Malaysia’s badminton is ranked sixth in the world and Ipoh has a major part to play. Two Ipohites in particular have been responsible for keeping badminton in the limelight of the sport arena. “Once you’re in the badminton circle, you tend to know everyone,” said Loo Ah Hooi, 73, when asked how he met Chan Wan Seong, 62.
They both started playing the game in school and it soon became a passion. Loo began playing when he was just 10 years old while Chan took part in the Under-15 Perak competitions.
“There was a gap after entering university, as I had to focus on my studies and career. But my dream of playing competitive badminton at international level remained, no matter what,” Chan told this scribe. Loo began playing in tournaments only after he retired. It was time consuming as he had to travel a lot.
Loo currently competes in the 70+ category while Chan in the 60+ category. Their most recent game was in April when they took part in the All-England Seniors Open Championship in Hatfield, UK. They managed to get into semi-finals and won the silver medal.
Besides badminton, one thing they both had in common was their attitude of wanting to strive harder despite their age.
During the biennial BWF World Seniors Championships in Sweden last year, two out of the three medals were won by Malaysian players from Ipoh. Loo and his partner from Kuala Lumpur, Chin Kon Kong, won the gold medal in the men’s doubles 70+ category. With that, they earned the World Champions title.
Chan won the silver medal in the men’s singles 60+ category. He was also the World Morning Cup champion in the men’s 60+ division, All-England Seniors runner-up in men’s singles 60+ and champion in the Pattaya Sawasdee Cup men’s singles 60+ category.
“We feel that in order to excel in the game one must have a goal and a passion. There’s a difference between a social badminton player and a competition player. We play to win,” said Chan.
“I think that badminton is the only sport Malaysia can be good in besides squash,” Loo continued.
Chan, a banker by profession, had just retired from his position as the Executive Vice-President of the Ambank Group. He is now based in Kuala Lumpur. Loo, on the other hand, is a retired engineer. He is the founder and CEO of Torsco Sdn Bhd and lives in Ipoh. Loo plays badminton thrice a week at the Ipoh Swimming Club courts.
Apart from the duo, other world-class badminton players Ipoh has produced are Tan Jin Eong, Ng Boon Bee, Tan Yee Khan, Dominic Soong, Cheah Soon Kit, Lee Wan Wah and Khoo Kien Keat.
The oldies’ next target is the World Championships in India in September. Both will be defending their titles and should they win it will definitely be another feather in their caps.