PETALING JAYA: Top girls’ singles player Lydia Cheah will be banking on home support once again to go one step better in the Asian Junior Badminton Championships at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton (KLBA) Stadium from July 15-22 .
Yesterday, the lanky 18-year-old Lydia was identified as one of Malaysia’s best bets for honours in the championships when the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) announced their squad.
Last year, Lydia made the country proud when she became the first Malaysian to emerge as the runner-up of the girls’ singles event at the KLBA Stadium.
With two years of experience playing in the Asian Junior Championships, Lydia now hopes to finally nail the title.
“With home ground advantage, I will try my best to go one step better,” said Lydia, who is under the guidance of Chinese coach Sun Chenhua.
In her debut in Jakarta in 2004, Lydia was a quarter-finalist.
Although much hope has been placed on Lydia, the Kuala Lumpur lass said that she was bracing for a challenging time.
“This is my third Asian championships but every year there are new faces who emerge as title contenders. I expect strong title contenders from China, India, South Korea and Singapore,” said Lydia, who is ranked 128th in the world.
China’s challenge will be spearheaded by newcomer Liu Jie, who is currently ranked 261st in the world. India will be banking on Philippines Open champion and world number 31 Saina Nehwal.
Singapore’s hope is on world number 34 Xing Aiying and South Korea will be banking on Kim Moon-hi (70th).
Despite being the lowest ranked among all the juniors, Liu Jie is the biggest threat.
At the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney in February this year, she defeated Lydia in the final.
Prior to the Asian Junior Championships, Lydia will be taking part in next week’s Thailand Open. But she has a tough first round opener against Indonesia’s number one Ratnasari in the qualifying tournament.
“It will be a great boost for me ahead of the Asian junior meet if I can make it to the main draw of the Thailand Open. I will give it my best shot,” added Lydia.
Apart from Lydia, Malaysia also have hopes of winning honours in the boys’ doubles and mixed doubles through Mohd Arif Abdul Latif-Vountus Indra Mawan and Tan Wee Kiong-Woon Khe Wei respectively.
Last year, both these pairs emerged as the runners-up.
German junior champions Wee Kiong and Khe Wei, who are currently training under national men’s doubles coach Rexy Mainaky, will certainly be out to stamp their class.
The crafty Arif, touted to be the country’s future star, will be the country’s hope in the boys’ singles. But he may find the going tough with the return of defending champion Tago Kenichi of Japan.
The BAM’s junior programme co-ordinator Hau Kim Tho said that the Asian Junior Championships would provide Malaysia an indication of what to expect during the World Junior Championships in Auckland from Oct 25-Nov 4.
“By virtue of being the hosts, we have named a big squad for the Asian junior meet. Some of them are new faces. We want to gauge our players’ strength against their rivals and see where they stand in their preparation for the World Junior Championships,” said Kim Tho.
For the record, Malaysia’s previous winners in the Asian junior meet were the boys’ doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat-Ong Soon Hock in 2002.
Singles: Mohd Arif Abdul Latif, Vountus Indra Mawan, Teo Kok Siang, Kwan Kam Chung, Lim Fang Yang, Tan Aik Quan, Loo Yik Siang, Iskandar Zulkarnain
Doubles: Lim Khim Wah-Mak Hee Chun, Arif-Vountus, Tan Wee Kiong,-Mohd Lutfi Zaim, Ong Jian Guo-Goh Wei Shen, Yeoh Choong Yee-Chooi Kah Ming, Mohd Syawal Ismail-Iskandar, Jonathan Lee-Goh Jian Hao, Pang Zheng Lin-Lau Win Hwi
Singles: Lydia Cheah, Vivian Ho, Sannatasah Saniru, Tee Jing Yi, Tiffany Chase Currier, Foong Yi Xin, Ong Boon Hui, Ng Sin Er
Doubles: Woon Khe Wei-Goh Liu Ying, Lydia-Jing Yi, Chong Vee Vian-Yeow Mie Xi, Ho Bee Ling-Yvonne Ong Jing Er, Lin Ee Von-Ng Hui Lin, Tiffany-Fong Yi Xin, Ng Si Err-Lai Pei Jing, Sonia Cheah-Yang Li Lian
Mixed doubles: Wee Kiong-Khe Wei, Khim Wah-Hui Lin, Lutfi-Liu Ying, Wei Shen-Sannatasah, Vountus-Mie Xi, Choong Yee-Ee Von, Kam Chung-Vee Vian, Zheng Lin-Yvonne, Kah Ming-Bee Ling, Syawal-Boon Hui, Jian Hao-Yi Xin, Win Hwi-Li Vian.