CLOSER: Kien Keat-Boon Heong brush aside Thais and have the form to upset Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng in semi-finals
THE Thais were blown away and Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong's reward is a London Olympics semi-final against China's awesome Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng, a pair who once just couldn't beat the Malaysians.
That, however, was years ago for Cai Yun-Haifeng went on to win four World Championships titles as Kien Keat-Boon Heong struggled with mediocrity.
The good news though is that London has, so far, seen a revitalised Kien Keat-Boon Heong and there is genuine hope the pair can upset the form book and seal a place in the final, which would mean silver at least.
Defeat and they would have to face the agony of a play-off for the bronze, which the pair surely don't want.
Yesterday's 21-16, 21-18 quarter-final triumph over Thailand's Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit was just the booster the Malaysians needed ahead of tomorrow's semi-finals.
"Our game plan was to control the match from the start and Kien Keat did an excellent job at the net as he kept intercepting all the Thai shots. This affected the Thais as they didn't expect this from us," said national doubles coach Tan Kim Her at the Wembley Arena.
Though under much pressure because of expectations from the public, Kim Her has relaxed more and more as the tournament progressed with the hard work put in by all quarters showing great results so far.
"Kien Keat-Boon Heong are very focused and this has helped their game in London. There was a bit of a worry when the Thais began to edge closer in the second game but they held on, which I attribute to better focus."
Boon Heong said while making the semi-finals was satisfying, there was still much to do.
"We may have bettered our Beijing Olympics finish (where they were eliminated in the quarter-finals) but I won't say we have improved until we win a medal. Gold is our target and we won't rest until we achieve that," said Boon Heong.
"Our form is good and I keep saying to Kien Keat that this is our best chance to win Olympic gold, a chance we must not let slip away."
Kien Keat, who looks much fitter than he has in a long while, said the pair would approach the semi-final -- the biggest match of their career -- as they would any other tie.
"It will be difficult but we must keep our emotions in check. I had difficulty sleeping last night (Wednesday) as I kept thinking of the quarter-finals. The semi-finals are bigger, so it is important we don't let nervousness spoil our chances," said Kien Keat.
Cai Yun-Haifeng, who beat compatriots Chai Biao-Guo Zhendong 21-15, 21-19 in their quarter-final, will be a massive challenge and the last thing Malaysia wants is Kien Keat-Boon Heong failing to produce their best in what is the first semi-final appearance by a Malaysian pair in the Olympics since Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah in Sydney 2000.
RESULTS -- Men's q-finals: Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng (Chn) bt Chai Biao-Guo Zhendong (Chn) 21-15, 21-19, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong bt Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit (Tha) 21-16, 21-18, Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen (Den) bt Fang Chieh Min-Lee Sheng Mu (Tai) 21-16, 21-18, Chung Jae Sung-Lee Yong Dae (Kor) bt Mohammad Ahsan-Bona Septano (Ina) 21-12, 21-16.