PETALING JAYA: Ng Eain Yow was just one match away from equalling Ong Beng Hee’s record of three titles at the British Junior Open squash championships.
The final, however, proved to be one hurdle too many for the 15-year-old Eain Yow as he lost 8-11, 11-9, 5-11, 7-11 to top seed Youssef Soliman of Egypt in the Under-17 category.
It didn’t matter in the end because Eain Yow has proven himself to be the future of Malaysian squash with a matured performance and not dropping a single set until the final.
That was his third final appearance in four years and Eain Yow has already won twice – the Under-13 in 2011 and Under-15 in 2013. It is only a matter of time before the Bukit Jalil Sports School student claims the Under-17 title and the much-coveted Under-19 crown.
There was double joy for Malaysia in the girls’ event when S. Sivasangari and Aifa Azman came up tops in the Under-15 and Under-13 categories – winning tough five-setters against Egyptian opponents.
Their wins ensured that Malaysia will return home with two titles – second only to Egypt, who claimed five of the eight titles at stake, including four all-Egyptian finals.
It’s the best result Malaysia has enjoyed at the British Juniors since 1996, when Beng Hee and Nicol David claimed the Under-16 and Under-14 titles respectively.
Despite Eain Yow falling short in the final, national junior coach Andrew Cross was a happy man as he believes that most of the 19 Malaysians who competed at the British Juniors exceeded expectations.
“Eain Yow may have lost but he did very well to make the final of the Under-17 category a year early,” said Cross.
“Aifa and Sivasangari played very well and this is the first time we’ve had two winners and a runner-up on the same day.
“Overall, progress has been made since the Pontefract Junior meet and this whole trip has been very successful. No one would have believed we would win all eight titles in Pontefract and two here in Sheffield before we made the trip.
“Apart from the trio who made the final, the rest all performed beyond expectations as well. I have to say that 11-year-old Jessica Kheng, who played in the Under-13 category, has very good potential.
“Mohd Syafiq Kamal and Darren Chan also did well by finishing 10th and 11th in the Under-19 category ... also a year early. It was only in 2012 that Syafiq was placed about 29th in the Under-17s.
“We also have the likes of S. Kiven in the boys’ Under-13 who also made the top eight ahead of time while Andrea Lee, Zoe Foo (girls’ Under-17) and Ooi Kah Yan (girls’ Under-15) can all still play in the same age group.”
Cross stressed that the juniors’ rapid development had a lot to do with the commitment of the CIMB Foundation, which funds the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia’s (SRAM) junior development programme.
“CIMB is very important to our programme because the funding comes from them, as well as the National Sports Council (NSC). Without these two parties, our kids will not be where they are today,” said Cross.