Penang become first state to set up squash centre


PENANG: Penang, home of Malaysia's top two squash players Ong Beng Hee and Nicol David, added another feather to its cap yesterday with the birth of the country’s first squash academy. 

The Mulpha-Head squash academy of Penang, which was launched by Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) president Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir, will be housed at the Penang International Squash Centre. 

Mokhzani promised that it would not be the only academy in the country.  

“I am proud that Penang have successfully got their academy off the ground, said Mokhzani who has emphasised on development since taking over as SRAM president. “We aim to have five academies in the country by 2005. 

“Already we are talking to Pahang about an academy there. I understand that they have already identified a site for it. 

IMPRESSIVE: Squash Rackets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) president Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir (left), showing his gursts the logo of the academy. Beside him is Director of Mulpha International Denis Low, Penang Chief Minister's political secretary Teng Chang Yeow and Squash Rackets of Penang's chairman S.T Oh.

“That is very promising. Apart from these two states, we are also seriously looking at places like Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Sarawak for our academies.' 

The squash academy of Penang, formed as a division of the Squash Rackets Association of Penang (SRAP), is tailored towards the development of squash at grassroots level and to create a centre of excellence for their squash players. 

The academy will receive an annual contribution of RM200,000 for the next three years from Mulpha-Head and Mudajaya Corporation Berhad. The Penang State Sports Council have also promised an annual grant of RM30,000. 

For SRAP, a development centre is actually old win in a new bottle. Its secretary Linda Geh said the state junior training programmes have been in existence for more than 10 years now. 

“From just a handful of 10 initial players, I am proud that we have now a crop of 140 players under our wings,” said Linda. “It is our hope that we can one day produce players who can become world champions.” Nicol David is a former world junior champion. 

The other notable players from the SRAP stable include top juniors like Elvinn Keo, Nabilla Ariffin, Shenny Ong, Nessrine Ariffin, Low Wee Nee and Scottish Under-12 champion Low Wee Wern. 

There was more good news for SRAM yesterday. Mulpha-Head have promised a RM2.5 million contribution towards their projects for the next five years. 

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