PETALING JAYA: The success of youngsters Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong did not only evoke sweet memories for several Malaysian former All-England champions. It raised hopes of a revival for Malaysian badminton.
On Sunday, the world number 32 Malaysian pair powered their way to a superb 21-15, 21-18 win over world champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng of China in the menís doubles final at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.
It was the countryís first menís doubles All-England title since brothers Razif and Jalani Sidek managed the feat in 1982.
Datuk Punch Gunalan, who won the All-England menís doubles title with Ng Boon Bee in 1971, saw the rise of the Malaysian youngsters as timely ahead of next yearís Olympic Games in Beijing.
'I felt very proud with the way the youngsters played. The beautiful game is back. Their performance is a sign of a revival for Malaysian badminton,'' said Gunalan, who is the Badminton World Federation (BWF) deputy president.
Another former winner Tan Yee Khan, who won the title twice with Boon Bee in 1965 and 1966, was overjoyed.
''This pair just reminds me of how Boon Bee and I used to play. They were jumping all over the court; they intercepted shots; they are so flexible and fast; their net play is excellent; and their service is good. They have everything,'' he said.
Jalani said the youngstersí victory did not come as a surprise at all.
''When I first saw them play (at the Japan Open in October), I knew that they were a breath of fresh air for Malaysian badminton.''
''They have all the ingredients of becoming world and Olympic champions. Kien Keat is a very talented player. Although inexperienced, Boon Heong is very good with his smashes. They are brave to take chances. With Rexy's (Mainaky) continuous guidance, they should be all right,'' added Jalani.
Meanwhile, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will be rewarding Kien Keat and Boon Heong for their achievement.
BAM president Kenny Goh said they would be given a 25% bonus on the cash prize they had won for coming out tops and a match bonus of RM10,000 each for winning.
The duo won US$14,400 (RM50,425) for emerging All-England champions.(thestar.com.my)