Malaysia's multi-lingual Muralitharan and Tan united on the badminton court by their common languages

The women's doubles pairing clinched their maiden World Tour title in Switzerland and now have a long-term target of making their Olympic debut at Paris 2024.

By Sanjeev Palar
Picture by Badminton Photo

Malaysia's badminton pairing of Thinaah Muralitharan and Pearly Tan shot into the limelight when they clinched their maiden World Tour title in Switzerland at the start of 2021.

They ended a two-year women's doubles title drought on tour for Malaysia.

Their partnership is a reflection of the nation's unique multi-cultural society, with Muralitharan being of ethnic Indian decent, and Tan of Chinese decent.

Despite their cultural differences, the Malaysian duo shared exclusively with Olympics.com how they have worked at building their partnership, set their targets for an Olympic debut and found common ground using a mix of three languages to communicate.

Freedom of expression for Malaysian pair

Muralitharan is able to converse in four languages, "I speak English, Malay, Tamil, and Chinese Mandarin" the 23-year-old shares.

This allows her to not only communicate in English and the nation's national language Malay, which are taught in schools, but also Mandarin, which is the language Tan is most proficient in.

"[The fact] that she can speak Mandarin makes me feel more at ease" reveals 21-year-old Tan.

"I'm really happy that she can speak Mandarin because it is, for me, easier to express my feelings" - Pearly Tan to Olympics.com

The pair believe this ability to speak and understand a variety of languages allows them the freedom to express themselves more naturally when playing, meaning they can pick and chose which language to use depending on the circumstances.

"On court, when the rally is going on, I think I speak Chinese more" Muralitharan shares, "But during the break, when we discuss the game during the interval, I think I'll mix the three languages, English, Malay, and Chinese."

But none of this is a conscious or tactical choice, it's just a flow that they are accustomed to, and which can happen when living in a multi-cultural society like Malaysia.

"Of course, when we are tired, we don't know what language we are going to use. It just comes out and, thankfully she understands what I say," shares Muralitharan.

Malaysia’s women’s doubles pair Thinaah Muralitharan & Pearly Tan 
Picture by Badminton Photo

Thinaah Muralitharan and Pearly Tan building up to their Olympic debut

Muralitharan and Tan became the first women's doubles pair from Malaysia to win a Super 300 title since their seniors, Chow Mei Kuan and Lee Meng Yean, won the Syed Modi International in 2018.

Their victory has caused a lot of excitement back home, where women's doubles has not really been a strength of the badminton-crazy Asian nation.

"We are going [down] the right path, but there's definitely a lot of things for us to improve on still, in the game." says Muralitharan reflecting on their overall performance.

Tan chips in, explaining, "There are areas like, to be more consistent in the match, don't make a lot of simple mistakes, and be more patient."

The due have already broken into the top twenty in the world rankings, and have two other Malaysian parings ahead of them. Their seniors Chow and Lee have already locked in the qualification spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, but Tan and Muralitharan have a much longer-term plan for their three-year-old partnership.

"[Paris] 2024 is our main target," Tan shares, adding that playing at the Games would be her dream come true. She used to watch her now retired hero, Lee Chong Wei play against Lin Dan at the Olympics and would very much like to "be like him and make my country proud."

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