By NG WEI LOONweiloon@thestar.com.myPhotos by ROHAIZAT MD DARUS
ALTHOUGH the Kuala Lumpur Racket Club (KLRC) has been in existence over the past six years, it was officially conceptualised last year.
The club has not only given a new lease of life to discarded shuttlers, with a second chance to pursue their dreams in making the grade at international level.
In addition, it is also working on promoting the fastest racquet game to the local and international playing community.
Three months ago, the club founded by ardent badminton philanthropist Datuk Andrew Kam, has also found a landmark in the form of the 22-court Olympics standard Taraflex badminton hall in Wangsa Maju as a home to the players competing under the club's banner.
Former international Ong Beng Teong is the club's operations director as well as chief coach.
“We had three players from Mongolia last month. We are expecting players from Turkey and Sweden to join us in May and June respectively,” said Beng Teong, adding that weekly social session on Saturday evening usually runs for at least three hours.
Currently, the KLRC women's representatives are M. Sutheaswari, K. Sugita, Ang Li Peng, Lim Pek Siah, Chor Hooi Yee and Joanne Quay while the men's line-up include Sairul Amar Ayob, Ismail Samad, Mohd Hashim and Mohd Nazree Ahmad Latifi.
“Over the years, our founder (Datuk Kam) has been sponsoring players for international tournaments. It is a privilege for us to be able to continue to feature at international tournaments,” said Li Peng, who won the Manchester Commonwealth Games women's doubles gold medal with Pek Siah in 2002.
Last year, Pek Siah-Li Peng also finished runners-up in the Norwegian International.
Li Peng, 25 is also one of the directors in the club set-up.
“Participation in the international circuit as independent players has nurtured us to be more pro-active. We discuss our training programmes with the coach and tailor them according to our needs.
“We are also on our own in getting everything organised for our outings. Despite our shortcomings, we are proud that we can still produce reasonable results. Nothing beats that satisfying feeling of pulling a major upset against more fancied players. It gives us a huge boost to our confidence,” added Li Peng, who is pursuing her A-Level.
At the recently concluded Asian Badminton Championships in Johor Baru, Joanne-Pek Siah upstaged national top ranked women's doubles pair of Chin Ee Hui-Wong Pei Tty in the quarter-finals before losing in the semi-finals.
Since joining the club, Sutheaswari and Sairul are making gradual headways in the women’s and men's singles at lower grade international tournaments last season.
“Sutheaswari has worked her way up from 200th position to her current 31st ranking in the world. She should be credited for her courage to have a go at it. We felt that the critics are a bit harsh for knocking her down just because she is trying hard. But, we are here to guide and support her to achieve her goals,” said Beng Teong.
Besides winning the Western Australia International last year, Sutheaswari was the quarterfinalist at the Helexpro Thessaloniki World Grand Prix, Waikato International Open and Ballarat Eureka International.
“I have benefited from personal attention given by the coach,” said Sutheaswari, who is eyeing for another chance at the World Championships in Madrid from Sept 18 to 24.
At the World Championships in Anaheim (United States) last year, she only progressed to the second round.
“My aim is to improve on my world ranking,” added Sutheaswari.
Meanwhile, Sairul won the New Zealand Open last year.
Following a one-week of sparring with the South Korea national team at Gwangju recently, Sairul is hoping to capture more glamorous titles.
“If it was not for the support from the club, I would have given up playing long ago. The best gift that I can present to the club for the faith they have in me is to win at least one, three or four stars tournament. I hope to achieve that by the end of the year,” said Sairul who is ranked 36th in the world.
Sairul will be competing at the Philippines Open (May 24 to 28), Indonesia Open (May 31to June 4), Malaysia Open (June 13 to 18) and Taiwan Open (June 20 to 25).
“I still want to serve the national team. It will be great to secure a place for the Doha Asian Games,” said Sairul, who is ranked 36th in the world.
For the club, Beng Teong revealed they will be roping in six girls and six boys below the age of 18 years to join the current crop of players soon.