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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK

Malaysia's hero of '66

By Mike Burnett
BBC Sport Online

Tan Aik Huang may have long since packed away his badminton racquet, but for many Malaysians he is still a national hero.

Few can forget his glorious contribution in the 1966, clinching the prestigious All England title and two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.

It was badminton's first appearance at the Games and Tan's triumph in both the men's singles and men's doubles events marked a dramatic improvement Malaysia's medal fortunes.

"It was the first time that Malaysia had a very good chance of winning a medal," Tan told BBC Sport Online.

"My memories are for the first time standing on the rostrum, listening to the national anthem and looking at the flag"
Tan Aik Huang

"At the time, we were the top country in badminton, so it was a good opportunity."

In fact, Tan's medals were Malaysia's only golds in Jamaica and the nation's first golds at the Commonwealth Games for 16 years.

Nearly four decades on, the Malaysian star can still remember the joy of collecting the Games' ultimate prize.

"My memories are for the first time standing on the rostrum, listening to the national anthem and looking at the flag. It was a great moment."

Certainly, many expected Tan to win the men's singles title because of his success in the All England tournament earlier that year.

But the fact that the 56-year-old is the last Malaysian to win the coveted All England title remains a testament to his achievement.

At the Commonwealth Games, Tan carried on where he had left off in England, looking unbeatable in the singles event.

But the retired star said that the scorelines sometimes flattered his performance on court.

"My semi-final match against Dinesh Khanna of India was not easy, even though I ended up winning in straight sets.

"Then I met my own team-mate Yew Cheng Hoe and beat him in straight sets. He was not that easy either."

Tan's success in the doubles was more surprising, as he teamed up with singles opponent Yew for another all-Malaysian final.

"The doubles win was an upset, it was unexpected because we defeated the All England champions Tan Yee Khan and Ng Boon Bee."

Retired and relaxed

Having earnt his place in the history books, the formidable stroke player continued competing at the highest level for another eight years.

"I played at international level until I was 28. The pace is so fast that you can't continue much past that."

Tan returned to the game 13 years later winning several more titles on the veteran circuit, but now enjoys a more peripheral role in badminton as part of the national coaching committee.

Most of his time is divided up into looking after his family in Kuala Lumpur and attending to several businesses on a part time basis.

Although he is more likely to be seen on a golf course than a badminton court, Tan seems to have not lost any of his competitive edge.

Still in great shape, he feels that only younger players than himself can give him a decent game of golf.

"I cannot play against people in their 50s because I'm lucky and my skills are better than theirs."


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