PETALING JAYA: The top doubles pair from Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) - Hoon Thien How-Tan Boon Heong - will be the pair Malaysia are banking on to defend the boys' doubles crown in the Asian Junior Championships at Hwacheon, South Korea.
In the draw for the individual events released yesterday by the Asian Badminton Confederation (ABC) on the eve of the team competition, Thien How-Boon Heong have a chance of at least reaching the semi-finals and hopefully continue Malaysia's winning run in the boys doubles event.
Malaysia were the doubles champions in 1997 (Chan Chong Ming-Jeremy Gan), 1998 (Chan Chong Ming-Teo Kok Seng), 2002 (Koo Kien Keat-Ong Soon Hock).
Two years ago, Kien Keat-Soon Hock were the sole gold medal winner for Malaysia out of the five events in the Asian meet in Kuala Lumpur. The meet was scrapped last year.
The joint third-fourth seeds Thien How-Boon Heong are expected to play Japanese Hayakawa Kenichi-Hayasaki Shuhei, who are seeded joint fifth-eighth, in the quarter-finals.
A win will pit them against second seeds Yoo Yeon-seong-Jeon Jun-bum of South Korea.
In the top half of the draw, top seeds Shen Ye-He Hanbin, should make it to the final barring any upsets.
The Chinese pair's main challengers are teammates Fang Chieh Min-Lee Sheng Mu, Indonesians Putra Adhitya-Agung I Made and Thailand's Swiwath Khoosa-Nahkarin Sukkasem.
Malaysia will also be represented by Au Kok Leong-Khoo Chun Chiat and Azrihanif Azahar-Mohd Hafiz Shahruddin in the boys' doubles. But both are not expected to go far.
Kok Leong-Chun Chiat are expected to play China's Chieh Min-Sheng Mu while Azrihanif-Hafiz are down to play Putra-Agung in the opening match.
While there is a chance to win the boys' doubles, Malaysia will be again hard-pressed to win the elusive boys singles title.
The experienced Azrihanif plays Indonesian Wijanu Markus in the first round.
A win will see him clash with top seed and 18-year-old Chen Jin of China, who won the Polish and French Opens this year.
Four other unseeded Malaysians Lim Kenn, Hafiz, Tan Chun Seang and Chong Wei Feng are expected to face seeded players in the early rounds.
Hafiz and Chun Seang are expected to play second seed Lee Cheol-ho of South Korea and Hong Kong's Wong Wai Hong in the second round respectively. Lim Kenn and Wei Feng are set to meet Singapore's Aaron Tan Wei Kiat and China's Gong Weijie in the third round respectively.
It is set to be an early exit for the Malaysian girls.
The sole singles representative, Anita Kaur Raj, is expected to play second seed Kim Mi-young of South Korea in the last 32. In the doubles, Anita and Haw Chiou Hwee are up against top seeds Pan Pan-Feng Chen of China in the second round.
A record of 274 entries have confirmed their participation for the individual event starting on July 15.
The team event starts today but the Malaysian boys team will not be in action. They have received a first-round bye.