KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Misbun Sidek made a surprise return to BAM as men's singles head coach.
Timesport speaks to the legend, who has been tasked to help Lee Chong Wei win the World Championship.
Question: After quitting BAM six years ago, you are now back. How do you feel?
Answer: When I was coaxed by Chong Wei to help him, it hit home hard. I must say both of us were emotional when he said “Coach, you started it with me, why don't you finish it?"
And I thought to myself, there is truth in what he was saying. It's unfinished business not just for him but for me as well. I see it as a challenge because after six years, can I still help him achieve his goals and at the same time can he also do it? In the past six years, I have only been active with coaching clinics under the sports ministry. So this time around I'm back with a bigger role. Looking at the rest of the players here, I know they all need guidance and it is not Chong Wei alone.
Q: Many are saying Chong Wei is no longer the young athlete you helped reach the Olympic final in 2008. Do you think you still have the magic touch to help him win a major title?
A: Yes it's true, Chong Wei, in my opinion, has already reached the highest level and it is important for him to stay injury free. However, my role here is to formulate an extra ingredient or a secret weapon to piece all his strong points together to achieve the impossible. Imagine me being a light pointing him out of darkness. The question here is how powerful is the light? Another thing is that Chong Wei is constantly thinking of his juniors and of ways to improve them. We must respect that.
He wants his teammates to follow suit, but he also wants them to know that it is not easy to get to where he is today. If you remember, he has always been saying that people didn't know him when he was coming up, they only remember him for his success stories. Now that I'm back, he wants the younger players to come up in the same way. Now can I still help Chong Wei win the World Championships title next month? I cannot guarantee you that, but I will give my best to help him be at his best and maybe he will be able to land the elusive title. As for the rest of the boys, I see potential in some of them, and I have identified some key areas in which they will need to work harder on.
Q: When you left in 2011, you cited differences with certain quarters in the BAM. Have you ever thought that this might happen again?
A: Of course. I am a person who is very cautious and I also believe in learning from mistakes. What happened back then was a difference in ideology between the management and the technical side which involved us coaches. Don't get me wrong but those involved back then were my friends and we still are friends. I left because I did not want things to get worse or to have any sort of ill feeling towards anybody. The only thing I said back then was “If you believe you have the right method, then you do it.”
Not many coaches would have easily let go of Chong Wei, but I did it. Why? Because to me, if you want to say something, prove it. Now, do I think that history could repeat itself, maybe but I am looking at it as a challenge. A challenge to myself to deal with it if it happens again. The past, present and future are three key points to live by. If there was anything good that happened in the past I use it in the future to be better. The bad part, I will still keep but as a lesson in life.
Q: Expectations are high on Chong Wei to land the world title since you accepted the offer by BAM to be men's singles head coach. Does that put you under any pressure?
A: Actually I've not let my mind wonder that far but I can tell you something. I accepted this job not so I can guarantee that Chong Wei will return with the world title. What I can guarantee is that I will be able to help improve the condition of the player bound for the World Championships, in this case Chong Wei. One must understand that Chong Wei is now the main target for everybody. Just like shooting, put him anywhere and he is bound to be hit by something. Personally, I believe that Chong Wei's best chance was at the 2012 London Olympics. That was just after I left. Hopefully now that I am back, both Chong Wei and I will be able to pick up from where we left of.
Q: With just over a month before the World Championships, what do you think should be Chong Wei's main focus?
A: Now that is something I can't talk about, it's our little secret. Coaches from elsewhere have also been asking me, "How do you do it? How can Chong Wei win three to four titles in a row?" According to sports science, a person can only peak twice in a year. I can only say that this is my secret when it comes to coaching. Generally what I can say is that we are now chasing time. Ideally for me to prepare Chong Wei well for a major tournament, I would need at least three months. Now that we don't have that luxury, I would need at least 140 to 150 hours of solid training. It is not easy though so I must be smart because we must take into consideration his rest days and weekends.
Q: Everyone thinks you're a very reserved person and you like fishing during your free time. Do you see this changing now that you've accepted the job?
A: Frankly I don't see anything different in accepting the job. I am still Misbun and I am still the same guy. Of course it's been awhile since I last worked with such a high profile athlete like Chong Wei. He is a national icon and a celebrity. So I must be open to having to deal with so many people, including you journalists every now and then. I guess the only thing question that I have been asking myself is whether I can still do it? In fact I even asked Chong Wei, if he thinks I still have what it takes to help him achieve his goals. His answer was simple, he said: “Coach, don't you worry about anything, just sit behind me." So, apart from having to be there during interviews and meeting other sport personalities, I don't see my life being affected that much with this job.
Q: When you left, the national team were still training at the old stadium (Stadium Juara). Now there is the new Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM). What do you think about the new facility?
A: Of course it is good. It's a positive sign for Malaysia because as you know badminton is the No 1 sport. Surely in terms of spectators, we cannot compare with football but badminton is in the heart of every Malaysian. I believe that having a facility like this focusing on just badminton will do the sport a world of good. However, this is where the management must come in to play an important role. We don't want the ABM to end up being a white elephant. When you have a state of the art facility like this, the support service must be equally good. No point in having such a sophisticated base when the support service is bad. When I was in China 15-20 years ago, they have already set up a training base like this. Good that we now have the funds to run a centre like this. Hopefully we will be a badminton powerhouse in the next couple of years.
Q: Your son Misbun Ramdan left BAM to come under your guidance. Is there a possibility he will return to the national fold now that you are here?
A: I treat all players equally. Even if he is my son, when he is training, I see him like every other player. For now he has his own programme under coach Salim Samion. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon injury but is slowly making his way back and is now ranked among the top 500 players. It was his choice to continue playing. If he wanted to quit, then it would have been over for him but I respect his decision, so he is trying to make his way back up. As for returning to BAM that would depend. I will monitor his progress and if he can match the players in BAM then yes, maybe he will come back at some point. But for now, he will focus on his own programme.