Tang Xianhu was born of Chinese descent in the Indonesian province of Lampung in 1942, but was raised in Jakarta. He was one of Indonesia’s top junior players in the 1950s.
Leaving his parents and three brothers behind, in 1961 he went to Fujian Province, China with his partner Hou Jia Chang from Surabaya. "I left Indonesia to continue (my) studies while playing badminton”, explains Tang.
By 1963, Tang had become a leading player, winning the men’s singles title at the short-lived GANEFO Games held in his native Indonesia. In 1966, he renewed his success with a similar title at the Asian Games of New Emerging Forces in Cambodia.
Unfortunately, Tang’s career never enabled him to reach international fame, since China - not a member of the IBF at the time - didn’t send their athletes to compete in Europe. The outside world did, however, have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Tang and Hou’s immense talent when the two men participated in invitational friendly matches in Europe and Malaysia. At a friendly match in 1965 in Denmark, Tang nearly whitewashed the reigning All England champion, Erland Kops, with a score of 5 and 0, and the two Chinese players demolished the English champions in both singles and doubles during a tour of England in 1973.
Within China, he won the 1965 and 1975 Chinese national games in both individual and team competition. He is also said to have been unbeaten in competition during that time. Many have speculated how the Chinese players - and especially Tang - would have fared against the great Rudy Hartono, but such an encounter never happened.
However, late in his career, Tang finally had the chance to show his skills at the 1974 and 1978 Asian Games before he retired in 1979. At the 1974 Games in Iran, he won two bronze medals, one with Chen Tianxang in men’s and the other with Chen Yuniang in mixed doubles. At those games, he contributed to a men’s team title for China by beating none other than the legendary Liem Swie King in the final. Four years later, Tang fared even better, with a silver in men’s doubles with Lin Shin Chuan and a gold with rising star Zhang Ailing in mixed.
As a player, he was especially lauded for developing a lethal sequence that began with a powerful smash from the back of the court followed by a quick transition to attack at the net, with the help of his strong legs and quick footwork.
At the end of 1981, Tang started coaching the Chinese national women’s team, which included 1983 world champions Lin Ying and Wu Dixi. He is also regarded as a primary contributor to the success of Li Lingwei and Han Aiping, who were also world champions in both singles and doubles
In 1986, Fuad Nurhadi (Tang’s Indonesian name) went back to Indonesia to take care of his aging parents. He started coaching at Club Pelita Jaya before being hired as the head coach of the Indonesian national team in 1990. There, he trained many future stars, such as Alan Budikusumo, Hermawan Susanto and Hendrawan.
He remained in Indonesia until 1998 and, after his request for Indonesian naturalization was rejected, returned to China to be in charge of China’s national men’s singles squad. There, he nurtured and developed future Olympic and World Champions such as Ji Xinpeng, Xia Xuanze, Sun Jun, and, eventually, Lin Dan. At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Tang had the privilege of watching his protégés from China and Indonesia (Ji Xinpeng, Hendrawan, and Xia Xuanze) occupy all three steps of the men’s singles podium.
Upon his return to China, Tang did not go directly to coaching the national team, but rather started with the Fujian Provincial team. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed as head coach for men’s singles to the Chinese badminton team. In 2002, Tang switched to men’s doubles and helped Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng get prepared for their successful 2004 Thomas Cup campaign. The Chinese duo later went on to win three consecutive World Championships titles.
In 2007, Tang Xianhu started coaching Lin Dan. He accompanied Lin through his stunning gold medal streak at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the 2009 World Championships, and the 2010 Asian Games.
After another successful Thomas Cup campaign for China in 2010, in which Lin Dan played a major role, Lin said: “Tang is more than a coach to me. He is my mentor and grandfather at the same time. He has not only given me a lot of technical and tactical advice, but advice for life. He has helped me as a person.”
Tang took a short hiatus from the sport due to health problems, but returned again to help the Chinese national team get ready for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Throughout the years, his reputation grew to the point where 2005 World Champion Taufik Hidayat once said: “(The) only regrettable thing in (my) badminton life is that (I) never had the opportunity to be coached by Tang Xianhu”. Despite his reputation and huge success as a world class coach, Tang Xianhu’s outlook on coaching was summarized in one of his famous quotes: "My philosophy as a coach is not the coach that must be good, but the player himself. The coach is only there to help.” Tang’s record speaks for itself.
Tang Xianhu is the father of two children and was inducted into the IBF Hall of Fame in 2002.
1986 – IBF Distinguished Service Award
2002 – IBF Hall of Fame
BIBLIOGRAPHY & REFERENCES
Apa & Siapa (Sabaruddin Sa.)
Dato’ Eddy Choong Talk About History (Kiu Boon Huat)
Encyclopaedia of Badminton (Pat Davis)
Thomas / Uber Cup Finals 1992 Official Program
-- By Yves Lacroix