AIFA Azman was emotionless on court but kept glancing at her younger sister Aira.
Birthday girl Aira’s calming presence helped – and Aifa stayed cool to deliver the winning point for Malaysia to dethrone defending champions Hong Kong 2-1 in the women’s team final at HOC Squash Centre yesterday.
Aifa had a lot on her shoulders in the crucial match.
Rachel Arnold had lost the first match 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 6-11 to Hong Kong’s Tong Tsz Wing but Malaysia clawed their way back into contention again when S. Sivasangari overcame Ho Tze Lok 11-5, 11-8, 11-6.
It was Asian Games debutant Aifa’s turn to step up.
She responded by taking the first two games 11-5, 11-8. Chan Sin Yuk then gave Malaysia some anxious moments when fought back to win the third game 13-11.
But there was no looking back once Aifa got her rhythm and closed the win at 11-8 to ensure Malaysia regained the gold they missed out in Indonesia in 2018.
“It was my first deciding match in my whole career, so I was a little bit nervous as this is the final. But I had a good game plan and I was confident as I have never lost to her before,” said Aifa.
“It was scary in the fourth set as my opponent was closing in but I am glad it turned out well for me.
“I was also confident with the whole team supporting me, especially my sister. Her presence helped. She calms me down, that’s just how she is. When she’s around I feel really calm and ready to play.
“When she comes, all my burden and nerves goes away.
“It’s also her 19th birthday and we wanted to win the gold together to celebrate,” said Aifa.
Despite her loss, Rachel was all smiles as she has joined her sister Delia Arnold as an Asian Games gold medal winner.
Delia won the women’s team event in the 2010 and 2014 in Guangzhou and Incheon respectively.
“I have mixed emotions. I fought hard but did not win my match but my teammates came back to save the tie,” said Rachel.
“I thought I was okay going in, but when I went in, I was a bit shaky. I think it was just nerves.
“But I trusted my teammates to win this. It’s my first Asian Games, so it feels special to win the team gold,” said Rachel, who added that she exchanged texts with Delia on the eve of the final.
“She wished me good luck, just told me to go for it and not to worry too much.
“Hopefully, I will get more gold than her after this,” said Rachel in jest.
The gold was Malaysia’s third in the Hangzhou Asian Games.