PETALING JAYA: “Papa, I will win more medals than you one day.”
Wilson Ng Soon Tuan did not think much of what his four-year-old son said back in 2004.
Now, 17 years later, Wilson, who runs his own badminton academy STyLc in Johor Baru, was beaming with pride when he watched Tze Yong, now 21, on the television screen going head-to-head with world No. 7 Jonatan Christie of Indonesia in the Thomas Cup quarter-finals on Friday.
Although his son lost, Tze Yong put up a gallant fight for one hour and 15 minutes before losing 21-14, 19-21, 16-21 to the reigning Asian Games champion. The defeat handed eventual champions Indonesia a 3-1 win and a place in the semi-finals.
“It was a proud day for our family. We were so happy for him,” said the 48-year-old Wilson.
“That was probably the match of his life. He fought his heart out and did the country proud.”
Wilson is grateful that the Badminton Association of Malaysia were patient in overseeing Tze Yong’s development and gave him ample time for his game to flourish.
Tze Yong has so far won two sixth-tier titles – the 2019 South Australia International and the Polish Open in March – but nothing beats his debut in the Sudirman and Thomas Cup.
“Tze Yong is not a player who has developed at a fast pace. It was probably due to his delayed physical growth. He didn’t grow as tall as he is right now (currently 181cm) before he was 16,” said Wilson.
“We’re quite worried then that he may not have the physical strength to compete. We got him to consume weight gain supplements during his teens, but it didn’t quite work out.
“But now he’s a changed person thanks to the help from the National Sports Institute.”
Wilson revealed that he trained his son before he was drafted into the Bukit Jalil Sports School at the age of 12.
“It was not difficult to train him but I knew that at some point, he has to go to Kuala Lumpur if he wants to go far,” he added.
“So when the BJSS offer came, my wife and I didn’t think twice.”
Wilson recalled that Tze Yong developed an interest for the game at a young age.
“Tze Yong was four when I first brought him to the court for a local tournament. I noticed that he was sitting quietly and watching me play intently,” he said.
“Normally kids would run around but he fell in love with badminton at first sight.
“We bought a mini plastic racquet and he would hit the shuttle in the air because he had no one to play with.
“He would watch badminton tutorials and try to replicate the drills and movements.
“It was not long after that he told me he wanted to pursue the sport seriously.”
Based on the commanding and confident play against Jonatan, Tze Yong certainly looks destined for success.