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Hee and Tan sacrifice and soar as married mixed doubles duo

It has been over a year since they married on Oct 2, 2021, but Terry Hee and Jessica Tan still have not gone for their honeymoon.

That does not mean they have not been going places though.

Since tying the knot, the badminton players’ mixed doubles career has taken flight. They have won four titles in the past 12 months, staring with lower-tier Czech Open in October 2021, then the India Open in January and Orleans Masters in France in April, before a stunning victory at the Commonwealth Games in England in August.

In Birmingham, they pulled off the unthinkable by defying favourites Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith, who at world No. 10 were ranked 25 places above them, plus a vociferous home crowd at the National Exhibition Centre, to lift the title.

It is Singapore’s first Commonwealth Games gold in badminton since Li Li’s women’s singles title in Manchester in 2002.

From world No. 406 in October 2021, Hee and Tan’s ranking has surged to 23rd, just eight spots off the career-high of 15th they achieved in 2017.

This is remarkable as they had slipped to as low as 808th in December 2018, with Tan undergoing surgery for her shoulder in 2018 and then her knee in 2020, while Hee enlisted for national service in 2019. They reunited on court only in 2021.

For their resilience and resurgence, the golden couple have been nominated for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year Award.

Tan, 29, said: “We are very honoured and surprised to be nominated for such a meaningful award, and we appreciate the recognition for our hard work and success.

“We are also thankful for the support of Singaporeans. We did not expect to be recognised at restaurants and malls, or to be greeted with congratulations and wefie requests, and we are grateful for the kind words of encouragement.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey coming back from various setbacks. It would also have been nice to have a couple of uninterrupted weeks for our honeymoon, but the badminton calendar is just too hectic. If we are not travelling for tournaments, we would be putting in the groundwork and training.”

Hee, 27, explained why qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris remains their priority.

He said: “We have a lifetime together to plan for a honeymoon, but only a once-in-a-lifetime chance to qualify for the Olympics. This is the path we have chosen, and we have no regrets.”

Reaching the Olympics is a complicated affair. First, nations with at least two pairs in the top eight of the world rankings can send a maximum of only two duos. Then, there is also the need to ensure an even geographical distribution so that the African, Asian, European, Oceania and Pan-American confederations are represented. Taking into account both of these considerations, only the top 16 pairs qualified for the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles events at Tokyo 2020.

This means Tan and Hee have to get as close to the top 10 as possible to be sure of their Olympic ticket.

Hee said: “We are not there yet, and we still have so much to work on in terms of our consistency and quality of our play. This means more hard work and sacrifices, and we won’t stop until we get there.”

Singaporean of the Year 2022SINGAPORE SPORTSbadmintoncommonwealth gamesOlympics