PETALING JAYA: Teamwork will be the operative word for Malaysia in the World Junior Badminton Championships, which start in Alor Setar on Monday.
The championships kick off at the Sultan Abdul Halim Stadium with the mixed team event for the Suharto Suhandinata Cup (April 7-11) followed by the individual competition (April 13-18).
Malaysia have emerged champions in the mixed team only once, beating South Korea 3-0 in the final in Taipei in 2011. It was a memorable outing for Malaysia as Zulfadli Zulkifli and Nelson Heg-Teo Ee Yi also won the boys’ singles and mixed doubles titles respectively.
As hosts this year, the onus is on Malaysia to put up a credible performance.
However, a repeat performance will be hard to emulate as Malaysia are drawn in a tough Group Z2 with the impressive India as well as Australia and Uzbekistan.
This year’s championships have also attracted the largest participation with 35 countries in total.
“Needless to say, teamwork will be key in a mixed event like this. And being the hosts, there is that extra pressure for us to do well. Hopefully, the players can combine well and make good on our target of making the last four,” said Kenny Goh, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) general manager.
Malaysia have named a 32-strong squad with Cheam June Wei (boys’ singles), Ho Yen Mei (girls’ singles), Chua Khek Wei-Ng Di Hua (boys’ doubles), Goh Yea Ching-Peck Yen Mei (girls’ doubles) and Tan Jinn Hwa-Goh Yea Ching (mixed doubles) expected to shine in the 12-day competition.
Only four of the players - June Wei, Yen Mei, Khek Wei and Yea Ching – competed in last year’s edition in Bangkok.
“The players understand there is a lot riding on their performances in the championships and the coaches have already spoken about giving it 100% in every match, and making it count,” said Kenny. “The responsibility will fall equally on the shoulders of both the boys and girls to perform. All the players understand that they have a specific role to play and they have to play it well.”
Group W1: South Korea, Singapore, Mongolia, Botswana.
Group W2: Thailand, Russia, South Africa, Holland.
Group X1: Indonesia, Germany, Canada, Sri Lanka.
Group X2: Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Macau, Philippines, Czech Republic.
Group Y1: Japan, France, Armenia, Spain.
Group Y2: Taiwan, Denmark, England, Egypt, Afghanistan.
Group Z1: China, Vietnam, United States, Slovenia.
Group Z2: Malaysia, India, Uzbekistan, Zambia, Australia.