Junior shuttlers finally getting the chance to compete

The player to beat: Jacky Kok is among the favourites in the boys’ singles event.

PETALING JAYA: The wait is finally over!

Nearly three months after returning to training, the national junior shuttlers will get to strut their stuff when the National Junior Ranking Challenge gets underway at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) tomorrow.

A total of 75 players, aged between 15 to 18, will be involved in the two-stage tournament that runs from Oct 12-16 and Oct 20-23.

All eyes will be on the boys’ singles event where it pits the world’s top-ranked juniors in Jacky Kok Jing Hong (No. 3), Justin Hoh (No. 10), Ong Ken Yon (20) and Mohd Fazriq Razif (No. 23).

They are joined by Ong Zhen Yi, Anson Cheong, Chia Jeng Hon, Chua Kim Sheng and Poopathi Velayutham in Group A.

The top three in the group will earn the right to play against three selected opponents from the senior back-up squads.

Another 21 players will also be in the fray – eight in Group B, seven in Group C and six in Group D.

These shuttlers have a chance to gain promotion to Group A at the end of the round robin format.

For instance, the top-two finishers in Group B will take on the two worst performers in Group A to earn promotion.

National junior development director Datuk Misbun Sidek is looking forward to the tournament as it presents him with an opportunity to assess the players’ performance ahead of the World Junior Championships in New Zealand next January.

“This tournament is the yardstick to measure their progress ... who gets promoted or relegated, or whether we should recruit more players for trials next year,” said Misbun.

“It will also help them prepare for upcoming tournaments. There are some who are only 15 competing in the 18-year-old age group. That shows the varied levels among the juniors. We want to see whether they are able to maintain their performance and standing.

“The playoffs pitting the top ranked juniors against the back-up seniors is a good move by BAM.

“It allows us coaches to see whether the two to three-year age gap is a factor when competing against the seniors. We want to see their ability to perform against older players.

“I have reminded the players that this is the time for them to not only prepare themselves but also to improve on their performance. During this period without tournaments, they have the opportunity to develop and eradicate their weaknesses and also get the much-needed match stability.”

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