Wednesday, 4 June 2014 | MYT 8:42 PM
Time for Malaysian juniors to deliver U-19 titles
Mohd Syafiq Kamal (right) is Malaysia's best bet in the boys' Under-19 category of the Asian Junior Championship. - filepic
PETALING JAYA: National junior squash coach Andrew Cross believes it’s high time the Malaysian juniors started delivering titles in the higher age groups of the Asian Junior Championship which is from June 22-26 on Kish Island, Iran.
Malaysia have been a force to be reckoned with in Asia. At last year’s Asian Juniors, they bagged five titles out of eight, courtesy of Mohd Hafiz Zhafri (boys’ Under-13), Mohd Farez Izwan (boys’ Under-15), Ng Eain Yow (boys’ Under-17), Ooi Kah Yan (girls’ Under-13) and Andrea Lee (girls’ Under-15).
But they have always fallen short in the Under-19 category. The last Malaysians to win the boys’ and girls’ event were Ivan Yuen and Low Wee Wern, both in 2009.
Cross, who trains most of the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) players, believes the time has come for Malaysia to deliver in the Under-19 categories. The Malaysian hopes lie on the impressive Mohd Syafiq Kamal and the pair of Vanessa Raj and Rachel Arnold.
“We know it has been a while since we won anything in the Under-19 categories and it is time for some of the players to start winning,” said Cross.
“Syafiq and the two girls - Vanessa and Rachel have a shot but they need to perform. I was impressed by all three at Sukma because it was really a high standard of squash.
“I think for the girls, the main threat will definitely come from Hong Kong as India lack presence lately. They will be sending their full team for the Penang Malaysian Junior Open (June 7-12) and that is a good time to gauge where we stand.
“I’m more worried for Vanessa, even though she has beaten all the top Hong Kong players like Pansy Chan, Ho Tsz Lok and Choi Uen Shan, as she will join the senior team for the Asian Team Championship (June 11-15) and will not have much time to train.”
Cross meanwhile added that it is not impossible for Malaysia to win big once more at this year’s Asian Juniors, provided all the players step up and perform.
“It’s a pretty big target for us to win another five or more titles at the Asian Juniors but it’s not entirely impossible,” said Cross.
“But it’ll be difficult because we won’t know who India or Pakistan will be sending and it’s pretty much an unknown territory.”
Besides Syafiq, Malaysia will also bank on Eain Yow and Farez in the boys’ Under-17, Jesse Foo and Eugene Heng (Under-15), and Shawn Tai in the boys’ Under-13 category.
The other girls heading for the Asian Juniors are Andrea, Zoe Foo and S. Sivasangari (Under-17), Nur Aliah Izzati and Lai Wen Li (Under-15), and Aifa Azman and Amirah Rusydina Rosli (Under-13).