Jacky grabs early birthday present in Berlin

PETALING JAYA: National boys’ singles shuttler Jacky Kok Jing Hong went to Europe with an aim of winning before his 19th birthday and he did just that at the German Junior Open.

Jacky, who turns 19 on Thursday, was in a class of his own when he took just 25 minutes to dispatch Indonesia’s Alvi Wijaya Chairullah 21-15, 21-15 in Berlin on Sunday to win the boys singles title.

Teammates Wan Arif Wan Junaidi-Mohd Haikal Nazri also made it a grand day for Malaysia when they clinched the boys’ doubles title by overcoming Indonesian opponents Muhamad Rayhan Nur Fadillah-Rahmat Hidayat 13-21, 21-18, 21-16.

For Jacky, it was a win to savour after having missed out narrowly on the Dutch Junior International last week when he lost in the semi-finals.

“I’m happy to return with at least one title from my two outings in Europe,” said Jacky, whose last international triumph came at the Indonesian Junior Grand Prix in April 2018.

“It’s a great confidence-booster for me ahead of the Asian and World Juniors’ later this year. With the exception of the Chinese shuttlers (who pulled out due to Covid-19), I believe the strength of the field was still strong.

“I still have a lot to improve if I were to contend for medals in the upcoming two junior meets. I will not rest on my laurels just because I have won a title.

“I want to get better and better,” said Jacky, who had lost to junior teammate Justin Hoh at last month’s National Under-18 Championships in Kuala Lumpur. “I was fired up to make amends after the national meet disappointment. I wanted to prove myself and I’m glad to redeem myself in Germany,” he said.

The victory is expected to push Jacky up by one spot to No. 3 in the junior world rankings but Jacky said: “In junior tournaments, the strength of players are not assessed by their ranking. Anyone has a chance of winning if their preparation and ability are good enough.

Meanwhile, boys’ doubles coach Pang Cheh Chang heaped praises on Arif-Haikal for exacting sweet revenge against the same rivals who pipped them to victory in Holland and hinted that they could be as good as world No. 1 Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo-Marcus Fernaldi Gideon of Indonesia if they were given the right guidance.

“They are like ‘cili padi’, small in size but hot,” said Cheh Chang, who was instrumental in guiding Tan Boon Heong and Hoon Thien How to the world junior title in 2004.

“I like their attitude in training ... they are always hard working, attentive and request for extra sessions.

“If they keep trending in the right direction, who knows they can make it big time like Kevin and Gideon.”

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