AFTER nearly two decades, Penang can finally claim the rights as the best boys’ badminton state in the country.
And the northern state did it in style to end 18 years of failure to win the boys’ team gold at the Malaysia Games with a 3-0 thrashing of Federal Territories (FT) in the final.
The last time the island side won the boys’ team event was in 2000 when they were led by Lee Chong Wei.
Penang’s first point came via former national player Yeoh Seng Zoe’s hard-fought win over national player and Asian Junior champion Leong Jun Hao in a three game affair. Seng Zoe prevailed 21-18, 17-21, 22-20.
Penang then showed their dominance with Tan Jia Wei clinically disposing of Muhammad Aiman Malek21-8, 21-5.
Cheam June Wei hammered the final nail in the coffin by defeating Lim Chong King 21-12, 21-15.
“We’re very happy because it’s been so long since we last won it. And with this our target has been reached,” said head coach Razlan Rajan.
“We’ve been hungry for the gold medal because we came close twice in the last two Sukma Games but both times Selangor beat us in the finals.
“This is the year we wanted to win, we gave the players a pep talk before the game and encouraged them.”
Razlan said the crucial point was in the first singles where Seng Zoe was given the task of taking down world No. 73 Jun Hao.
“He (Seng Zoe) had lost to Jun Hao in the group stage, so this time he came with a strategy to beat him and it delivered.
“We have two national players (Jia Wei and June Wei), so we knew that if we can win the first singles match, we would win the tie.”
Seng Zoe said when he was still in the national team, he was always able to beat Jun Hao in training.
But a serious knee injury last year forced him to leave the national set-up in September and this Sukma was the first time they had played against each other since.
“Before my knee injury, I never lost to him. But this time after losing in the group stage I went back to study his game in case I would play him again in the finals. And then I just focused on the game.”