Shuttler Derek Wong at a career crossroads
Even as he mulls over life after badminton, Wong still aims to make an impact at Singapore Open
He beat former world No. 1 Taufik Hidayat at the 2011 World Championships.
Singapore's Derek Wong also owns a men's singles silver medal from the 2014 Commonwealth Games, a bronze from the 2011 SEA Games, and a mixed team bronze from the 2007 World Junior Championships.
The Singapore men's No. 1 shuttler turned professional a decade ago and with his experience, has a unique view about international badminton.
The world No. 52 will represent his country in August's Olympic Games in Rio, but does not rate the competition higher than other marquee badminton tournaments.
"I just want to play," he told The New Paper, ahead of the OUE Singapore Open at the Indoor Stadium from April 12 to 17.
"The Olympics is big, but we have major tournaments almost every year in the form of the World Championships, Thomas Cups and All England Opens, and I treasure every experience dearly.
"Of course, I go into every match wanting to give my all to achieve victory, but in the grander scheme of things, my achievements are secondary to the joy and satisfaction I get out of being involved in the sport.
"That's just the way I see it."
He comes from local badminton stock, the son of 1983 SEA Games men's singles champion Wong Shoon Keat.
At 27, Wong is about to reach a crossroads, having just started a family after marrying fellow national shuttler Vanessa Neo last May.
"Up to now, my whole life has been playing badminton. I want to have more perspective about life and not be one-dimensional," he said.
"Of course, I'm very grateful to be playing badminton for a living. I'm thankful to the Singapore Badminton Association which has supported me throughout my career and sent me to many overseas competitions.
"But at some point, I would like to try something else even though I would like to still be involved in the sport.
"Van and I want to give back to badminton by coaching the next generation of young shuttlers. At the same time, I may also continue working with Deloitte, where I have been a part-time research analyst since 2014, when the Sport Singapore and Singapore Sports Institute athletes service group matched us up.
"These partnerships are important and future athletes will know that it's not the end of the road after our sporting careers are over."
There is still unfinished business for Wong on court, especially on home soil.
At last year's SEA Games in Singapore, he lost 2-1 to Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in the quarter-finals, missing out on an individual medal, although he did take bronze in the men's team event.
Next month, he will be playing in his 12th Singapore Open, where he will aim to better his top-16 finish in the 2014 edition, when he beat world No. 19 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.
The tournament will be the final Superseries event where shuttlers can earn qualifying points for August's Olympics and has attracted a star-studded field.
While Wong will have to start from the qualifiers, he is looking forward to the home support.
"Playing in Singapore feels totally different from playing overseas," he said.
"It felt special having the home crowd behind me all the way during the SEA Games. The venue was so packed even my grandmother could not get a ticket.
"As an aggressive player, it will be tough for me because of the draft as I find it harder to control the shuttle compared to skilful players like Boonsak Ponsana and Simon Santoso.
"But, with the home support, I feel more confident of making it to the main draw and beyond."Playing in Singapore feels totally different from playing overseas. It felt special having the home crowd behind me all the way during the SEA Games. The venue was so packed even my grandmother could not get a ticket.
- Singapore’s No. 1 shuttler Derek Wong, recalling last year’s SEA Games on home soil
A typical day in Derek Wong's life
Wakes up, has breakfast with wife Vanessa at their four-room executive condominium home in Punggol.
Drives to parents' home in Serangoon North.
"It's good that we stay near my parents, so I can visit them regularly and also pick up my younger brother Jason to go training together," said Wong.
Starts first training session with national coaches Ding Chao and Kelvin Ho at OCBC Arena Hall 2.
"We have a mix of gym work and court drills. We work on things like agility, foot work, multiple shuttles and skipping. There are also days when we go to the Kallang Practice Track for runs."
Ends first training session and goes for lunch.
Said Wong: "We eat in the vicinity, then head to the second-level recreation room at the OCBC Arena to rest before our next training session.
"I exert a lot of energy, so I eat a lot. I like food that helps with recovery, like beef and herbal soup.
"I also like to cook. My maternal grandmother has been teaching me how to cook stuff like white bee hoon."
Starts second training session.
Ends second training session and goes for dinner. "Because of our busy schedules, this is also when we meet our friends, so there're always plans after training, but not too late because we start early the next day," said Wong.
8PM Reaches home. Wong said: "This is when we do our laundry, fold clothes, boil water, string rackets and clean the house. I also like to do some gardening.
"I used to live with my paternal grandparents in their terrace house when I was younger.
"My paternal grandmother liked gardening and I would help to water the plants and remove the snails.
"Now I'm growing some pandan leaves and thyme. I kind of enjoy doing these mundane chores because they take my mind off badminton after a long day."
Top-class badminton action here next month
Badminton fans will be able to catch top-level action again as some of the world's best shuttlers will be in town for the US$350,000 ($501,230) OUE Singapore Open from April 12 to 17.
Held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, this will be the last Superseries tournament for players to earn points to qualify for August's Rio Olympics.
Fans will be able to watch defending men's singles champion Kento Momota from Japan, while Olympic champion Lin Dan leads a 31-strong Chinese contingent.
National shuttlers like 2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Games men's singles silver medallist Derek Wong, 2015 SEA Games men's singles silver medallist Loh Kean Yew and mixed doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo will also be in action.
More than 70 per cent of the tickets for the public have already been sold. Tickets for adults range from $20 to $60, while tickets for children under 12 start from $5. Tickets can be purchased at www.sportshub.com.sg/sportshubtix.