SEVEN Kedah squash players who are to play at the British Open Squash championships received an incentive of RM500 each from the Sports Council as pocket money.
Envelopes containing cheques for the amount were handed over to the players by Sports Council director Mohammad Mahazi Ibrahim during a hi-tea at a leading hotel in Alor Setar, Kedah.
The seven are Nazihah Hanis Abdul Razak, Aika Azman (both Under-17), S. Sivasangari (Under-15), Aifa Azman (Under-13), Ong Sai Hung (Under-15), Mohd Hafiz Zhafri Hariff and Kiven Shanmugam (both Under-13).
They were among 17 players picked by the Squash Racket Association of Malaysia to compete in two tournaments in the United Kingdom.
The others are from Kuala Lumpur (four), Sabah and Negri Sembilan (two each), Pahang and Kelantan (one each).
The players leave today and will play in the Pontefract Dunlop Junior Open in Leeds which starts on Friday before moving on to the big one in Sheffield on Jan 2, 2014.
Mahazi said the pocket money was a form of acknowledgement that an athlete had been selected to represent the country.
“Not everyone can claim to be a national athlete. You have achieved this at a young age and there are many more years ahead of you to improve and become stars,” he said to the athletes.
“At the same time, do not neglect your studies. If you succeed in both sports and studies, you are assured of a bright future. Think about the career that current world champion Nicol David is enjoying.
“I urge all of you to manage your time between sports and studies to become a better human being.
“I have confidence that your parents and the association will give you support to achieve your target. I wish you well in your venture,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sivasangari, 14, who will be making her fourth successive appearance in the prestigious British Open, has vowed to get the elusive title this time around.
“I have been improving since my debut in 2011 when I finished fourth in the UK Open.
“The following year I was third and last year, I finished as the runner-up.
“Now, it is time to close out my days in the Under-15 category with a podium finish,” added the two-time Asian Under-13 champion.
Another player who is determined to do well is Mohd Hafiz, who captured the Asian Under-13 title in Jordan this year.
“I am on a two-year unbeaten run both locally and abroad in the Under-13 category.
“Although this will be my first appearance in the UK Open, I feel I have what it takes to become a champion,” said Hafiz, a Year Six student of SK Taman Aman, Anak Bukit, Alor Setar.