Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Foo still having a smashing time

By Grace Chen

A PHYSIOTHERAPIST sinks an elbow into Foo Kok Keong’s vertebra and the world’s former best singles badminton player is a picture of bliss.

Foo may be a badminton great with a championship cup named after him, but it is in his physical therapist’s clinic in Kepong that he gets to be in seventh heaven.

“I have always believed in traditional massage,” said Foo, in reference to the early days of his badminton career when he was known for his daring on-court dives.

The Thomas Cup legend remembers one physical therapist he used to frequent in Cheras in the early days of his career. Sprains, aches, and bruises were all “rubbed out” here.

Foo was not the type to rely on painkillers. He believed they were not good for the body.

“The test was in the ability to withstand the pain with traditional Chinese massage. Either that or allow the injury to linger. That means not being able to play. I always wanted to get back in action as soon as I could. There were times when I could get back on court just one day after a sprain,” said Foo.

At 53, the father of three sons is still hitting shuttlecocks.

At press time, he was just a week away from a tournament in Langkawi. Before this, it was the Foo Kok Keong Cup Championship.

This means Foo has to clock in for “training”, which is also a chance to meet up and chat with old friends, sometimes up to three times a week at Kelab Shah Alam.

The current team, comprising 23 players, are all former state and national players.

Five-year-old Jayden Lim, who is the son of one of the players, is the team’s unofficial ambassador after having shown up with his father, Lim Choon Seng, for the last three training sessions.

What Foo is like on court today is something all raquet- wielding enthusiasts must experience for themselves.

Entry forms for his championship cup are always available at the reception outside the club’s badminton court.

One trait Foo is still known for is returning a smash by sending it low and into an unguarded spot in the opponent’s side. He encourages challenges.

“I play for fun. All the players are in the same age group so the tournaments are an excuse to get together and have fun. In my younger days, there was much more pressure. Now, I take it easy,” said Foo.

Asked if he would dare a challenge with current badminton great Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Foo said he would be happy to play a game but not at a competitive level as they belonged to different age groups. But he hinted that if Lee ever played with his group, he would benefit greatly from the team of physiotherapists who accompanied them to all their matches. This service is courtesy of a traditional massage centre based in Jalan Kepong, one of Foo’s sponsors.

But Foo who used to run a Perodua dealership has more than badminton to occupy his time. His youngest son, three-year-old Hao Yu, requires chauffeuring to and from kindergarten. Foo said it was still too early to tell if the boy would follow in his footsteps.

“For now, I do my own thing and he does his own thing. But there is a video clip of my interview with Badminton Unlimited saved in my phone and he knows how to access it,” reveals Foo with pride.

Of Hakka descent, Foo does not see himself as an overly strict father in the sense that he can take it when Hao Yu calls him by his name, a practice frowned upon in traditional parenting.

“He hears other players calling me ‘Uncle Foo’ and he follows suit,” Foo said with a laugh.

On his personal life, Foo admitted to having a soft spot for hawker food, naming curry noodles, prawn mee and bak kut teh as his favourites. He is no cook but is able to manage fried eggs. He eschews instant noodles but will not entirely say no to fast food either. His morning pick-me-up is toasted bread with kaya and butter with two half boiled eggs.

Workwise, Foo is still actively involved in the automotive industry, specialising in vehicle registration numbers, selling and buying of used cars and spare parts.

His latest venture – his biography, Never Ever Give Up – has seen him reliving his glory days as a badminton star. His immediate sponsors are mostly from the automotive industry.

“I have been promoting this book on roadshows, schools, shopping complexes, hotels and even in the rural areas since it was released this year. You want to know about me, read my book,” Foo said with a smile.

Foo Kok Keong: "Never Ever Give Up" (click)

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Created on November 15, 2018
Last update on November 15, 2018