Ong’s academy set to take squash to new heights in China

Branching east: Ong Beng Hee (second from left) at a training session at the Arlen Specter US Squash Centre in Philadelphia.

PETALING JAYA: Former national champion Ong Beng Hee will be China’s gain and Malaysia’s loss as he starts a new chapter by setting up his squash academy in Beijing.

The former world No. 7, who has a wealth of coaching experience, has just completed a successful stint as the head coach of the United States national team since 2021 and is now set to take the sport to new heights in China with his new academy, Dream Squash.

Beng Hee returns to Asia with solid credentials. He transformed the US men’s and women’s players.

Under his guidance, the US women’s team finished runners-up while the men’s finished in the World Championships in Tauranga, New Zealand last year which was the country’s best finish at the major event.

Timothy Brownell was ranked world No. 120 when Beng Hee took charge in 2021 but has risen to No. 29 with Beng Hee also guiding him to reach the quarter-finals of the British Open in Birmingham for the first time last week.

Many had anticipated that he would return home after the US stint to boost the Malaysian squash scene. However, with squash growing rapidly in China after the sport was announced as a medal sport at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, Beng Hee has taken on the challenge of starting his academy in Beijing.

China are still at infancy level in squash but with Beng Hee’s academy there, it would not be a surprise if they see a rapid rise and eventually challenge Malaysia and other Asian nations at the continental level.

It may be too early to judge if they can match the top players from Egypt and other traditional squash nations but they are likely to create a new wave, especially with Beng Hee’s academy.

The 44-year-old Beng Hee will of course not be China’s head coach but his academy is likely to see the rise in the number of players at development and elite level in the country.

“It has been an honour to have served as US national head coach. I truly enjoyed the experience of working with US Squash, gaining much experience over the past three years. My sincere gratitude goes out to the players, management team, colleagues, sponsors and parents for their support,” said Beng Hee.

“Over the past three years, both the women’s and men’s teams have achieved their highest positions ever, and I am proud to have contributed to that progress in such a short period.

“I am now excited to announce the launch of my own academy. The opportunity to start this academy arose after meeting several enthusiastic parents seeking a better, more systematic training structure for their children.

“Together with dedicated parents, we have founded the Dream Squash academy, with Beijing as our first centre, with plans to expand to other regions in China.

“Since squash became an Olympic sport in 2023, it has gained increasing recognition in China, with a rapid rise in the number of young players.

“The focus is to provide the young players a structured training programme, a platform to support this game from Grassroots to Elite.

Beng Hee also added that his academy will become a squash hub in Asia and will be open to players from all countries, including Malaysia, to take their progress to the next level.

With the goal of allowing players from all over the world to use their facilities, Beng Hee said more centres would be opened in China in the future.

“We are passionate about creating a hub for the Asian Squash Community,” he said.

“With my experience as a former player and coach in Malaysia, Qatar, and the USA, I am confident we can offer the squash community exciting opportunities to improve their game and achieve their goals.

“The resources and potential here are enormous, and Dream Squash is confident in its ability to help development of squash in China, which will ultimately benefit the sport internationally.

“During my time in the US, I established strong relationships with the American School Squash Association (ASSA). We look forward to future collaborations with ASSA.”

Malaysia can also benefit from Beng Hee’s academy by sending players there for regular stints as it is expected to be frequented by top professionals.

In fact, Beng Hee had always invited Malaysian players to train with the top US players. However, such opportunities may not have been used by the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) in the past.

Britain and the US remain ideal destinations for Malaysians to take their squash to a different level but the cost factor has restricted the number of the players training there.

Thanks to Beng Hee’s initiative, there will now be a more affordable solution nearer to home. Dream Squash in China could be a dream come true for our players.

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