PETALING JAYA: National 60s and 70s badminton star Tan Aik Mong, who died yesterday, wished to offer much to the sport but departed without fulfilling his desire.
The 70-year-old passed on at a private hospital after a battle with liver cancer.
Aik Mong may be lesser known than his older brother, 74-year-old Aik Huang – the 1966 All-England champion and 1967 Thomas Cup winner – but the former singles player had his fair share of glory.
He won the silver medal at the 1970 Thomas Cup in Kuala Lumpur and the 1973 Sea Games, and the gold medal at the 1971 Asian Championship in Jakarta.
The retired information technology professional, who also excelled in tennis and golf, was looking forward to giving back to the sport when he was appointed Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) Talent Management Group (TMG) director in September 2013.
However, his ambitions turned sour when he quit 18 days later because he could no longer work under uncertain conditions that prevented him from doing his job.
His methods did not go down well with BAM which had initially given him its full support.
Former national player Yew Cheng Hoe, who played with Aik Huang, said Aik Mong was “outspoken but genuine”.
“It is sad that he could not fulfil his desire to give back to the game,” said Cheng Hoe, who like Aik Mong is from Penang.
Another Penangite and former state player Yong Soo Heong said since Aik Mong’s abrupt departure from the BAM coaching programme, he had sought ways to contribute towards coaching the country’s younger players.
Yong, the former CEO and editor-in-chief of Bernama, said a group of shuttlers had planned to visit Johor Bahru with Aik Mong three months ago.
Together with former national players Saw Swee Leong and Sylvia Ng, they had planned to visit a mutual friend, Albert Goh Teong Hoe who had just built a 19-court badminton complex. However, they were held back by Covid-19 movement restrictions.
Legendary athlete Dr M Jegathesan told FMT from Melbourne that Aik Mong was a modest, simple person who kept a low profile.
The “Flying Doctor” said Aik Mong would be remembered as a sportsman who was passionate about doing the nation proud.
When former sports journalist George Das came into sports reporting in 1972, Aik Mong was at the tail-end of his badminton career.
“Having known him through the years, I always found him to be forthright and unbiased.
“He would often tell me that intelligence is important to excel in badminton as it’s a thinking game.
“Aik Mong held that a badminton player must be a strategist, analytical during a match, crafty and physically fit,” said George.
Ex-RTM sports commentator Aziz Ibrahim, who covered the 1967 Thomas Cup, said Aik Mong had remained unassuming and well respected despite his outstanding achievements.
On joining BAM in 2013 at the age of 63, Aik Mong, speaking to BadmintonPlanet.com said: “They say that a ‘dinosaur’ has joined (BAM) and that I am old-fashioned.
“I am not here to teach anyone. I was a badminton player and have managed big companies before. I have enough knowledge and experience to assess, supervise and monitor.
“Some may not like my way of doing things but if I do it correctly and am humane in all that I do, people will eventually see the light.
“I will do away with people who are not hardworking and not ready to sacrifice.”
Sadly, he could not finish his five-year plan as the system got the better of him. Surely, badminton was the loser.
But he persisted with efforts to assist the sport and posted an article titled “Badminton today and yesterday” on his Twitter account in January last year.
In it, he asked: “Why are we no longer a nation once feared by all (in badminton)?
“Have we become complacent, lazy, mismanaged? Does our direction need to be adjusted?
“Everyone has progressed, changed and improved in their management of badminton but we have remained stagnant.
“We are not short of money, talent, training facilities or coaches and yet as a nation we are not there.
“What will happen to Malaysia, a nation once so high in badminton? Let’s hope BAM has the answer.”
You may not have fulfilled your vision, but you gave it your best shot. Farewell Aik Mong.