Young shuttlers from grassroots initiative ready to impress in international arena

Chong Ming giving instructions to the Kem Badminton Astro hopefuls during a training session prior to leaving for Japan. — Photos: ART CHEN/ The Star

LIKE creating a samurai sword, the 30 young shuttlers taking part in the ongoing Astro Kem Badminton Intensive Training Programme with the Nippon Badminton Academy are part of a rigorous process that will see them battle for glory in the arena of international badminton in the years to come.

Hand-picked from the finest candidates, the players selected for this year’s camp were finally chosen after a nationwide search for the best potential since March.

More than 3,000 participants were assessed this year, based on their playing skills, techniques, stamina and attitude before getting called up for another round of scrutiny the next day.

That was followed by a training camp in July conducted by former national players working together with Astro Kasih.

Finally, only 30 players were retained for further honing to sharpen their abilities. But they had to first go under the grinding wheel and endure another rigorous training session led by former national doubles player Chan Chong Ming and his assistants, before departing for Japan.

Chong Ming explained that the final stage of training before Japan was designed to prepare the juniors for their sessions with the Japanese national junior coaches.

“The Japanese coaches are not easy to train under, so we had to focus a lot on their physical conditioning before the trip, otherwise there would be a chance that our juniors would not be able to keep up.

“Some of them knew that going to train in Tokyo can be tough, but they have improved their physical condition since we saw them in July and they have also shown more improvement in the last few days, which is a good sign, ” he said during the days leading up to the departure to Japan on Dec 8.

He noted that the Malaysian participants also showed an improved attitude after getting to know each other and were excited to learn from the Japanese coaches as well as exchange cultures with their junior counterparts.

“We can see that being part of the experience together has made them feel like they are part of a team. And even during the training, they worked as a big unit.”

Chong Ming said he wanted the Malaysian youths to see for themselves how the Japanese players train and how they carry themselves, which is an important ingredient and much needed in the attitude of a potential champion.

“For us coaches, we hope that they can learn the good traits from the Japanese and apply what is useful to them when they return to their own clubs and academies.

“But mostly, I think the mentality will make the most difference if they choose to embrace it, ” he added.

Joining the 30 are former Astro Kem Badminton participants and current Bukit Jalil Sports School students under the badminton development programme, who will play the role of mentors to guide and lead by example.

Astro Kem Badminton was introduced in 2012 and since its inception, it has seen participation from more than 15,800 children across Malaysia. It started with children between 10 and 12 years old, but has since expanded to include those aged seven to nine to build interest among younger players.

In the past, children from Astro Kem Badminton had trained at the Li Yongbo Badminton School where the likes of Lin Dan trained; the Ajinomoto National Training Centre in Tokyo where the children were guided by the prestigious Japanese National Juniors Team as well as met with Japan’s national head coach and men’s doubles legend Park Joo-bong.

Past participants of the badminton camp included Jacky Kok

(Asia’s number one Under-17 Men’s Singles player), Muhd Fazriq Razif (two-time MSSM Men’s Single champion) and Justin Hoh, who together with Razif were gold

medallists in the Jakarta Junior Open in Indonesia, Badminton Asia Junior Under-15 in Myanmar and the Singapore Youth International Series in 2018.

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