you're already exceeding your target.
As for elements, there's no one element is more important than the other, everything is important, you need everything to be a good player. For example, you need good mentally, physical fitness, physical strength, skills and good understanding of the game. There are so many things involve.
23. Who do you regard as the all time best player?
It's the love of the game, I would say. When I first started out as a professional player, I wanted to try it out on my own. I know I could still play but I don't want to stay in the national team as I don't want to take place of the younger players who is coming up. So I manage to get my own sponsor and go out to play. At the same time, I wanted to feel something different because when I was in the national team I had a lot pressure, when I'm with myself, I don't have much pressure, I only answer to myself. It's something different, after that I've learned to enjoy and love the game more because it's not a job for me anymore. I play competitively because I enjoy it.
24. What is your future plans? Have you consider coaching the national team?
No at the moment
25. Who do you think is current upcoming players ? and why?
Honestly, I don't watch badminton on TV so much these days like I use to, unless I'm free and I turn on the TV and the game is on, I'll watch it. My life is different now, I just read on the newspaper. It'shard to tell you as I didn't watch these players in action. As for Malaysian players I can name a few, Tan Wee Kiong and Hoon Thien How in mens doubles, Chan Peng Soon for mixed doubles and Liew Darren and Chong Wei Feng is coming up too. The others they still need a little bit of time.
26. Is there any ways for BAM to improve their systems for better results on international scene?
I believe they are doing the best they can. Of course, there are always ways to improve. If not they won't change their system. They want to improve that's why they change, it's just like a business; you need to changes.
27. Badminton-information.com is planning to start a badminton league. Do you think it will increase the level of Malaysia badminton? Do you support the league?
Of course it's a good idea, it'll get more people to play the sport. I will support if tthere's a league in Malaysia but if you're saying you want to do as big as China, I don't think you can do it Malaysia because China the prize money is crazy. In Malaysia I don't see any companies coming up to sponsor such big amount for a badminton league.
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