Starting them young pays handsome dividends for Malacca

MALACCA: While it is examination or holiday fever for most school students, it is different for some 220 boys and girls in Malacca. Instead of extra time for studies and books or enjoying quality leisure and fun breaks, they are bashing squash balls and shuttlecocks while undergoing squash and badminton development, coaching and training schemes, all in the hope of donning national colours at junior and senior levels.

The Malacca Squash Rackets Association (MSRA) and the Malacca Badminton Association (MBA)) helmed by Andrew Muthu and Datuk Dr. Khoo Kim Eng respectively, have for the last 12 years put into place structured nursery, development, training and coaching schemes, programmes and competitive playing stints all the year round. All these efforts undertaken to produce a wide base of state potentials and talents for possible consideration and selection for further training and coaching under the Bukit Jalil Sports School, the Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) and the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).

Recently, both Malacca age group levels squash and badminton posted success stories. In squash, five local talents in the boys and girls Under-nine, 11 and 13 age groups at the CIMB Rising Stars National Junior Circuit, collected a gold, silver and two bronze medals. On top of that, nine-year-old Andrik Lim was selected to compete in the Hong Kong Open Age Group tournament scheduled for mid August.

Andrik set the tone for Malacca’s success by winning the Boys Under 9 title beating Sarawak’s Caleb Lau 11-8;12-10;13-11 in the final while Sharifah Nuraisyah Md Asrin picked up the Girls Under-11 silver going down 6-11;2-11;6-11 to Sabah’s Jessica Keng Jia Hui. The bronze medals were won by Nurwaffiah Khairul Tajudin in the Girls Under-Nine category and Wang Peng San in the Boys Under-13.

According to Andrew, a former state player and also newly elected SRAM council member, the state was the first in the country to launch a development and training programme way back in 1987. Subsequently, a nursery scheme was also incorporated where young talents spotted in the Under-Seven and Nine age groups by local coaches were drafted with parents’ consent to join the year round training scheme. Currently, Aziz Jaffar handles the beginners and novices, with Roslan Hisham taking charge of the intermediate group and Pakistani Gul Fahrim supervising the elite players.

Notables from the scheme who made it all the way to national selection in previous years included Jay Lim, Ang Tiang Chwee, Violet Soh, Randy Chitty, Ricky Lim and Sharon Wee.

In badminton, Malacca talents undergoing training with the MBA Elite Coaching Scheme bagged seven gold and two silver medals in the second leg of the national junior circuit held in Kuala Terengganu recently. All medal winners will feature in the final round in Johor Baru in mid June.

Setting double-gold tones for Malacca were James Hong and Boon Wei Ying. James bagged the Boys Under-12 singles beating Johore’s Ng Tze Yong 21-14;21-11. He then teamed up with Liew Boon Sung to capture the doubles scoring a 21-18;19-21;21-19 win over Johore’s Khor Yap Hong and Yap Roi King.

Boon Wei Ying picked up the Girls Under-18 singles crown beating Kaw Meng Wei of Johor 21-16;21-19 and partnered Cindy Lim for a 21-13; 21-18 victory over Johor’s Kaw Meng Wei and Lim Zhu Yun in the doubles final. Other gold medals winners were Lim Ann Chee (Girls Under-16 singles), Aaron Chia (Boys Under-16 singles) and Yap Su Ling and Toh Eee Wei (Girls Under-12 doubles).

Elite Coaching Scheme chief coach Choy Ah Sang said MBA conducts end of the year coaching clinics where young potentials and talents who do not participate in local schools competitions, are spotted for further systematic coaching and training stints complete with competitive exposure thrown into the bargain.

Choy also noted that at the moment, national prospects who have come though the MBA Elite Coaching Scheme include mixed doubles player Goh Liu Ying who is London Olympic bound and twice world junior doubles champion Ow Yau Han who has been drafted into the BAM training project and also earmarked for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. Another stalwart hogging the national limelight is 2011 national Grand Prix runner-up Goh Soon Huat who is currently attached with the BAM.

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