WHEN Kedah Youth and Sports Committee chairman Othman Abdul Aziz predicted in October 2006 that the state would produce a fu- ture Sukma gold medallist in squash, not many took his words seriously.
After all, the northern state famous for producing some of the nation’s best in sports like badminton, football and athletics, are not known for their might in squash.
But Othman’s prediction, made during the appointment of Pakistani Muzaffar Hussain as the Kedah squash head coach under the core sports development programme, might not sound far fetched.
The proof arrived when eleven-year-old Teh Min Jie produced the breakthrough victory for Kedah at a national level age-group tourna-ment.
She bagged the girls’ Under-11 title at the recent opening leg of the CIMB National Junior Circuit 2007 held in Penang.
It was not just the SJKC Sin Kuang’s Year Five student’s maiden victory that caught the eye but the manner in which she steamrolled her way through the draw, including a 9-0, 9-0 blanking of Johor’s Sofea Najwa in the final.
Among those astounded with Min Jie’s strong performance was her father and coach Teh Keng Chai.
“I was totally caught by surprise with her march to the title as she was only ranked number 32 in the competition.
“She only started competing in tournaments less than two years ago but has shown good skills and potential. But it is early days yet and she needs to work hard if she is to go far in the game,” said Keng Chai.
Keng Chai, who trains Min Jie at the Cinta Sayang Sports Club in Sungai Petani, also attributes the close training network forged between players’ groups in Sungai Petani, Alor Star and Kulim to the overall improvement of Kedah squash.
Players from the three districts hold joint training and playing sessions during the weekends and school holidays.
They also benefit from the guidance of Muzaffar who was seconded to the Kedah Squash Association on a two-year contract by the National Sports Council.
Muzaffar conducts training in Alor Star from Sunday to Thursday and in Sungai Petani and Kulim on Friday and Saturday.
Several Kedah junior players also occasionally turn up to train at the Squash Academy of Penang.
“Without doubt, Min Jie’s victory in the national junior circuit is a major boost for squash develop-ment in Kedah. It proves that we are making progress and heading in the right direction.
“But it is just the start of a long journey and we still have a lot of hard work ahead of us before Kedah can catch up with the likes of Penang, Selangor, Federal Territory and Perak in producing top junior players for the country,” said the Kulim-based squash coach Muhammad Anis Abu Bakar.
Besides Kedah Under-11 champion Min Jie, other promising young squash talents in the state are Heng Kar Heng, Tan Ei Hao, Mohd Fitri Abdul Rahman, Raza Putra Abdul Rahman (boys) and Teh Min En, Pong Zhuang Yuan, Yew An Gee (girls).