Friends light up her day

Memorable celebration: It will still be a joyful Deepavali for M. Thinaah despite not being able to be home with her family this year as she has the company of teammates (from left) Teoh Mei Xing, Yap Ling, Lee Ying Ying and Peck Yen Wei at the Academy Badminton Malaysia hostel in Bukit Kiara in Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: It’s a case of so near yet so far for Malaysian shuttler M. Thinaah.

This year marks one of the rare occasions where the 22-year-old isn’t going anywhere for assignments but unfortunately, she will not be going home to celebrate Deepavali with her beloved family.

Home for Thinaah is just a 45-minute drive away in Klang but the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara where she and the rest of national shuttlers are based, has been under lockdown since Oct 9 following a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.

So Thinaah has to stay put making it the third year running that she will not enjoy the Festival of Lights in the comfort of her home.

She was competing in the Macau Open last year and was in Penang for the Malaysian International Series in 2018 during the same festival.

“I have lost count on how many Deepavali I have missed because I was away for tournaments, ” said Thinaah, who’s the world No. 39 with Pearly Tan in the women’s doubles ranking.

“But last year was kind of nice. My family made all the efforts to celebrate with me in advance before I left for Macau.

Making great strides: M. Thinaah (right) and Pearly Tan are currently ranked 39th in the world.Making great strides: M. Thinaah (right) and Pearly Tan are currently ranked 39th in the world.

“We were all dressed up, feasted on good food and took a lot of pictures.

“It was as if I didn’t miss the celebration at all! So, for me to miss the Deepavali this time under these circumstances, it’s really baffling because I’m so close to home and yet I can’t go back to be with my family and relatives.

“I am definitely going to miss the briyani rice and the mutton so much as these are my favourite dishes.

“Well, these are the things I do get to eat whenever I’m home but, you know, they somehow taste extra delicious during Deepavali.”

Being away from home doesn’t mean there will be completely no celebration for Thinaah as she still has a bunch of great teammates for company at the hostel.

“I’m fortunate to have a group of teammates with me. The girls are more than just teammates and friends, they are my second family, ” said Thinaah.

“For this Deepavali, they are just as excited as I am and rest assured we will have a lot of fun together this weekend. We just had our Halloween party recently too.

“(Lee) Ying Ying, my roommate and partner in crime, took upon herself to plan and put up the Deepavali decorations in the room.”

On a serious note, Thinaah hopes that the Covid-19 pandemic will ease off soon so that she and Pearly can resume where they left off earlier this year.

Thinaah made great strides in switching from singles to doubles, highlighted by her improved partnership with Pearly.

The duo became the top three pairs in the country behind Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean (14th) and Vivian Hoo-Yap Cheng Wen (25th) in just 10 months.

They impressed at the Asia Team Championships in Manila in February by delivering the winning point that helped Malaysia beat Taiwan 3-1 in the quarter-finals and seal qualification to the Uber Cup Finals.

Pearly-Thinaah also did well in the group stage when they managed to steal a game from Japan’s world No. 11 Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida.

“We remain in high spirits and continue to train hard during these tough times. Really can’t wait to get back on court soon. Our immediate target is to break into the world top 20, ” she added.

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