PENANG has consistently produced junior squash champions over the years.
But one quirkiness in the Penang squash scene in recent years is that almost every junior champion from the state has been a female player.
So, it was a rarity when Penang bagged the boys’ team title at the recent 17th Milo-Ong Beng Hee & Nicol David Trophies squash tournament at the Hang Jebat Squash Centre in Malacca.
The quartet of Ishant Shah, Lee Yi Guan, Dhirren Rajarathinam and Douglas Chee Jenn Yang beat Sarawak 2-1 in the final to register Penang’s maiden triumph in the boys’ team event of the annual Under-12 competi-tion.
Ishant, 12, contributed the opening point for Penang in the final when he downed Tommy Lau 11-6, 11-5, 11-7.
Sarawak pulled level through Prasad Ruhern’s 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3, 11-7 win over the 11-year-old debutant Douglas Chee.
It was left for Lee Yi Guan, 12, to deliver the winning point when he beat Caleb Lau 11-4, 11-7, 12-10 to secure the champions’ title.
Victory was sweet for the SJKC Shih Chung Cawangan student Yi Guan as he had lost to Sarawak’s Caleb in all their previous meetings.
“I tried not to think about my earlier defeats to Caleb before I faced him in the final. My team was depending on me to get the winning point ... and that was the only thing on my mind. I was not nervous at all, and knew that I was able to beat him for the first time,” said Yi Guan.
Ishant almost made it a double celebration for Penang, but had to settle for a silver medal in the individual competition. The SK Minden Heights student, the second seed in the individual competition, went down 14-12, 0-11, 10-12, 5-11 to the top seed Amir Amirul Azhar of Kelantan in the boys’ individual final.
“Things did not work out too well for me against Amir in the final. I used the wrong strategy and made too many mistakes.
“One day after the final, I played him again in the team event when Penang met Kelantan. I played differently and beat him 3-0. I am happy that I could help Penang win the boys’ team title,” said Ishant.
Penang squash coach Khoo Teng Hin had nothing but praise for his young charges for delivering the boys’ team title.
“Penang haven’t had a winning boys team for a very long time. It is the first time since the competition started 17 years ago that Penang returned with the boys’ team title.
“These four players have good potential. They lived up to their top billing by winning all their matches in Malacca. I am looking forward to train and mould them to be successful players,” said Teng Hin.
The victory in the Ong Beng Hee Cup was the second team triumph this year for Ishant, Yi Guan, Dhirren and Douglas. The four boys had also captured the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) boys’ Under-12 team title for Penang in Kuala Lumpur in March this year.
The Penang girls’ team of June Loke, Rachel Poh, Natasha Lim and Vishanti Venkatesh finished seventh in the Nicol David Cup girls’ competition in Malacca.
“Despite the seventh placing, the Penang girls gave a good account of themselves in Malacca. The luck of the draw did not favour them, and they lost narrowly to Sarawak in the quarter-finals,” explained Teng Hin.
The next assignment for Penang’s Under-12 players is the Redtone 9th KL Junior Open Squash Championships 2015 on Dec 1-6 at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil.