India Open Badminton: The dosai-loving doubles World Champion, Aaron Chia with his crisp net-play

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Not much unlike the Daddies of badminton – Setiawan and Ahsan or India’s boisterous on court Satwik-Chirag but quiet outside pairing, the aggressive front-court stomping Aaron Chia of Malaysia, is a mild-mannered softie. Extremely soft-spoken he might be, but the new World Champion doesn’t shy away from grand ambitions. The world title – a first for his combination with Soh Wooi Yik and Malaysia on the whole – came from a similarly blazing fire of ambition inside.

“It was a dream come true for us and the country. But 2022 is old now. We must forget what happened, and start from zero. There’s everything to achieve in 2023, we can’t be happy with just one World Championship!” Aaron tells The Indian Express.

“A boost of confidence, yes, and motivation going forward. But we have to win many world championships,” Soh echoes.

It’s this insatiable drive that makes nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Korea powerhouses of the sport. Malaysia waited long, painful years and lived the agonies alongside Lee Chong Wei for their first World Championship. But once Aaron – Soh claimed their first – beating Satwik Chirag along the way – they remain hungry for more. None of the contentment of merely being Malaysia’s best.

“I love the fast momentum of doubles,” Aaron says, having followed his club member father to the badminton court as a child. Soh too got into the sport due to his family who all played the sport. “I love the challenge of playing high level tournaments. That’s why I love doubles. It’s mentally so stimulating, it keeps me interested and eager all the time,” Soh says.

Communication and trust are the bedrock of a good doubles pairing, Aaron insists. “Yes we have arguments and disagreements. But that’s quite normal as a pair. Important is to solve the problems,” he says.

“Aaron is a great leader on and off the court,” Soh says. “We look upto him.”

Not particularly tall, Aaron Chia, shorter and slightly stocky, became a defensive phenomenon through his reflex returns, game sense and his ability to take on both opposing players with a calm bearing on court. He invents stunning angles, is constantly buzzing on the court, can shield Soh on a bad day, and doesn’t seem to have a poor day of his own. Though he’s a live wire at the net, he sees himself as an allcourt player.

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“I’m not anything special at the net, but a decent all-rounder of a player,” he says. The Malaysians have a stranglehold over Indian top pair (India yet to beat them) until now, mostly owing to the speed of their attack, which gets even more daunting on fast courts.

A lot of his buzzing, waspish countenance on court, comes from the blur and blizzarding tempo of two other sports Aaron loves – TT and basketball. Does he dunk on the hoops court? “Ofcourse I can’t,” he laughs, relishing his role as a playmaker. “But I love playing basketball.”

He chomps into Indian food the same way, he bites into the challenge Satwik-Chirag put up. “They are a good attacking pair, and we are friends outside. I like them,” he says.

He also likes Indian takeaways and has them all the time back home in Malaysia. “Oh I love dosai,” Aaron says, adding he can have many at a time. He doesn’t call it dosa, instead as dosai, undoubtedly earning brownie points from any self-respecting Tamilian. “And naan, biryani and butter chicken,” Soh adds. Soh’s extra-badminton hobbies are a tad more conservative. “I like football. Manchester United.” But when on court the ambition is simple: one World Championship is not enough.


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