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Thursday December 26, 2013 MYT 7:13:00 PM
Thursday December 26, 2013 MYT 7:20:40 PM
by kng zheng guan
The Malaysian junior squash players pose for a photo at national coach, Andrew Cross' parents home in Leeds during Christmas. The boys and girls will start their bid for titles at the British Junior Open squash championships on Jan 2 in Sheffield. - Courtesy of Andrew Cross
PETALING JAYA: Being away from home on Christmas Day is never easy for a teenager.
Fortunately, the national squash juniors who left for Sheffield on Dec 23 in preparation for the British Junior Open from Jan 2-6, were made to feel right at home, by none other than national junior coach Andrew Cross’ parents.
The lot – 19 of them – were treated to a warm Christmas Day dinner at the Cross family home in Leeds to boost their spirits before the tough competition gets under way.
“What my parents do is just too good ... even though with 19 players, this is the biggest batch ever. They’ve always hosted Christmas parties for the players since 2010,” said Cross.
“And the players really enjoy it and it helps them to relax a little as well. My dad is pretty good at entertaining kids and he gets them into the mood with a lot of old traditional games and they really have a good time,” added Cross.
On a serious note, Cross who has been with the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) since 2007 believes that despite having a bigger group, the challenge to bring home the British Junior titles will be just as hard.
“The tournament is getting tougher each year and even for the Pontefract (warm-up tournament) event which starts today, it will be tougher as there will be players from Mexico, Pakistan and South Africa,” said Cross.
“But our players have had a good preparation since the junior training camp last month. It was quite a united session with several players not from Bukit Jalil coming in for quite a while.
“Some of them, such as Nazihah (Hanis) who is from Kedah even stayed on longer after the camp ended and this is a good sign.
“Overall these are some of the brightest players from Malaysia and the British Juniors will be their biggest event on the world stage.
“We have a very realistic chance in the boys’ Under-17 and girls’ Under-15 cateogry although Aifa Azman could also pull off a surprise in the girls’ Under-13 category,” added Cross.
The boys’ Under-17 category will feature reigning Under-15 champion Ng Eain Yow who is the second seed alongside team-mate Mohd Farez Izwan who is the joint third-fourth seed.
Reigning Under-15 runner-up S. Sivasangari is the top seed in the girls’ Under-15 category.
The other boys in the fray are Darren Chan, Mohd Syafiq Kamal (Under-19), Darryl Gan, Ong Sai Hung (Under-15), Mohd Hafiz Zhafri, Mohd Harris Ramlee, S. Kiven (Under-13).
The girls are Yong Sue Ann (Under-19), Zoe Foo, Nazihah, Andrea Lee, Aika Azman (Under-17), Ooi Kah Yan (Under-15), Jessica Kheng and Amirah Rusyidah (Under-13).
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