Stars of the Past: Lee Wan Wah

Among the galaxy of top doubles players in Malaysia, Lee Wan Wah occupies a prominent place.

Lee and Choong Tan Fook established one of the longest men’s doubles partnerships in badminton, going strong for nearly a decade and a half. Starting from the mid-1990s, the Malaysians were a prominent pair well all through the 2000s.

Following in the footsteps of their seniors, Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock, Lee and Choong were frequent podium finishers, eventually finishing with two World Championships bronze medals, a Commonwealth Games gold, two Asian Championships titles, and a clutch of other major Grand Prix wins. Lee was also a vital part of the strong Malaysian squads that made two Thomas Cup finals (1998 and 2002).

Lee is now the mixed doubles coach of the Japanese national B team.

Interestingly, their first major final – the Malaysia Open 1996 – resulted in a loss to senior compatriots Cheah/Yap. Gradually the younger pair came into their own; they won the Commonwealth gold in 1998 beating Cheah/Yap, followed by the Singapore Open the next year, where they beat the legendary duo of Tony Gunawan and Candra Wijaya in an absorbing final.

While they were a highly skilled pair, they often fell in the latter stages of tournaments to more consistent opponents. A case in point was the All England: Lee and Choong first reached the semifinals in 1998 and were in three more semifinals (2001, 2003, 2008), earning a title shot twice (2004, 2006), but were stopped each time. In 2008 they were on the threshold of a third final, holding five match points against Lee Yong Dae and Chung Jae Sung, but failed to convert and went down in a thriller.

Likewise, at the two World Championships where they won bronze (2001 and 2007), they lost out on a final place by narrow margins.

After easing out of the circuit in 2011, Lee turned to coaching, establishing a company with his teammates, and later working with Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong as they attempted to qualify for Rio 2016.

Lee (2nd from left) had a coaching stint with Koo Kien Keat (left) and Tan Boon Heong.

Last year Lee landed a coaching job with the Japan junior national team and has since been promoted to the national B team as mixed doubles coach.

Referring to the evolution of doubles, Lee spoke of how specialisation had gained ground since his days: “There’s a huge difference. During my era, I started with the 15-point system. Even from the time the 21-point system started to now, there’s a huge difference. The players are getting faster, the speed is so high and the power is so great now. Some of it due to technology. Now the training is more specific, it’s more advanced.”

How has he adapted as coach to a young generation of players?

“The biggest challenge for me is the mind of players. To me as a coach, I try to use the best of what they have. Each player is different. His style might not suit my type of training, so I have to find another type of training for him. It’s difficult because you can’t be doing personal skills for each player. So usually we go around a basic kind of training, which is the basic kind of strokes and see how he can evolve from there.”

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Zheng & Huang – Will the Spell Hold?

Zheng & Huang – Will the Spell Hold?

10 January 2019
Thailand Masters Kicks Off Action-Packed Season

Thailand Masters Kicks Off Action-Packed Season

7 January 2019
All Set for Generational Battles in 2019

All Set for Generational Battles in 2019

2 January 2019
Many Arrows in the Quiver for China, Japan

Many Arrows in the Quiver for China, Japan

25 December 2018
Kenneth Larsen Pitches for Reflective Training

Kenneth Larsen Pitches for Reflective Training

18 November 2018
Kento Momota Completes Ascent

Kento Momota Completes Ascent

27 September 2018
Farewell, Jung Jae Sung

Farewell, Jung Jae Sung

10 March 2018
Badminton Personality Hansen Passes Away

Badminton Personality Hansen Passes Away

22 January 2018
Welcome to Glasgow!

Welcome to Glasgow!

19 August 2017
Star Pairs Perish – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

Star Pairs Perish – Day 2: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

13 June 2017
Tai Rakes in the Big Bucks

Tai Rakes in the Big Bucks

6 May 2017
‘I Hope to be Consistent’: Tai Tzu Ying

‘I Hope to be Consistent’: Tai Tzu Ying

3 May 2017
Tan/Setiawan Hope to Hit the High Notes

Tan/Setiawan Hope to Hit the High Notes

16 March 2017
Sung Energised by Recent Successes

Sung Energised by Recent Successes

1 March 2017
Line Kjaersfeldt Targets GPG Success

Line Kjaersfeldt Targets GPG Success

20 February 2017
‘Upwardly Mobile’ Thais Aim for Top 5

‘Upwardly Mobile’ Thais Aim for Top 5

27 January 2017
Saina Nehwal: ‘I Feel Lighter On Court’

Saina Nehwal: ‘I Feel Lighter On Court’

20 January 2017
Zwiebler Hungry Despite Setbacks

Zwiebler Hungry Despite Setbacks

18 January 2017
Yamaguchi Looks to Build on 2016 Successes

Yamaguchi Looks to Build on 2016 Successes

16 January 2017
Saluting Long-Serving ‘Family’

Saluting Long-Serving ‘Family’

22 November 2016
Farewell ‘Ma-gnificent’ Jin!

Farewell ‘Ma-gnificent’ Jin!

21 November 2016
Development Pioneer ‘Very Proud’

Development Pioneer ‘Very Proud’

9 November 2016
Champion Retires to Classroom

Champion Retires to Classroom

14 October 2016
Charismatic Champ Bows Out

Charismatic Champ Bows Out

5 October 2016
Lee Yong Dae: ‘Retirement Decision is Final’

Lee Yong Dae: ‘Retirement Decision is Final’

29 September 2016
Rio Countdown: Australian Duo Look to Make Impact

Rio Countdown: Australian Duo Look to Make Impact

26 July 2016
Rio Countdown: Chou Riding High on Confidence

Rio Countdown: Chou Riding High on Confidence

25 July 2016
Mogensen’s Back and Raring To Go!

Mogensen’s Back and Raring To Go!

30 May 2016
Liang Xiaoyu Sniffs Olympics Chance

Liang Xiaoyu Sniffs Olympics Chance

15 March 2016
Labar and Lefel Seek Superseries Push

Labar and Lefel Seek Superseries Push

4 March 2016
Intanon Ready for Battles Ahead

Intanon Ready for Battles Ahead

2 March 2016
Identical Twins, Dual Personalities

Identical Twins, Dual Personalities

24 February 2016
Ahmad/ Natsir Confident of Shaking Off Slump

Ahmad/ Natsir Confident of Shaking Off Slump

16 February 2016
Jayaram Hopes to Build on Bright 2015

Jayaram Hopes to Build on Bright 2015

9 February 2016
Wang Backs Herself with Rio on Horizon

Wang Backs Herself with Rio on Horizon

5 February 2016
‘I’m More Mature Now’: Chau Hoi Wah

‘I’m More Mature Now’: Chau Hoi Wah

28 January 2016
My Family is My Inspiration: Joachim Fischer Nielsen

My Family is My Inspiration: Joachim Fischer Nielsen

22 January 2016
Every Match is Like a Final: Nozomi Okuhara

Every Match is Like a Final: Nozomi Okuhara

20 January 2016
We Help Each Other: Lee & Yoo

We Help Each Other: Lee & Yoo

20 January 2016
Men’s Singles – 2015 in Review

Men’s Singles – 2015 in Review

30 December 2015
Tai Happy Despite Diminishing Returns

Tai Happy Despite Diminishing Returns

11 December 2015
Leverdez Struggles With News of Tragedy

Leverdez Struggles With News of Tragedy

18 November 2015
Sindhu Ousts Mighty Marin – Day 5: Yonex Denmark Open 2015

Sindhu Ousts Mighty Marin – Day 5: Yonex Denmark Open 2015

17 October 2015
Michelle Li: ‘I Want to Change the Sport in North America’

Michelle Li: ‘I Want to Change the Sport in North America’

9 October 2015
100 Days Countdown: World Champions Eye Dubai Finale

100 Days Countdown: World Champions Eye Dubai Finale

31 August 2015
Survivor Ekiring Has Ambitions for Africa

Survivor Ekiring Has Ambitions for Africa

12 August 2015
Outgoing Players’ Rep Reflects

Outgoing Players’ Rep Reflects

11 May 2015
Beiwen Zhang: Pursuing Dreams Single-Mindedly

Beiwen Zhang: Pursuing Dreams Single-Mindedly

7 April 2015
Conrad-Petersen: Ten Months to Self-Discovery

Conrad-Petersen: Ten Months to Self-Discovery

1 April 2015
In-form Jorgensen Wary of India Open 2015 Minefield

In-form Jorgensen Wary of India Open 2015 Minefield

24 March 2015
World of a Battle for No.1

World of a Battle for No.1

20 March 2015
Patience Pays Off for Vittinghus

Patience Pays Off for Vittinghus

22 December 2014
Luo Twins Relish ‘Double’ Identity

Luo Twins Relish ‘Double’ Identity

18 December 2014
Hopefuls Pushing the Boundaries

Hopefuls Pushing the Boundaries

5 September 2014
Bonding through Badminton

Bonding through Badminton

26 August 2014
Ygor Oliveira’s ‘Sun-rise’ Moment

Ygor Oliveira’s ‘Sun-rise’ Moment

25 August 2014
Robertson, Cheng Spread Badminton Gospel

Robertson, Cheng Spread Badminton Gospel

20 August 2014
Youth Olympic Games 2014 – Day 1: Mixed Doubles Steals the Show

Youth Olympic Games 2014 – Day 1: Mixed Doubles Steals the Show

17 August 2014
Saluting Søborg – Trailblazing Badminton Photographer

Saluting Søborg – Trailblazing Badminton Photographer

14 November 2013
Remembering Jørgen Hammergaard Hansen

Remembering Jørgen Hammergaard Hansen

6 September 2013
RedBull China Scores Big With “Super Final”

RedBull China Scores Big With “Super Final”

27 August 2013
Badminton Talent Dies in Accident

Badminton Talent Dies in Accident

15 August 2013
Remembering Legendary All England Winner Eddy Choong

Remembering Legendary All England Winner Eddy Choong

29 January 2013
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