YOUNGSTERS Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez took the world of tennis by storm last week with their incredible performances in the US Open.
At 18, Raducanu became a Grand Slam champion and the first from England to win it in 44 years.
She defeated a worthy opponent in 19-year-old Fernandez from Canada - in a match that marked the emergence of future stars who will continue to bring the fans, revenue, and attention to the sport.
But young as they may be, their success was not achieved overnight or without any hardships.
The duo have many things in common – they are bright, hard-working, and talented; they have come through good junior programmes; they have a good team behind them; they speak confidently, and what they say reflects good sportsmanship and their quality as players.
In the US too, two of our Malaysian youngsters gave the country something to cheer about in collegiate golf over the last two weeks when the 20-year-olds Liyana Durisic and Zulaikah Nurziana Nasser emerged as winners at the Wolverine International in Michigan and USA Intercollegiate in Alabama respectively.
They too had made many sacrifices, like leaving their families behind, in pursuit of success.
While these tennis and golf youngsters are looking ahead to the future with much hope and determination to excel even further, right at home in Malaysia, shuttler Goh Jin Wei – just one year older than the budding golf stars – has turned her back on it all.
Jin Wei has chosen to give up the sport that she loves and announced her retirement on Monday, which came as a shock to many.
From her junior days, the tiny gem from Penang has been simply outstanding.
Shorter than most of her opponents, she would take part in categories with the bigger girls and get huge satisfaction in beating them.
She did not let her physical disadvantage stop her from toying with her opponents through intelligent play and gung-ho performances.
At 16, she was the country’s national champion.
The two-time world junior champion then went on to save the blushes for Malaysia by winning the solitary badminton gold at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games – when all other favourites wilted under the pressure at home.
I still remember the roar of fans shouting and cheering her on with Jia You! Jin Wei! Jia You! Jin Wei! repeatedly at the almost full Axiata Arena in Bukit Jalil during the semi-finals of the KL Games against the favourite Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand.
She was touted as a future medallist in the Olympics Games but just before the Tokyo Olympics, injuries and health issues affected her form, fire, and self-belief.
She got better just before the start of 2020 but the Covid-19 pandemic delivered a further blow when she was unable to compete – and with her ranking having plummeted from 24 to 128, it became harder.
It’s understandable that Jin Wei is going through a hard time. It’s not easy to revive the fire that had once burnt bright.
On the one hand, she wants to give her best and on the other, as much as she tries, it’s mentally tiring for her battered mind and body to come out from one’s lowest pit.
It’s not that help had not been extended to Jin Wei.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) had offered to give her the best treatment by sending her overseas to look into her injury and there was also an option of taking a short break and switching to another event.
But Jin Wei has to first deal with the tug-of-war in her mind. There will always be factors that one can’t control.
It could range from constant changes, selection issues, an unconducive environment, different coaching styles, and even unkind words hurled by others.
There could be other challenges too. Only the players know the pressures they face.
Physical injuries will heal. Just look at Soniia Cheah – she battled through her injuries to finally make that trip to the Tokyo Olympic Games.
It’s our hope that Jin Wei will get the right advice from those who see her talent and care for her.
Eventually, with good counsel, she may make a U-turn to give her badminton career another shot – and we believe there are many good years ahead of her.
I’m sure the BAM will welcome her back or even give her the blessings to turn pro.
But it all depends on where her heart – and her mind – is.
If it’s not in the game, we can wish her the best to move on.
But if badminton remains her first love, she could yet conquer the world and stand smiling victoriously – as Raducanu did.