FOR the sake of Malaysia's tradition in men's badminton doubles, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong must at least win a medal in the London Olympics.
It sounds more like a plea but Cheah Soon Kit, the last player to secure a medal with Yap Kim Hock in 1996, said the 16-year barren run in the Olympics is depressing and is not a good reflection of Malaysia's men's doubles on the international stage.
Soon Kit-Kim Hock were denied by Ricky Subagja-Rexy Mainaky of Indonesia for the gold and settled for silver in Atlanta while Soo Beng Kiang-Tan Kim Her lost to Indonesia's Antonius-Denny Kantono in the bronze medal playoff.
Since then, Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah were the only pair to reach the Olympic semi-finals but they also stumbled in the bronze medal playoff to South Koreans Ha Tae Kwon-Kim Dong Moon in the 2000 Sydney Games.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong's first Olympic experience in 2008 ended in disappointment when they suffered their first defeat in six encounters to Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan in the quarter-finals.
The Indonesians went on to win the gold in Beijing.
Soon Kit feels that the present group system in the Olympics gives the players a second chance to bounce back unlike the knock-out system.
He urged Kien Keat-Boon Heong to make good use of the opportunity and return with a medal.
"Sixteen years without a medal is unacceptable as we have a tradition in the men's doubles.
"For the sake of Malaysia's reputation in the men's doubles, Kien Keat-Boon Heong must win at least a medal in the London Olympics," said Soon Kit.
"It is sad my silver medal effort (with Kim Hock) has not been achieved after that and it has gotten worse as no pair made the quarter-finals in the last two Olympics.
"The new system will also favour Kien Keat-Boon Heong as they will get three warm-up matches before going into the quarter-finals.
The top pairs will qualify for the last eight and even if they lose to one of the top pairs, they will still make it to the knock-out stage.
"There is no second chance in the previous knock-out format and more pairs competed. Now there are only 16 pairs and this is a good chance for Kien Keat-Boon Heong.
"They can still afford to lose to the top four pairs in the group but what is important is to beat them if they play again in the semi-finals.
"Based on current form, it looks very difficult for them but if they have been training hard for the last few weeks and remain positive, the chances are always there.
"The men's doubles used to be our strong point but it has taken a beating. Kien Keat-Boon Heong can salvage something by winning a medal in London."
Kien Keat-Boon Heong and the other Malaysian Olympic-shuttlers are currently training at the University of Bath and they will leave for Wembley on Tuesday.
Men's doubles coach Tan Kim Her said Kien Keat-Boon Heong's progress in training has been good and he is also optimistic the duo will end Malaysia's medal drought in the event. By K.M. Boopathy