As Malaysia’s Independence Day looms ever closer, sporting heroics are often re-lived including the 1992 Thomas Cup winning team, and a key figure in that historic success over rivals Indonesia was none other than Foo Kok Keong.
Foo was never associated as a stylish shuttler, but he was a player with a heart of a lion who wore his heart on his sleeve each time he stepped onto court to do battle.
As a singles player, he achieved a few significant highs, including reaching the world number one rank in 1991, winning the Asian Championships in 1994 as well as two SEA Games gold medals in 1989 and 1991.
But contributing a vital point in Malaysia’s 3-2 victory over Indonesia in the 1992 final will always rank as one of the most significant matches of his career.
With the score tied at one apiece, Foo faced Alan Budi Kusuma as an underdog in the second singles match, and put on the performance of his life to defeat the former Olympic champion in straight sets (15-6, 15-12).
“For me, the win was unexpected. The percentage was for Alan Budi. He was young and upcoming. He became Olympic champion that year. However, on that day, playing on home ground, I played well. Every stadium has a drift, and it is not easy to play in Stadium Negara.
“I liked to play against the wind against Alan. Usually the Indonesians like to play with the wind because they had a hard smash, but playing against the wind made it easier to control the shuttle. That was a memorable victory and it made history for all of us,” Foo told the Badminton World Federation.
The 57-year-old also recalled another classic against another Indonesian in Ardy Wiranata at the 1991 Malaysian Open semifinal.
That titanic contest saw both men go at each other for almost two hours, resulting in both vomiting after the match.
Foo edged that match 12-15, 15-8, 17-14.
"Ardy vomited first, then I too vomited. At the end, I won 17-14. That was history, I cannot forget it," he recalled.
Post retirement in 1994, the Gombak-born dipped his hands into many things, including his own business, ambassadorship, a charity initiative and even a memoir titled Never, Ever Give Up.Malaysian badminton has produced many greats throughout different generations, but Foo was one-of-a-kind shuttler who may never be replicated again.