Kedah squash coach Cheong Pak Kau (right) poses for a picture with two of his charges S. Sivasangari (second left) and Aifa Azman (second right) who both won titles at the Junior British Open this year. With them is Pak Kau's assistant.
PETALING JAYA: Two Malaysian squash coaches will given due recognition by the Asian Squash Federation (ASF) at the ASF Awards 2013 for their roles in developing the sport at the grassroots level.
National junior coach Andrew Cross has been named the ASF Junior Coach of the Year while Kedah head coach Cheong Pak Kau has won ASF Development Coach of the Year award.
Cross, who is from Leeds, has been part of the national set-up since 2007 and has been instrumental in helping the national juniors make great progress.
Last year, the national juniors swept five of the eight titles at stake in the Asian Junior Championships through Ng Eain Yow (boys’ Under-17), Mohd Farez Izwan (boys’ Under-15), Mohd Hafiz Zhafri (boys’ Under-13), Andrea Lee (girls’ Under-15) and Ooi Kah Yan (girls’ Under-13).
The 28-year-old Cross also played a crucial behind-the scene role as Malaysia captured three gold medals at the Asian Youth Games (AYG) last year.
“It’s great to receive an award from ASF ... but I can’t claim all the credit. It’s the players who did most of the hard work. I just guide them,” said Cross, who has the likes of Mohd Syafiq Kamal, Eain Yow, Rachel Arnold and Teh Min Jie under his charge.
“But it is a good motivation for us coaches as we can go to work with a smile on our face. At the end of the day, the goal is to bring up Malaysian squash.”
Pak Kau, who has been coaching since 1993, has been responsible for the rise of several top national juniors from Kedah, most notably British Junior Open winners S. Sivasangari and Aifa Azman.
In fact, Kedah has been one of the strongest states in squash and were big winners at this year’s MSSM, taking five of the six titles in the team events of the Under-12, Under-15 and Under-18 categories.
“I’m happy to receive this recognition by ASF and I’m quite surprised, actually. It’s nice that the coaches and officials are also given due credit,” said the 60-year-old Pak Kau, who was previously a mathematics and Physical Education teacher before taking up a full-time coaching job after the 2006 Sukma in Kedah.
“I think Kedah squash is definitely on the right track. We’ve produced good juniors like Nazihah Hanis, Aika Azman, Sivasangari and Aifa.
“We’ve also had two boys – Hafiz and (Ong) Sai Hung, who joined the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) recently. So, we are looking good in the junior aspect.
“What made Kedah strong in squash is the commitment from everyone, especially the parents who are very supportive.”
The awards will be handed out during the Asian Team Championship, which will be held in Hong Kong from June 11-15.
ROLL OF HONOUR
OUTSTANDING PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Men: Saurav Ghosal (Ind)
Women: Annie Au (Hkg)
Boys: Abdulla Mohammed Al-Tamimi (Qat)
Girls: Ho Ka Po (Hkg)
OUTSTANDING TEAM OF THE YEAR
Women: Hong Kong Junior Girls’ team
Most Improved Team of the Year: Iran national junior team
ASF Coach of the Year: Faheem Khan (Hkg)
ASF Junior Coach of the Year: Andrew Cross (Mas)
ASF Development Coach of the Year: Cheong Pak Kau (Mas)
ASF Outstanding Contribution Award: Pakistan Squash Federation