Interview with Wong Choong Hann
Wong Choong Hann born February 17, 1977 in Kuala Lumpur) is a professional Malaysian badminton player. He is considered by the nation as one of the Malaysia badminton hero. Choong Hann is former world number 1.
He currently resides in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur. Wong Choong Hann's career began with the 1991 Malaysia Open. The first tournament he won was the 1997 Dutch Open. He represented Malaysia in 2002, where Malaysia emerged runners-up to Indonesia in the Thomas Cup championships.
In 2003, Wong Choong Hann reached the World Championships finals. In a thrilling three-game match between the veterans (both he and his opponent were above 24 years old then), he eventually lost out to the champion from China, Xia Xuanze.
Wong Choong Hann played badminton at the 2004 Summer Olympics in men's singles, defeating Przemysław Wacha of Poland in the first round. In the round of 16, Choong Hann was defeated by Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia.
The lowlight of his career occurred during the 2006 Thomas Cup where he injured himself by snapping an Achilles tendon while playing in a quarter final match against South Korea, he is required to rest for almost 6 months. He made a comeback to the sport in the Asian Games later in 2006 but was clearly far from his best form.
Wong Choong Hann
1. What age did you start playing?
10 years old, I picked it up from school. At around 13 years old I entered the KL state team.
2. Was it your intention to be a professional player from the start ?
At the beginning, I didn't take it so seriously. It's all about having fun. Then at age around 16 years old, I feel I had the potential. My intention from that age is to become the world number 1.
3. When did you realize you were good enough to be a world beater ?
Actually to be honest, I don't know when I was good enough because when you're young your target is just getting to the top. So I just work my way to top, just trying to better and better. At around 14 years old, I started to upset the age group which are higher than my age group. Then around 17 years old I started to upset the senior players in the BAM. I would say at that age, I realised had the potential.
4. How were you noticed at the national level ?
I won some junior circuit tournaments and I was the under 12, 15, 18 national champion(MSSM). But people only noticed you at the under 18 category, so that's how I was noticed. Winning the national under 18 when I was 17 years old.
5. Which year was you drafted into the national squad ?
17 years old I was drafted to the national junior squad. At 19 years old(1996) I was drafted to the national squad.
6. Have you ever considered making a name in doubles ?
I've always stick to singles. When I was junior I played both. At around 20 years old I concentrated fully on singles.
7. Did any of your batch mates made the same grade as you ? If not, what was the reason ?
Along the way, players from my batch moved on into other things. I would say it's a natural process.
8. How many years are you already on the scene?
1996-2011, 15 years.
9. On your playing career which was the highlight of your career?
World Championship 2003, runners up. It's one of the best moment, even though I didn't win but it was a closely fought match. I came pretty close. At that time it was a good result for Malaysia badminton. Another highlight is of course being the World number 1. To me being world number 1 is not so important, it's more important to reach better stages in the tournament, it's better to set a target in the tournament and reach to the target. For me that's more important. The last highlight would be the winning the Commonwealth Games.
10. Which incident would you consider as a low point of your career?
2000 Thomas Cup, I didn't play well. I put unnecessary pressure on myself. Probably I was too young during that time to handle this kind of pressure. After the tournament I had a bad wrist injury. I had to go for surgery in early 2001.
11. How would you summarize your career?
Well, it has been good, I'm happy with I've achieved.
12. What do you think of the new points scoring system?
In my point of view, so far it's the best scoring system in badminton. The game got interesting; it thrills not only the players but the spectators as well. It requires high focus and intensity.
13. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene ?
From start I would admire, Zhao Jian Hua for his deceptive attacking skills and net. I enjoy watching Poul Erik Hoye r Larsen, Sun Jun and Hendrawan because they play a very smart game.
14. As a player, what was your strength ? Weakness, if any ?
Skills, fighting spirit is my core strength. For weakness, I would say the technical part but in a process you learn along the way.
15. Is it important to have a favorite stroke? What was yours then?
I think for single players, one must be good at their attacking skills such as smash or chop and etc to reach the highest level in this game. Especially in the 21 point scoring format, it's difficult if you're a rallying player. Favourite stroke is mainly use to set up or kill your rally to score points. For my favourite stroke there's too many but net play and smashing is one of my favourites.
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?
Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia for his signature backhand and net play. Lin Dan for his fighting spirit and confidence on court. Hendrawan and Sun Jun for their technical department and game plan. They are not strong in smashing, but they are good in the technical part that's why they play a great game.
17. Who do you regard as the all time best player?
I would regard Lin Dan is the best of all time.
18. As one of the legendary Malaysian players, what is your vision in Malaysia badminton?
It's important to be continuous in Malaysia badminton especially grooming up the youngsters. It's a very important process to keep up with the word of badminton and be the top badminton nation.
19. Who were your coaches during your international days?
Han Jian, Morten Forst, Indra Gunawam, Li Mao, Misbun Sidek.
20. Can you spell out the difference in coaching styles from China, Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia?
China they specified on different elements. They very specific on skills, agility and movement around the court; agile movement is their strong point their training. Denmark is more on psychology and technical aspect. Indonesia is also focus on psychology and very good in technical play. Malaysia has experience from different part of the world. So I would say Malaysia training method is a little bit from everywhere.
21. How do you regard the local coaching scene?
Since the inception of the sports school and badminton academies in Malaysia; the players that came out and became coaches, I would say Malaysia coaching scene is more vibrant and are more knowledgeable. On general knowledge is being well spread compare to before.
22. Do good players make good coaches?
Should be okay, a player needs to be well taught to be good player. But it takes talent to be an exceptional coach. Coaching is tougher job, as you got to think for your players in all aspect of life such as before tournament, after tournament, in between tournament and etc. All in all, it's a more stressful job and you're not only thinking for and taking care of one player but a few players. As a player all you got to do is taking care of yourself. After training or tournament you can just go home.
23. What are the basic requirements to playing good badminton ?
You need to be alert and focus and observant to your coaches. Interest and focus is one of the main elements; Badminton players are born to face failure and it's how you stay focus and carry on. This is what most players do to succeed.
24. Despite your age you are still playing international badminton. What keeps you going all this years?
I grow to playing the game. I like the feeling, put up in a package in term of making money. But I still like the feel of competition and meeting old friends. I'm close to Peter Gade, Kenneth Jonassen, Xia Xuanze on the international scene. Chew Choon Eng, Chang Kim Wai, Lee Wan Wah, Chan Chong Ming in the local scene.
25. What is your future plans? Have you consider coaching the national team?
Managing my badminton hall is my future plan. I'm more focused on academies and grooming youngsters at the grass root level. It's my main business now. As for coaching the national team, it could happen but not at the moment.
26. Who do you think is current upcoming players ?and why?
Liew Darren has shown some progress lately. Zulfadli the World and Asian Junior Champion but it's hard to say as it's a very crucial stage. It's easy to be a rising star but it's not easy to be star.
27. Is there any ways for BAM to improve their systems for better results on international scene?
Badminton has done a lot things meeting good results. I didn't pay attention on the way things are running by the BAM.
28. 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?
It's good fun, especially at the grass root part where amateur and professional players meet. You need budget to make it without the money it's nothing. Yes I support but depends on how it works.
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