PETALING JAYA: Believe it or not, shuttler Soong Joo Ven (pic) is the “oldest” player in the men’s singles department at the age of 24.
And that has put him in a precarious situation – as he may be one of the potential seniors dropped to make way for younger players to form the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM)’s new Project ‘24.
Although unsure of his future, world No. 56 Joo Ven is not giving up without a fight.
And he showed his determination by reaching the semi-finals of the fifth-tier Indonesian Masters in Malang on Saturday before losing 18-21,21-19 to eventual winner Sun Feixiang of China.
En route to the last four, he had beaten teammate Cheam June Wei 21-15,21-19 in the first round.
It was his third straight victory over June Wei this year, having also beaten the 22-year-old at the German Open and Malaysian International Series in June – and that speaks volumes about his status as the second ranked player behind Lee Zii Jia in the national team.
Said Joo Ven: “I’m not sure whether there is a place for me but I hope to stay on. I’ll keep training hard and aim for better outings in future tournaments.”
Joo Ven, despite struggling to make an impact in the senior ranks, is the only surviving player from his batch.
Last year, former Asian junior champion Soo Teck Zhi was dropped while two-time national champion Lim Chi Wing left the BAM two months ago.
If there’s one thing that could save Joo Ven from the axe, it is probably his fighting spirit as he keeps bouncing back from injuries.
“I’m happy to reach the semis, considering I’m still struggling to get back to my best condition. In July, I slipped during training and tore a tendon on my left thigh, ” he said.
“I couldn’t walk for a week. I couldn’t sleep on my side as the pain was unbearable. I had to skip the Opens in Thailand and India.
“It wasn’t until two weeks before the Indonesian Masters that I was able to play again. It’s tough to move on the court as if nothing had happened. I’ve been afraid to fall again.
“Fortunately, I’ve gained some momentum and confidence in recent weeks.
“Before the injury, I’ve had good results, especially winning the Malaysian International Series. I want to make up for the lost time.”
All other Malaysians – Tan Jia Wei (men’s singles), Arif Abdul Latif-Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayub (men’s doubles), Anna Cheong-Lim Chiew Sien (women’s doubles) and Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See, and Chen Tang Jie-Peck Yen Wei (mixed doubles) – were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Indonesian Masters last Friday.