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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Malaysia Lifts the Thomas Cup: The Story of '92 (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of yesterday’s post. Please read it first before proceeding, thanks)

The scene was set. Malaysia had beaten the Mighty Indonesian House of Badminton in the two previous Thomas Cup semi-finals in the 80’s leading up to 1992, but each time, Malaysia could not match up to the might of the new force in world badminton – China.

The Great Wall of China, year after year produced dozens of cookie cutter champions – all poker face, emotionless smashing machines like Yang Yang, Zhao Jianhua, Xiong Guobao, et al. And yeah, they also had the formidable Tian Bingyi and Li Yongbo, the arrogant crack doubles pair.

But in 1992 Thomas Cup Finals in Stadium Negara Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia faced their arch nemesis Indonesia for a chance at glory. And so at 7pm, the battle started.

The first singles was between our ‘jaguh kampong’ Rashid Sidek and the Indon No.1, Ardy Wiranata. Everyone hoped Rashid to win for Malaysia to stand a chance of winning, but no one really expected him to be able to pull it off. Rashid won the first set, but lost the second. So we went into the rubber. And suddenly everything started going Rashid’s way. His smashes started going in, Ardy, uncharacteristically started making mistakes. Rashid won, so 1-0 to Malaysia. The hopes of the millions of Malaysians glued to TV2 started to rise.

Then it was Rashid’s elder brothers Razif and Jalani against their foes Bobby Ertanto/Gunawan. Malaysia’s tactic was to hope for a point from Rashid and the two doubles, Foo Kok Keong and especially Kwan Yoke Meng didn’t stand a chance against the Indon singles players. But on that warm night in KL, it nothing went right for the former All-England champions. They went down tamely in straight sets. It looked like the tactic had backfired.

Everyone watching at home and at mamaks across the country were down in the dumps. Now it was almost lost, the ageing Foo had never beaten his opponent Olympic champion Allan Budi Kusuma. But the old warhorse didn’t read that script. He ran, jumped, dived, rolled and almost threw up on ran his way to a shocking straight set victory.

It was late into the night already, and Stadium Negara was now shaking. The crowd, even the whole Malaysia, led by Dr. Siti Hasmah, Datuk Elyas Omar and Datuk Roland Fung were spurring our team on. On the court stepped the great white hope of the nation – Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang. On the other side, was Ricky Subagja/Rexy Mainaky. What followed was one of the most heart-stopping matches in the Thomas Cup history. The battle swung back and forth, with the viewers pushed from exhilaration to utter despair with drop of the shuttlecock.

At almost nearing midnight, Cheah & Soo reached match point in the rubber. With Soo’s shaky hand he served, and with Hasbullah Awang annoying and ‘over-stating the obvious’ commentary, the nation watched with bated breathe.

And then Malaysia won. The euphoria was unbelievable. We had finally won the most prestigious trophy in badminton. The players and officials stormed the court and cried uncontrollably. And the whole Malaysia celebrated as one nation; nothing could describe that feeling I felt that very moment.

And so after 25 years, we had reclaimed the Thomas Cup, won on dubious circumstances back in 1967. In the years after that, we took a nosedive, and never reached the dizzying heights of 1992 again. Maybe it is perpetuated by the curse of Malaysian badminton, perhaps it would be another 25 years again before Malaysia lay get their hands on that silver cup again…

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  • Someone should hire you in the khazanah negara or wherever they store Hari Ini Dalam Sejarah. You did not miss any details. I wonder if Cheah Soon Kit and Soo still quarrelling like they used to? And ei, Yang Yang is handsome, ok? No poker face wut. But some of the players are like butchers. LOL!

    By Blogger 5xmom, at 7/19/2005 12:09:00 pm  

  • I remembered watching the game. I was only Std 2 then but boy was I excited. My parents were glued to the TV and my mom was shouting and cheering. It was fun!

    By Blogger wildcharm, at 7/19/2005 02:15:00 pm  

  • Don't forget it was also the night of May 13. What a way for the country to redeem itself.

    By Blogger Derek, at 12/31/2005 02:14:00 am  

  • wow~ i was just a kid and had to sleep cos it was bedtime but i remembered either my mom or dad telling me Foo Kok Keong had won! I was only std 4 but it remains etched in my memories and thanks for bringing these memories back!

    By Blogger saltvinegar, at 8/31/2009 09:03:00 pm  

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