Badminton: Grooming future stars is Wong's top priority

Former national badminton player Derek Wong (centre) is setting up his own academy to coach aspiring shuttlers. Other coaches in the academy run by the two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games silver medallist will be his brother Shawn (left) and 201
Former national badminton player Derek Wong (centre) is setting up his own academy to coach aspiring shuttlers. Other coaches in the academy run by the two-time Olympian and Commonwealth Games silver medallist will be his brother Shawn (left) and 2012 Olympian Shinta Mulia Sari.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Two-time Olympian will not walk away from the sport, but aims to train next generation

With a first class slated to begin in a fortnight, former national shuttler Derek Wong is starting small with his badminton academy.

But the training regimen his charges go through will be helmed by coaches of a stellar badminton pedigree.

The two-time Olympian, who called time on his career after the Rio de Janeiro Games last year, has roped in former national team-mate Shinta Mulia Sari and older brother Shawn as fellow coaches.

Doubles specialist Shinta reached a career high of world No. 8 with Yao Lei. They won the 2010 Singapore Open, the only Singaporeans to win a Superseries title, and also played at the 2012 Olympics.

Shawn, 31, meanwhile, has about a decade of coaching experience alongside father Wong Shoon Keat, the 1983 SEA Games men's singles gold medallist and Singapore's only champion in this event so far.

The trio will take on budding shuttlers aged from six to their 20s on weekends, focusing on foundational skills for now. The training venue has yet to be confirmed.

Said Wong, a 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist: "I always thought I would continue my father's academy, but he's not slowing down any time soon so this is just an extension of it."

Wong, with a career-high ranking of No. 37, admitted he thought those plans were behind him after joining Deloitte full-time as a junior audit associate last September.

But closing the chapter on a sport that runs in his family - his mother Irene was a former national champion while younger brother Jason is a national player - has proven much harder to do.

He said: "I've been playing badminton for so many years. It's impossible to totally lose touch with it, and it's a sport I love so much.

"I want to try and help the younger generation and teach what I know so that it doesn't go to waste. After all, it's so many years spent training and going overseas and being under different coaches."

Having always put coaching on the horizon, the 28-year-old Shinta sees her collaboration with Wong as a natural progression. She hung up her racket after giving birth to a boy five months ago.

Shinta said: "It was tough trying to juggle taking care of my baby and training. If I can help our players get better, that will be very satisfying too."

While the academy is not looking at high-performance coaching for now, Wong said he is open to it, should there be any players who prove the potential. The academy could also expand in the future.

Wong, who has been coaching a corporate team from the China Construction Bank every Saturday, is not new to this role and reckons his coaching style is as strict as his father's.

The 28-year-old said: "If the academy does well, I believe there will be coaches interested in joining me (but) I would like to have a standardised programme. We want quality for our training.

"Everything we apply to our coaching will draw on what we did, and we will implement what helped us over the years into training. Hopefully this gives people who are keen to learn from us the opportunity to experience that."

•For more information, visit facebook.com/derekwongbadminton or e-mail dwminton1983@gmail.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'Grooming future stars is Wong's top priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe