PETALING JAYA: Shuttler Soniia Cheah’s frown has been replaced with a smile.
Supported by two sponsors, the national No. 1 women’s singles shuttler has left for Europe with a determination to do good in the Swiss Open from March 2-7 in Basel and the All-England from March 17-21 in Birmingham.
She has secured a one-year sponsorship with RedOne Network and Top Glove respectively.
“This is it, my journey as an independent shuttler has begun, ” said the world No. 32, who officially ended her training at Academy Badminton Malaysia in Bukit Kiara on Friday.
“Initially, I was heartbroken after being dropped from the national team. Now, I’m all fired up and ready to move forward.”
The 29-year-old Soniia was one of the five national shuttlers dropped by the Badminton Association of Malaysia last month together with Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie, Lai Pei Jing and Vivian Hoo.
After days of dealing with her disappointments, Soniia has regrouped and managed to secure sponsorships to go after her Olympics dream.
She is on the verge of qualifying for her first Olympic Games in Tokyo in July by virtue of being 18th in the Road to Tokyo ranking. Only the top 38 will qualify.
“I’m grateful to get sponsors during this trying time. The sum given will help me to launch my independent career.
“Hopefully, I’ll get a few more to come on board as the cost of traveling, accommodation and quarantine are quite pricey.”
Now that some of her financial issues are settled, Soniia hopes to soar in the Swiss Open, which is an Olympics qualifying tournament.
“The recent experience has taught me to be stronger and I’ll be out to give my 100 per cent on court. I’m hoping to upset a few players, ” she said.
She is drawn to play Germany’s Yvonne Li in the opening round and if she wins, she will likely play fourth seed Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark.
In the All-England, Soniia has a tough first opener against fifth seed P.V. Sindhu of India.
In the Thailand Opens last month, Soniia went down fighting in the first round to Sung Ji-hyun and An Se-young of South Korea respectively.