PETALING JAYA: From childhood rivals to BFF (best friend forever).
Newly-minted Olympics bronze medallists Aaron Chia, 24, and Soh Wooi Yik, 23, believe that it is their close-knit friendship that goes back more than a decade that has helped forge a world-beating partnership on court.
It all began when they were rivals in the Under-12 category of the local junior circuit.
“I got to know Wooi Yik when I was 10. I represented Melaka while Wooi Yik played for Kuala Lumpur. We always tried to outdo one another in the singles event,” recalled Aaron.
“We got along very well and soon became friends. Although we lived in different states, we kept in touch.
“But it was during our time in Bukit Jalil Sports School (national junior team) that we got even closer because we spend a lot time together.”
And what do they have in common that make them enjoy each other’s company?
“We are K-Pop fans, I love BTS while Wooi Yik has multiple idols. We also enjoy playing FIFA on PlayStation,” said Aaron.
“We didn’t have a PS in the hostel, but I remember both of us will always go to (Lee) Zii Jia’s room to play. Wooi Yik is a Manchester United fan, so am I although I’m not a die-hard fan like him.
“We love to play PUBG (mobile game Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds) where we would team up to fight others. Perhaps this helps in our partnership on court too.
“There’s always trust between us, which is a very important element.
“When there’s a problem in our performance, we will sit down and talk rather than get angry or start pointing fingers.”
Aaron also revealed that their partnership were almost split but were reunited in November 2017 after their request to play together was granted.
Aaron-Wooi Yik first played as a pair at the World Junior championships in 2015 in Bilbao, Spain, but failed to clear the early rounds and as a result, they were paired up with different partners in the back-up squad at the early stage.
The moment they got back together after two years, they made immediate impact.
Within seven months, Aaron-Wooi Yik reached three International Challenge finals in India, Vietnam and Malaysia. Thanks to these results, they earned a surprise ticket to the World Championships in Nanjing in 2018.
And it was at this world meet when they shot to stardom by reaching the quarter-finals before losing to eventual champions Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen – the same Chinese rivals who defeated them in the semi-finals in Tokyo on Friday.
They built on the early breakthrough en route to becoming the All-England runners-up and soon took over the national No. 1 spot in the absence of Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, who turned pro.
They also won the Philippines SEA Games gold in 2019.
“We requested to our coaches (Cheah Soon Kit) to give our partnership a shot because we felt that we had the chemistry.
“Wooi Yik is a playmaker at the front court while I can attack from the back,” he explained.
Wooi Yik said their communication was the reason behind their flourishing partnership.
“In doubles, the most important thing is communication. Aaron and I, we can talk about almost anything,” said Wooi Yik.
“We are both straightforward people, so things come easy when we speak our hearts out. Those small things really help us a lot on court.”