Hong Kong and Malaysia dominate Asian awards
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Hong Kong and Malaysia led the honours in the annual Asian Squash Federation Performance and Coaching Awards, with India, Iran, China and Macau also getting recognition.
Hong Kong’s top professionals Max Lee and Annie Au won top accolades as the region’s Outstanding Senior Players. Max, the current world number 16, wins his maiden title deservingly after reaching the semi-finals of the World Series Hong Kong Open in his own backyard last year and a runner’s up medal at the neighbouring Macau Open.
Since breaking into the top 20 in December 2014, Max has never dropped out since and reached a highest world ranking of 12 in December 2015.
Annie Au, meanwhile, wins her third award in this category after her back to back awards in 2012 and 2013. The former world number 6 was a winner at the Otters International in India and like Max, was runner up at the Macau Open.
Malaysia’s World Junior Champion Ng Eain Yow and Sivasangari Subramaniam are top juniors in the region. Eain Yow won the world junior title in August and broke into the top 100 in February this year. He is the third Malaysian to be awarded in this category after Mohd Azlan Iskandar in 2002 and Ivan Yuen in 2007 and 2009.
Sivasangari, a native of Kedah in northern Malaysia, had a dream season on the senior circuit last year, winning a whopping 6 PSA titles. Her fine year saw her jumping 40 places in the world rankings and breaking intot he top 50 in January this year. She also reached the semi-finals at the World Junior Championships in Poland last year.
Major (rtd) S. Maniam, the Director Coaching of Malaysia, was all proud of his young charges.
“It is a fitting award for the best two juniors in terms of performance in the region. Both these players have achieved excellence not only in the juniors, but in the seniors as well. They have excellent work ethics and a great future ahead.”
Pakistan, who had upset top seeds Hong Kong to win the men’s Asian Team Championships Chinese Taipei, were awarded the Outstanding Men’s Team award, while the women’s award went to Hong Kong, who finished joint-third at the World Team’s in Paris.
Max Lee, Leo Au, Yip Tsz Fung and Tang Ming. who make up Hong Kong’s Men’s Asian Team also bagged the Most Improved Team of the Year award.
ASF Coaches Awards
India’s head coach Cyrus Poncha picked up his third Coach of the Year award, having won in 2009 and 2012, in addition to the now defunct Elite Coach of the Year in 2004.
Malaysian Ong Beng Hee was awarded Junior Coach of the Year. The former world number 7 is no stranger to the ASF Awards, having been awarded a record 6 times as Outstanding Player between 2001 to 2008, but this would be his maiden award as a coach.
“It’s nice to be recognised this early in my coaching career. I’ve won the ASF awards a couple of times but this somewhat feels different. Being a coach, I stay on the sidelines and away from the limelight, and to get recognition means people are noticing what I do,” said Beng Hee, who retired from professional squash in 2015.
Macau was awarded their first ever ASF award and joined the Asian elite as their head coach Lim Chee Ming was awarded Development Coach of the Year. The Malaysian native, into his fourth year on the job has most recently brought the World Squash Federation Ambassador Programme to Macau last year.
Wong Wai Chung and Mosoud Ghareh Ziaeddini were also awarded recognition for their work done in newly emerging squash nations China and Iran.
Pictures from Squash Mad archives