BAM technical director Morten Frost speaks his mind on Malaysia’s performance in the recent Sudirman Cup, the world mixed team championship, and having to deal with high expectations from the Malaysian public. The Danish legend also talks about the state of Malaysian badminton with Timesport
Question: You have been with the BA of Malaysia for about two years now. Do you see Malaysian badminton heading in the direction that you had expected?
Answer: Yes, I would like to think so. Of course it should never come from me but I feel that we are improving.
Some would probably think it is not going fast enough but that’s part of the Malaysian culture. It’s always got to be here and now, and I knew that. Having said that, when I first came here, we were ranked No 10 in the world and now we are No 5. That shows that we have moved up quite a bit and we still have time to move up some more.
The target obviously is to be among the top three but I have almost four years to work on that. As I had mentioned earlier, some would still expect things to move faster, so I will have to look into that as well.
Q: Malaysian badminton has definitely enjoyed some success stories since you arrived - like the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in which three silver medals were won. But at the recent Sudirman Cup, we only got to the quarter-finals. How would you compare the team this year with those from previous editions?
A: This is where I must say that I don’t agree with the public if you can say that. We didn’t do badly but we weren’t good either.
We did what was expected of us seeing from the outside world looking at Malaysia. If you had asked the technical director of Denmark, he would say that it was a fair result for Malaysia to reach the quarter-finals, but with a little bit of luck, they could have made the semi-finals. Some here in Malaysia are saying it’s a shock defeat, but I disagree with them.
We lost to a nation (Japan) that was higher ranked than us. So purely based on that how can we be shocked? But having said that, I felt we had a chance of reaching the semi-finals, and I think it was a missed opportunity.
In that way I say we had the opportunity and we missed it, so that is not nice. It’s not nice for me, for BAM and everyone else to miss an opportunity like that. But do not go overboard and say it was a disaster and whatnot, I don’t think so.
Q: You have been under three different leaders - Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, Tan Sri Mohamed Al Amin Abd Majid (acting president) and the current BAM president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria. How do you see this affecting your role as the technical director?
A: All three of them have their own different styles. However I feel that I am equally respected by all three of them and I had their backing all the way.
Tengku Mahaleel was here for a short while and I really got to work closely with the president when Tan Sri Al Amin and Datuk Seri Norza sort of led together. And now Datuk Seri Norza is the president, of course it is a little different because he has his own ideas but I must say that I have a good working relationship with all of them.
Q: Everyone knows about your fallout with Lee Chong Wei earlier this year. BAM leaders have come out to say that everything is now under control, and you both have got your own roles. How do you see this working for you in the long run?
A: Let’s say that I hope we will get closer again and I hope the future shows that.
Q: This year we have the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games and World Championships happening at almost the same time in August. Expectations are high. How is it for you?
A: Expectations are definitely higher on the Sea Games as it will be happening right in front of our eyes.
Although it is not a prestigious competition as far as badminton is concerned, it is still the Sea Games and Malaysia are playing host, so I respect that. We must perform well.
Last time when we played in Singapore, we actually had the best result (two gold, four silver and two bronze) since the 1977 edition. Not many people know that actually, but that was a very good result for us.
This year, it’s going to be more difficult as some of our top players are going to be in Glasgow for the World Championships and I know that Thailand have decided to do the opposite. Apart from Ratchanok Intanon (women’s singles) who will be playing in the World Championships, the rest of their top players are coming for the Sea Games.
It’s going to be a major battle with them and Indonesia are going to come in and be a strong force as well, so it’s not going to be easy.
Q: Next year is going to be a very important year with the Commonwealth Games (Brisbane), Thomas and Uber Cup (Bangkok) and the Asian Games (Jakarta). Do you see Malaysia moving up from the No 5 position to pose a real threat at these major events?
A: I sincerely hope so. We must move up as stagnation is the same as moving backwards. It’s always a matter of how quickly we improve.
I have been looking into it and of course it is always nice to win some medals here and there but it is important for us to have realistic targets. For instance, let’s take this year’s Sudirman Cup.
I believe that our target to reach the semi-finals was a realistic one and like I said earlier, it was a missed opportunity.
This year, for the Sea Games at least, we are hoping for two gold medals, two silver and four bronze medals, which I also feel is a realistic target. Hopefully we will do much better next year.
Q: Finally on development, is BAM doing enough to increase our talent pool?
A: I have to agree that development is very important. Once this place (Academy Badminton Malaysia) is fully up and running, we will have the Form Four and Five players from the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) here with us. That is the first step and a very important one. The hostels here can accommodate 200 beds.
We will then be able to fully utilise the facilities here. Now BJSS has about 60 places, so if we are to bring, let’s say 24 of them here, that will allow us to bring in an extra 24 players who are form one, two and three to join BJSS.
That alone will increase the pool of junior players, although not as much as we would want but it’s a very important step forward.