Hold­ing court

Goh Liu Ying has cap­ti­vated Malaysia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By S. INDRAMALAR star2@ thes­tar. com. my

LIFE has changed dras­ti­cally for Olympic sil­ver medal­list Goh Liu Ying. She was barely known be­fore the Rio Olympics, but these days she is recog­nised ev­ery­where she goes. Malaysians cheered whole- heart­edly for our ath­letes at the games and they have a lot of af­fec­tions for young bad­minton play­ers like Goh. Wher­ever she is, peo­ple ap­proach her for pho­tos, self­ies or au­to­graphs. They just want to con­grat­u­late her. Some­times, passers- by just stop her to con­firm that she is in­deed “Goh Liu Ying, the Olympic medal­list”.

It’s flat­ter­ing, she con­cedes. But for the shy and soft- spo­ken shut­tler from Malacca, it’s also very over­whelm­ing.

“It’s my hair!” says Goh with a soft toothy smile, her eyes twin­kling as she talks about her new­found fame. “Peo­ple tell me that they recog­nise me be­cause of my hair and my ear­rings. I can see it as it’s hap­pen­ing; when I pass by or en­ter a restau­rant, I im­me­di­ately see peo­ple do a dou­ble take first. Then they whis­per to each other and then some would ap­proach me.”

“I’m go­ing to cut my hair!” she wails in mock de­spair.

She is re­fer­ring, of course, to the edges of her shoul­der- length bob that are dyed blue – it’s fad­ing, but not quickly enough. Her other trade­mark are a pair of dainty, dan­gly pearl drop ear­rings which she bought from Paris a few years ago be­cause, “I’ve al­ways loved dan­gly ear­rings”.

Goh, 27, is slowly com­ing to terms with the scru­tiny that comes with her suc­cess. Life as an Olympian is cer­tainly dif­fer­ent. It’s not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. The Star’s pho­tog­ra­phy ses­sion was held late in the evening but some of our younger col­leagues stayed back to meet her. Shy but gra­cious, Goh pa­tiently took pho­tos with them all even though the strains of a long day of train­ing were be­gin­ning to show on her flaw­less face.

Goh has been on the na­tional team for eight years but peaked at the Rio Olympics. Win­ning the sil­ver medal was even more awe­some than she’d imag­ined.

Goh and her on- court part­ner Chan Peng Soon en­tered the Olympics as un­der­dogs. Though they were the top na­tional mixed dou­bles pair, they en­tered the Olympics ranked 11th in the world and faced for­mi­da­ble op­po­nents. The spot­light has al­ways been on world num­ber one men’s sin­gles player Datuk Lee Chong Wei and the men’s dou­bles pair Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong. Mixed dou­bles pairs have al­ways re­mained in the shad­ows.

So it was def­i­nitely a sweet sur­prise when Goh and Chan smashed their op­po­nents one by one.

Malaysians went wild with ex­cite­ment and the en­tire coun­try swelled with pride as the pair thun­dered their way into the fi­nals to fight for the coun­try’s first Olympic gold medal. It put mixed dou­bles at the fore­front of bad­minton for the first time in his­tory.

The Olympic gold medal re­mains elu­sive. But for Goh, Rio was a dream come true. Get­ting into the fi­nals was some­thing she had dared not dream about.

“After we scored the win in the semi- fi­nals, I went into shock. Did we just win? My mind went blank for a mo­ment and I just fol­lowed Peng Soon as he walked off the court to meet our coaches. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t be­lieve it. I mean, we did it!” shares Goh, her eyes danc­ing with ex­cite­ment as she re- lives the mo­ment.

“You can’t un­der­stand how it felt. I felt like I was dream­ing. To be in the Olympics and then to be in the fi­nals and to ac­tu­ally stand on the podium...” she trails off.

“I didn’t sleep at all that night. I was happy; I am happy.”

Need­less to say, Goh sleeps with her sil­ver medal be­side her on her bed­side. She picks it up and looks at it ev­ery day, of­ten more than once.

“It’s my most pre­cious pos­ses­sion,” she says, beam­ing.

Overnight, Goh and Chan have be­come the new dar­lings of the court.

All of a sud­den, ev­ery­one wanted to know who the pe­tite beauty with the blue- tipped hair was.

Look out for our ex­clu­sive on Pan­delela Ri­nong this Sun­day.

Photo: Sia Hong Kiau Wardrobe: Fendi

Pho­tog­ra­pher: SIA HONG KIAU/ The Star

Hair + makeup: ANITA TANG of A Cut Above Clothes: Gior­gio Ar­mani; Shoes: Fendi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.