KUALA LUMPUR: National squash player Sharon Wee will get to train under renowned English coach Neil Harvey next year if she breaks into the top 20 in the world rankings by the end of the year.
Squash Racket Association of Malaysia (SRAM) executive director Wong Ah Jit said that training under Harvey was the next step in Sharon's career if she proves herself at the Elite Squash Academy in Amsterdam, run by Australia's former world number two Liz Irving.
Currently, the top two national men players, Ong Beng Hee and Mohd Azlan Iskandar, train under Harvey at the Chingford Academy in London. Harvey also trains world number one Peter Nicol of England.
“We are now waiting for NSC's (National Sports Council) approval for Sharon to be based in Holland where she can receive better training and play high quality matches,” said Ah Jit.
He added that Sharon, who went for a short stint at the same academy last year, would also improve her game by sparring with better players like Australia's Natalie Grinham and Denmark's Ellen Petersen, ranked 10th and 19th in the world respectively. Both are based there.
“If she can be a top 20 player by the end of this year, we will consider her for training under Harvey,” said Ah Jit.
“We have seen how (world number four) Linda Charman (of England) made the jump from the top 20 to the top five in one year under Harvey. It could work for Sharon as well.”
Ah Jit said that Sharon, the world number 26, would take part in about 14 tournaments this year in her bid to improve her rankings.
“From now until June, she will be taking part in the smaller tournaments, like the KL Open, where she is assured or will be able to qualify for the main draw.
“If she shows progress, she can then go for the bigger competitions (like the Hong Kong Open),” he said.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's former two-time world junior champion, Nicol David, is not expected to make an immediate impact when she makes her competitive comeback in the United States at the US$13,000 Bright Lights Las Vegas Open from March 20-23.
The three-time Asian champion went through some rough times when SRAM decided to terminate the contract of her long-time personal coach, Richard Glanfield.
Her world rankings dropped from a record high of 16 and she decided to go on a sabbatical.
The 19-year-old Nicol, however, resumed training in Penang last month and national coach Raymond Arnold said she still needs some time to regain her old form.
“She took a complete break from squash for two months and is now training very hard to get back her physical conditioning and fitness... so we are not expecting too much from her at the moment,” said Raymond.
Raymond added that Nicol, currently ranked 27th in the world, would attend the academy in Amsterdam with Sharon in late March, to get her career back on track.
“Nicol has what it takes to bounce back and she is mentally ready to compete,” said Raymond.
“I'm confident she will be back at her best after a few months of competition.”
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