Varsity squash gaining prominence

UM’s Sanjay, who won the Division 1 men’s title, is seen here with UM head of sport Norsham Abdullah.

Since it started last year, the IPT 1Malaysia Squash Circuit has seen steady growth with more than 200 players and 23 universities taking part in 2015.

The circuit has also taken over from the stand-alone university circuit with the involvement of the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) and sponsor Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia.

“In 2012, we approached the Higher Education Ministry because we wanted to work with the universities to help streamline the organisation of the circuit as we felt they should not work in isolation,” said SRAM president Huang Ying How.

He added SRAM got the nod from the ministry in 2013 and the circuit started last year with 22 universities taking part.

“We (SRAM) were allowed to work with not only universities but also colleges and polytechnics. Our first aim was to help organise the circuit,” he said.

“As you know, we have a mature junior programme, so for SRAM it was a continuation of the programme which ends at 19. We have many players in the universities who can still progress.”

“The circuit is growing as we had more than 100 players in the first year and this has increased to more than 200 this year. Our programme offers students a balanced approach, so that’s why we have both competitive and social squash through three divisions,” added Huang.

“Whatever lessons we have learnt in our junior programme we have brought to this programme,” he added.

Huang said SRAM offered courses as well. “We recently held one through the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), whereby participants were taught about sports leadership, how to become coaches, referees and sports administrators. Thirty students and three officers from the universities attended the workshop.”

Huang is bullish on prospects of growing the game in the varsity circuit.
Huang is bullish on prospects of growing the game in the varsity circuit.

On its plans for next year, Huang said they wanted to expand the number of players taking part and focus on clubs and student leaders in charge of the clubs in the various universities.

“For some time these squash clubs were dead but now we notice change, like UiTM has 80 players, IMU has 40 and Inti (University) has started (its club). We want to reward these leaders with further training as they are critical in helping squash,” he said.

Next year will witness the introduction of a team event which Huang feels is equally important in team-building.

Top of the agenda for SRAM next year will be the hosting of the 9th World University Squash Championships in Malaysia in September, where Universiti Malaya will be the venue.

“I was very pleased when FISU (International University Sports Federation) awarded Malaysia the right to host the World University Championship Squash (WUC) in 2016,” he said.

In the 8th WUC in Chennai, India, Malaysia won the bronze in the mixed team event beating South Africa 2-1.

Huang wants the team to go for gold. “We have our national players like Sanjay, Ivan Yuen and Low Wee Wern in university, so we hope to put up a good squad.”

As expected, SEA Games gold medallist and defending champion Sanjay Singh Chal from Universiti Malaya cruised to a successful defence, defeating Mohd Amir Farhan from Universiti Putra Malaysia 11-2, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9 in the Division 1 men’s final.

The number one seed got off to a quick start in the first set before Mohd Amir recovered with tricky drop shots above the tin to take the second set. Again, he set a scorching pace in the third and fourth sets, but drew the best out of the reigning champion.

Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia chief executive officer Ung Su Ling (centre) giving away prizes.
Yayasan Rakyat 1Malaysia chief executive officer Ung Su Ling (centre) giving away prizes.

Trailing 3-7 and 5-8 in both sets, Sanjay hit a purple patch in both sets, including a boast in the third set which left Mohd Amir sprawling to retrieve.

UITM’s Mohd Mukhlasin clinched third place after a titanic five-setter against Nilai’s Shaun Kwan winning 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7.

IUKL’s Adele Han May Jen defeated UNISZA’s Siti Nurul Jannah Razali in the Division 1 women’s final 12-10, 11-7, 11-4. Earlier, May Jen came through a tough semi-final beating UM’s Gillian Ng 13-11, 11-9, 12-10 while Siti Nurul had to fend off Politeknik’s Natasha Ariffin 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-6.

Third seed Gillian got the better of Natasha in the third-fourth playoff match winning 1-8, 11-9, 11-8.

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