Malaysia’s newest badminton doubles heroes talk to R.AGE about their lives off the court.
WITH their Christian Louboutin shoes, Hermes belts and Bell & Ross watches, national badminton players Goh V Shem and Lim Khim Wah turned out for the photoshoot better dressed than half the celebrities we’ve had in our studio. Then again, as heroic winners of the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open men’s doubles final, they are pretty much celebrities in their own right now.
Malaysian badminton fans have been crying out for new doubles heroes, and with their streetsmart attitude on the court and laid-back nature off it, Goh and Lim could just be the trick.
Just as we did with Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong a few years back, we got the guys in for some coffee and a chat about everything from partying to representing Malaysia.
How does it feel to be Malaysian Open champions?
Lim: We’re really happy, especially to have won alongside Datuk Lee Chong Wei (who won the men’s singles final). It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We’ve been playing for Malaysia for four years now and to win something makes us really proud. It felt like we had the whole country backing us up.
What was the pressure like?
Goh: When we stepped onto the court, it felt like all eyes were on us. The pressure to perform well was definitely there, but we decided that we weren’t going to be fazed by any of that and tried to put pressure on our opponents instead.
You bagged your biggest prize purse so far at the Malaysian Open. What do you usually spend your winnings on?
Lim: We haven’t really won that much yet, so we can’t really say (laughs)! But if we do win more in the future, we’d probably spend it on some properties. We have to plan for the future.
Goh: Same here, but we both like our clothes as well. We’re into fashion and branded stuff, and we like cars as well, so when we do get some extra money, those are the things we’d spend on.
Has anything changed since you won the Malaysian Open? More fangirls following you around, maybe?
Lim: Not really, no (laughs)! But when we’ve been out partying recently, they let us in without checking our ICs and stuff. But maybe that’s because we’re with Chong Wei.
So who’s the more out-going one between the two of you?
Goh: I’d say it’s Khim Wah. He has friends like Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong who are just as out-going. I tend to be the quiet one.
There’s been some criticism of you two being arrogant on the court …
Goh: Yeah, some of the media have been saying that about us. We get a lot of hate on social media for that as well.
But there’s a lot you don’t see on TV. It’s a real psychological battle on the court, and if you don’t stand your ground, you can lose the game in minutes, especially in the current 21-point format. Once your opponent has a psychological edge on you, they can reel off a series of points and before you know it, the game’s over.
At the Malaysian Open final, it was actually the guys from China (Chai Biao-Hong Wei) who started it. You won’t see it on TV, but on the court, they were taunting us. Every time they lifted the shuttle, they were looking at us as if to say, “go ahead, smash it if you can”.
We weren’t going to just sit back and let them get away with it, so every point we won, we made sure to rub it in their faces.
Do these mind games happen a lot in badminton?
Goh: All the time, especially with the players from China and Denmark. There’s this Chinese coach in particular. We remember playing against one of his doubles pairs once, and Khim Wah had made a few early mistakes. During a break in play, the coach kept screaming at them to “attack the left-hander” (Khim Wah). He made sure we heard it. That was really screwed up.
Lim: That’s why we don’t care if people call us arrogant. We are representing Malaysia, so we’re not letting anyone intimidate us.
So you have to show your opponents some Malaysian street-smarts …
What do you do when you’re not training?
Lim: We don’t really have a lot of time after training. We train six hours a day – three in the morning, and three in the evening. In between that, we have to sleep. It’s not a rule, but we’re usually too tired anyway.
In the evening, we hang out with friends or play computer games. We basically relax, unwind, and get ready for the next day’s training.
Do you hang out with each other?
Goh: Not really. We have our own lives and our own friends off the court.
You guys have pretty fab bods. Do you do any extra work in the gym?
Goh: Not at all (laughs)! Our training regime includes two gym sessions a week, and that’s all we do. What you see is just the result of years of badminton training.
Do you have to watch what you eat?
Lim: Like diet and stuff? No, we’re lucky because we’ve never been the type to put on weight, so we can pretty much eat whatever we want.
What’s it like growing up as a national athlete?
Goh: It’s okay. We’ve both been at the Bukit Jalil Sports School since we were 13. That’s where we met, actually. We were classmates the whole time.
Was it tough for your classmates who didn’t make the cut?
Goh: Definitely. They spend their whole lives working towards becoming national players. But there’s always a decision to be made when they reach 16 or 17, because you can’t be a national badminton player and university student at the same time. It’s too difficult.
Usually, the coach will give you some kind of indication if he feels you won’t make the cut, so you won’t waste your time and go to university instead.
If you weren’t badminton players, what would you be doing right now?
Goh: I never liked studying, so if it weren’t for badminton, I guess I’d be running my own business.
Lim: Same here. I can’t study either, so I’d also have to say running my own business. But I’m not sure about that either. That’s why we’re badminton players!
Do you have any plans for your retirement already?
Lim: I think we still have quite a long way to go, so we’re not thinking about that yet.
Goh: It won’t be easy, because badminton is a very high-impact sport. It’s not like tennis or football, where it’s all about stamina. With badminton, you are bursting back and forth throughout the whole game.
Most retired players carry a lot of pain on their knees and wrists, which gets worse as they grow older. Even for me, I’ve had a surgery on my knee when I was 15, and I have a problem with my elbow; but I play through the pain every day. That’s what we do to represent our country.