Jacky Kok Jing Hong and Myisha Mohd Khairul have several things in common – they are both 15 years old, student athletes at Malaysia’s first sports school and could very well be the nation’s next badminton champions.
Growing up north in Alor Setar, Jacky would tag along with his older siblings when they attended badminton classes. But all the five-year-old boy could do then was watch his brother and sister train as his interest in the sport began to brew within him.
After almost one year of sitting at the badminton hall every week merely as a spectator, he finally requested to join his siblings for the actual lesson.
His interest soon turned into passion when he started approaching other senior social players for sparring matches.
Mind you, the ‘senior’ players we’re talking about here were between ages 50 and 70 and Jacky was only seven at the time!
His shuttling efforts eventually caught the eyes of the other parents and they highlighted his potential to his father. That’s when Senior Kok decided to take Jacky’s hidden talent in badminton seriously and pushed him to participate in junior tournaments.
His efforts were proven fruitful when Jacky won his first ever championship at the BAKTI Boys’ Singles U8 in 2010. And this pretty much started the ball rolling for him.
The Kedah lad continued to win championship titles up north, including the Boys’ Singles U9 and Boys’ Doubles U12 tournament organised by Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s brother in Penang.
By the way, don’t underestimate those two wins because Jacky and his partner, Muhammad Erfan bin Abdul Rahman, who were both aged nine at the time actually defeated their opponents who were 12 years old!
Now, Myisha on the other hand, started her badminton journey young as well. But this was not the path her parents had planned for her in the beginning.
Her parents wanted her to be a ballerina because there weren’t many people who did ballet, especially at her hometown in Johor Bahru. She also tried pursuing Taekwondo for a while but she didn’t enjoy it because it was too rough.
One day, just like Jacky, Myisha accompanied her older brother to his first badminton lesson and her interest piqued almost instantly.
Young Myisha pleaded with her father to train in badminton together with her brother, but he didn’t agree. Instead, he bought a pair of badminton racquet for her to play at home.
As she went on watching her brother attend badminton training in envy, in the end, she could not hold back. She approached her brother’s coach, Kadir Mahmood, by her own will.
Upon seeing her determination, the coach and Myisha’s father agreed to let her join his training sessions. But she didn’t stop there.
After training for a few months, once again, she took the initiative and requested to join a small league in Johor Bahru where she became the champion there for the first time at 10 years old!
And you know what? Myisha’s father finally decided to fully support her badminton career when this happened.
Malaysia’s former professional badminton player and current national team head coach for Men’s Singles, Datuk Misbun Sidek spotted Myisha at one of her tournaments in Johor Bahru and actually acknowledged her talent.
Can you just picture that? Having your talent recognised by our national badminton head coach at such a young age is an undeniable feat.
Hitting a road block
However, things weren’t looking as good for Jacky when he was 10.
His continued accomplishments in badminton caught the attention of other badminton players in the state, but not in a positive way.
They were intimidated by his skills, so they began to target Jacky in the upcoming tournaments by hitting his weaknesses – he was lacking in terms of agility and strategy.
Being the bull’s eye caused him to lose in many tournaments after that, which put a dent in his badminton career in 2012.
Jacky’s father decided to take matters into his own hands and got him to receive professional training instead with Quan An Yang, a former Kedah state player who has been coaching for more than five years at the time. He would even ferry Jacky all the way to Penang and Ipoh for sparring sessions with the local clubs during his free time.
Never undervalue a dedicated father!
At the age of 11, Jacky started gaining momentum again and he was eventually selected as one of the state players for Kedah Badminton Association.
In the same year, Myisha’s consistent training and progress also earned her the Champion title in Majlis Sukan Sekolah Daerah’s (MSSD) Girls’ Singles U11.
These two pre-teens are such overachievers, you’re making us look bad! But in all seriousness, this was just the tip of the iceberg for both Jacky and Myisha.
In 2014, 12-year-old Jacky and Myisha had successfully entered Astro Kem Badminton (AKB), a programme committed to unearth and train young badminton talents under Astro Kasih.
Their determination and effort saw them through the Intensive Training held in Kuala Lumpur and their excellence in the sport brought them all the way to the Li Yongbo Badminton Academy in China under AKB’s Overseas Advanced Training programme.
In case you don’t see the scale of this achievement, Li Yongbo was formerly the head coach of the Chinese National Badminton Team and this is the
academy where all of China’s badminton champions train!
This overseas training did nothing but push the junior shuttlers further in their badminton career. In fact, due to Jacky’s outstanding performance during this programme in China, he was award the ‘Best Player’ among the entire group.
Similarly, Myisha pressed on and managed to secure third place in the Majlis Sukan Sekolah Malaysia (MSSM) Girls’ Singles U12 tournament that year.
The best is yet to come
Following Jacky and Myisha’s accomplishments, their badminton talent was spotted by the Ministry of Education and Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM). Now, they are both student athletes at Bukit Jalil Sports School!
At 15 years old, the two skilled junior shuttlers were selected as mentors for AKB’s Overseas Advanced Training in Tokyo
, Japan last December. This was part of the Young Leadership programme which gave them the opportunity to experience the responsibility of coaching and leading a team of young participants.
But Jacky already knew what it was like to be a leader because he was already in the lead among fellow badminton players who were older than him!
Last year, he was the only badminton player assigned by the Head Coach of Bukit Jalil Sports School, Kwan Yoke Meng to train with the badminton squad U17.
Yes, a 15-year-old training among 17-year-olds! And you know what’s even better? He also recently won the Yonex Junior Championship U17 held in South Korea!
We’re practically out of breath just talking about their non-stop achievements, but we couldn’t be more proud and hopeful to see what is to come in the next few years.
Nothing but perseverance and determination
One of the things that stood out from Jacky and Myisha’s stories is their attitude.
When her father didn’t allow her to pick up badminton, Myisha was determined to do things on her own instead. When he kept losing tournament after tournament, Jacky never gave up and continued to press on with training.
They both fought for what they love and now, they are both well on their way to becoming the next badminton champions of Malaysia.
We’re not surprised if we see them at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics! Good luck, guys!