KUCHING: One of Sarawak’s brightest young squash players, June Tiong, has hung up her racquet and packed her bags to head for the United States to pursue her studies.
The 20-year-old Malaysian junior international squash player has decided to give up representing the state and country to enter the Ivy League Harvard University to pursue a four-year degree programme in biomedical engineering.
“I’m not retiring from squash. I’ve not given up the sport totally. However, I know from my friends and team-mates that turning professional can be a risky business as it may not guarantee your future. That is why I am pursing my education,” she said.
She said squash would be a recreational sport for her from now.
She said she would play for her university, and if opportunity arises, she would represent her school for the intercollegiate competition.
Tiong scored nine straights “As” in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination but failed to get a scholarship from the Public Service Department to further her studies despite her excellent results.
“In a way, the failure to get the scholarship was a blessing as I was accepted by one of the world’s best universities two years later using my SPM results, coupled with my achievements in squash,” she said.
The university, through its financial aid programme, will absorb about 95% of her expenses.
She started to play squash at the age of nine when her mother enrolled her for lessons at Sarawak Club where most, if not all, of the state's players were produced. A year later, she competed in tournaments.
Tiong, the first winner of the Nicol David Challenge Trophy in 1999, when she was 12, caught the eye of national selectors who drafted her into the junior national squash team.
The Australian TriSeries for Under 15 in 2001 was her first international outing. She finished third in the Australian Junior Open Squash Championships for Under16 in 2004.
She represented Sarawak in four Malaysia Games (Sukma) from 1998 to 2004. She was part of the Sarawak team that won a bronze medal in the team event in the 2004 Sukma in Negri Sembilan.
“I don’t really know if there’s a place for me in squash in future. But if I do take up sports science or sports medicine after completing my biomedical engineering, maybe there’s something for me in sports in general. We’ll just have to wait and see,” said Tiong. – Bernama