Brothers Kean to make their mark
Malaysian-born duo braced for ribbing from their relatives as they don Singapore colours in KL
The New Paper continues the countdown to the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur with a look at the family connections in various sports. Today, we feature the LOH BROTHERS in badminton
For some months now, brothers Loh Kean Hean and Loh Kean Yew have been on the receiving end of some gentle ribbing by their family and extended family members.
The Singapore shuttlers are heading back to Malaysia, their country of birth, to compete in the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
"There's some teasing here and there," said a smiling Kean Yew, 20, in a recent interview.
"It depends on who's teasing. If it's from the cousins, we will just talk back at them.
"But, if it's the uncles and aunties, we'd just swallow it."
The Penang natives, whose two elder brothers and parents are still living in Malaysia, started playing badminton when they were children, using the front gate of their house as the "net".
When Kean Hean was eight, their mother sent him to a badminton academy for training, after seeing a newspaper advertisement. He later joined his primary school's team.
Kean Yew, who is two years younger, would typically tag along for the school training sessions, but only Kean Hean would spar with him there as the others felt Kean Yew was not good enough.
Axiata Arena, KL Sports City
Danny Bawa Chrisnanta, Terry Hee, Hendra Wijaya, Jason Wong, Lee Jianliang, Loh Kean Hean, Loh Kean Yew, Muhammad Elaf Tan, Ryan Ng, Dominic Soh, Grace Chua, Koh Ker Sara, Liang Xiaoyu, Nur Insyirah Khan, Ong Ren-Ne, Si To Jia Rong, Tan Wei Han, Crystal Wong, Yeo Jia Min
PERFORMANCE AT THE 2015 SEA GAMES
Both brothers stopped formal training not long after they started, because Kean Hean's grades were suffering.
But sports remained a recurring theme in the family.
On weekends, they would raise a racket - literally - at a recreation club.
Kean Yew recalled: "Every Saturday, we'd go to the club at around 5pm and play basketball.
"Then, we'd go swim, shower, eat dinner and play badminton after that.
"We'd play till 10pm or 11pm, then have supper before going home to sleep."
This routine persisted even after the brothers resumed formal training after about an 18-month lapse.
Kean Hean and Kean Yew then came to Singapore, about eight years ago, and studied in the local school system.
Kean Yew was enrolled in the Singapore Sports School while Kean Hean studied in Montfort Secondary School, while rising through the ranks in the Singapore Badminton Association's system.
The siblings were part of the SEA Games team on home ground in 2015, albeit with starkly different fortunes.
Doubles specialist Kean Hean, 21, said: "At that time, I was not in the main team, so I was more of a sparring partner, but still I got to share some moments with him, like training together and hanging out together after training."
The last Games were a breakthrough for Kean Yew. The then-unheralded shuttler clinched an unexpected joint-bronze in the men's singles competition.
Both brothers are part of the main team in KL - Kean Hean will play in the men's doubles with Terry Hee, while Kean Yew will compete in the men's singles again. The brothers will play in the team event as well.
Final-year Republic Polytechnic student Kean Hean said: "Since we are going to compete, we might as well aim for the highest achievement. I am 22 years old and I haven't served my NS yet. So this might be the last SEA Games for me."
"I will cherish every opportunity that I have to do my best and train hard," added the shuttler, who will enlist for NS after graduation next year, but hopes to get deferment to train towards the 2020 Olympics.
Similarly, Kean Yew, who is serving NS, has dreams of representing Singapore at Tokyo 2020, and has quit his Republic Polytechnic studies to go professional.
"It all comes down to consistency... once you've got a SEA Games medal, you know you can fight with the rest, but you still need to be consistent in all the normal competitions that you are competing in," said the shuttler, who won the Malaysia International Series last month.
"Only then would you be able to say that you're at a certain level."
By then, it would be fair to say that Kean Yew has arrived at the big stage.
But before that, another SEA Games medal would be in order - as well as more ribbing from his Malaysian kin.