She broke into a smile but the nervousness was evident. Goh Jin Wei, the 15-year-old junior world champion, is still getting used to the spotlight.
Pocketing the Worlds in Lima last year, the Malaysian became the second youngest winner after Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, who won at 14. Already in possession of two senior international series titles, Wei in destined for greater things. But what sets her apart from others is the determination to continue her studies.
Professional sport hardly allows time, but Wei aspires to become a scientist. “I have to take extra classes so that I can juggle studies with badminton. In spare time, I read to learn more.”
“Juggle,” she says, turning to her translator, happy to have used the right word. “I love chemistry; I want to be a scientist after my badminton career is finished.”
But her dream of a breakthrough in chemistry doesn’t replace the one of an Olympic gold. “I want to be world No 1 too.” Wei looks through the Guinness Book of World Records to keep her spirits up. “It’s a bit hard to get into,” she adds.
Malaysia’s future in badminton is bleak, as once former world No 1 Lee Chong Wei quits, one wonders who will carry the national flag. But with Wei’s success, things might be changing. Not only does she hail from where Chong Wei does --- Bukit Mertajam --- she also trained under his former coach Teh Beng Huat before shifting to Kuala Lumpur.
The Worlds win increased her confidence and the belief that she belongs here. “It’s made me believe I can move forward.” Taking up the sport at six, she believes that sport has helped her grow mentally and improve physically.
She idolises Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, the youngster who won the Super Series final beating Carolina Marin and Saina Nehwal. “Is it because you are the same height?” jokes the translator. “No, no I’m taller,” Wei laughs, “I like her spirit.”