NEWLY-crowned Sukma girls singles badminton champion Lydia Cheah has the potential to be a top player but her entry into the national back-up squad will have to wait until next year.
The Bukit Jalil Sports School student harbours hopes of moving up the ranks but she will have to put her plans on hold to concentrate on her studies.
I will be sitting for my SPM examinations at the end of the year. I guess I will only have a chance to break into the national team and concentrate on full-time training after that, said Lydia, who was a class above the rest of the field in the just concluded Kedah Sukma tournament.
The 17-year-old Kuala Lumpur shuttler stands at 1.75m and she took full advantage of her height to make overhead smashes with devastating accuracy.
Lydia, who is now the fifth ranked Malaysian in the world rankings at number 121, added that there was still a lot more room for her to improve on her game.
I will compete in the Malaysian and Singapore Open tournaments later this month. I have to play in the qualifying rounds and I hope I can make it to the main draw to help me get among the top 100 in the world by the end of the year, she said.
Lydia is also down to compete in the Asian Junior Championships, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur from July 3-9.
Negri Sembilans Mohd Shafiq Jamaluddin will also be looking to use his success in Sukma as a springboard to reach greater heights.
The 20-year-old Shafiq did what elder brother Hazwan Jamaluddin failed to do in Seremban two years ago when he beat former national junior champion Azrihanif Azahar of Selangor in straight games to win the boys singles gold medal on Friday.
Hazwan was the runner-up to Kedahs Kuan Beng Hong in the last Sukma in Seremban in 2004.
En route to the final, Shafiq, who is from the Project 2010-2012 squad, eliminated top seed Lim Kenn in straight games in the quarter-finals and Chong Li Qun of FT in three games in the semi-finals.
Shafiq is also delighted over his success achieved at the expense of more established national juniors, including Tan Chun Seang, Chong Wei Feng, Liew Daren, Li Qun and Lim Kenn.
I had to do well in Sukma because I knew my position in the national junior squad under coach Rashid Sidek hung in the balance, he said.
I hope winning the Sukma gold medal will help me keep my place in the team.
A review of the players may be done after the Malaysian and Singapore Opens. I will be playing in both meets and hope to get past the qualifying rounds.
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