Tey Seu Bock will finally emerge from the shadows of an old friend.
Who is Seu Bock, by the way? For many years the 39-year old was happy to be a mere assistant, a sparring partner and one of the backroom boys in the local badminton fraternity.
He was content playing second fiddle to Malaysia’s most celebrated coach, Misbun Sidek. But things changed drastically in early 2011.
He has had to make that step up after being thrust into the limelight when Misbun, mentor and confidante to Lee Chong Wei since 2003, quit the BA of Malaysia in December 2010.
While Misbun is a living legend known for his eccentricity, quotable quotes and above all the coaching credentials that had groomed an Olympic bronze medallist and two All-England champions, Seu Bock has little to show on his CV.
And whereas six-time national champion Misbun enjoyed the distinction of leading Malaysia’s international expeditions throughout a colourful career, Seu Bock - a contemporary of former singles specialists Ong Ewe Hock and Yong Hock Kin – never quite made the grade.
“My playing career was a forgettable one. It was hard to break through the elite squad with so many players of quality,” Seu Bock recalled.
His foray into coaching, while still in his mid-20s, was the natural step to take. Seu Bock came under Misbun’s wings and tasked to help out with the shuttle drills, training regime and carrying out the latter’s instructions.
Sparring with Rashid Sidek, Roslin Hashim and his brother Hafiz and later Chong Wei was part of his job scope.
While Misbun and BAM were caught in a tug-of-war, Seu Bock quietly took over the role as Chong Wei’s courtside adviser.
Crucially, Chong Wei defended his All-England title with a victory over nemesis Lin Dan, three months into the new partnership.
Controversy ensued when Chong Wei, given a heroes’ welcome upon his return to Kuala Lumpur, revealed he had been in touch with Misbun asking him for pointers.
After all Chong Wei has credited Misbun as the biggest influence of his badminton life, a career that has taken him almost to the pinnacle, only to be beaten by Lin Dan before his home crowd in the Beijing Olympics final in 2008.
Today Chong Wei may still send Misbun text messages asking him about the latter’s wife (who underwent a successful kidney transplant in 2009) but the one calling the shots is Seu Bock.
Seu Bock lays out the training programme although he was also quick to give credit to Misbun’s younger brother, Rashid, men’s singles bronze medallist in Atlanta’96.
“Rashid lifts the burden off me with the administrative stuff. My job is to monitor Chong Wei’s fitness programme and advise him from the technical and tactical perspectives.”
That does little to the perception that Seu Bock is a trainer, not a planner or a strategist in the mould of Misbun.
“I know that’s what people say about me. But take the likes of Mourinho and Sacchi, they enjoyed success despite not having played football at the highest level.”
He has a point. In Misbun’s absence, Seu Bock has been a pillar of strength for Chong Wei.
In fact with Seu Bock solidly behind him, Chong Wei came narrowly close to landing the elusive world title, losing to Lin Dan in a thrilling but heart-breaking three-set encounter almost a year ago.
Since tearing his right ankle tendons against Peter Gade in the Thomas Cup finals in Wuhan on May 22, Chong Wei has gone through a huge emotional roller-coaster ride.
From the thrill of launching his book Dare to be A Champion, and the high of becoming an honorary high-ranking Navyman, his impending marriage to the low of the speculation that his family was in a crisis following allegations his father Lee Ah Chai had attempted suicide, Chong Wei needed someone to provide the steadying influence.
That someone is certainly Seu Bock.
“Having been an assistant to Misbun for years, I’m adjusting to this role.”
But once upon a time, taking charge of Malaysia’s only badminton superstar was the furthest from his mind.
In fact Seu Bock had contemplated leaving badminton altogether.
Eager to secure a better future financially, he set up a kopitiam, a traditional coffee shop that serves meals and beverage, in Pandan Perdana near the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.
“I went into business thinking that it could earn me a steady income for the future,” said Seu Bock.
It lasted less than a year. “Maybe I was not cut out for business, so now I’m giving my all to badminton,” who hails from the serene tourist destination of Pengkalan Balak in the historical city of Malacca.
His all may or may not be good enough.
That remains to be seen as Seu Bock must have breathed a huge sigh of relief after Chong Wei survived a scare from Finland’s Ville Lang, a former European junior bronze medallist, in the only Group A contest at the Wembley Arena.
Chong Wei then stepped up a gear.
Indonesia’s Simon Santoso said Chong Wei played as if he was not recovering from a serious injury, while India’s Kashyap Parupali was always a second too slow for the Penang ace in the quarterfinals.
Chen Long, touted to be the next Lin Dan, was shown the exit in two games as Chong Wei earned another shot at the gold.
“Before this he needed the playing time. Chong Wei has yet to overcome the pyschological scar of his ankle injury. His body is 95 percent ready, the rest is up to his mental state of mind,” said Seu Bock ahead of the Olympics.
“I think the fact that he was recovering from an injury took the pressure off him. Seldom has he been given the underdogs tag. We will see how things unfold,” said Seu Bock.
Following the victory over Chen Long, Chong Wei went over to hug Seu Bock and Rashid.
A bigger hug for the duo will be assured if he emerges victorious tonight, reminiscent to Chong Wei's big hug for Misbun in the 2008 Olympics.
Things will never be the same for all three, if that becomes a reality.