Aira and Aifa Azman lead Malaysia’s best BJO outing
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Team Malaysia returned from their most successful British Juniors outing to a rousing welcome at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The team of youngsters had returned with four titles from the girls and a third placing in the boy’s under-15.
Four girls, all hailing from Kedah, a northern state in Malaysia, took home the under-13, 15, 17 and 19 titles. The quartet was all students of Kedah coach Cheong Pak Kau who has in recent years been unearthing great squash talent.
Sivasangari Subramaniam capped off her illustrious junior career with a win in the girls under-19 after defeating Japan’s first ever British Junior finalist Satomi Watanabe. Her win was especially sweet and has silenced many critics who felt that the Japanese should have been the top seed given her fine run at the World Championships last year.
While Sivasangari look set to leave the junior circuit, Sehveetrraa Kumar seem to be only starting hers as she captured her first major title in the girls under-13.The joint-third seed did this convincingly, winning the title without dropping a single game.
But it was the feat of Aira and Aifa Azman that stole the show in Birmingham with a sister double.
Aifa Azman won her third British Juniors, running away with the under-17 title after she dominated top seed American Marina Stefanoni in straight games.
Aira Azman took the title in the girl’s under-15 despite bowing out in five tough games, after her opponent was disqualified after the match, for throwing up in court in the fifth.
Victory in the event also came with a bonus as mom Anis Haniza Ahmad had earlier threw a challenge to her youngest daughter to win the title and be rewarded with a trip to South Korea.
“Aira is a huge fan of Korean entertainment and she wanted to go for this Wanna One (a Korean boy band) event, but the tickets were sold out, so I thought hard and I threw her a challenge to win the British Juniors, and I’ll take her to a holiday in Korea instead. Honestly, I didn’t expect her to win this year but it’s great that she did and of course, I’m going to honour this promise of mine and even take Aifa along!” said the proud mom.
As we pen this, the sisters have already left on a morning flight for their trip on Thursday (11 Jan) morning.
Aira, Aifa and eldest sister Aika, make up one of the most successful squash families in Malaysia. A former full-time player who is now enrolled in the University of Malaya chasing her degree, Aika was a former world number 80 and is very much responsible for leading the pack.
Mom Anis pointed out, “Back then, when Aika was just 9 years old, she had to choose a core sport as part of her school curriculum. She picked squash as it was one of the few indoor games and the training ground was not far from home. Her sisters began following her to the courts daily and eventually, they both took to the game and the rest is history as they say.”
Anis, who watched her daughters in action via WhatsApp live, was on the edge of her seat for many nights (given the time difference). She was however, mighty pleased with her daughters.
“Obviously I am very happy and grateful with their achievements; winning in the same year especially makes it sweeter. I was in Sheffield with them last year, but this year, their grandmother went instead.
Aifa’s game in the quarters was worrying and it could be because of the long layoff she had after the South East Asian Games where she got injured. But she was exceptional in the semis and final.
Aira, on the other hand, she’s showing a lot more maturity in her game and her desire to win is evident, especially in beating the top seed.”
Malaysia’s other medal came from Muhammad Amir Amirul Azhar, who won bronze after he crashed out in the semis through a close five-game battle.
The Malaysian juniors are all part of the CIMB Foundation (the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of CIMB Bank) programme, who have long been a strong supporter of Malaysian Squash.
CIMB Foundation chief executive officer Datuk Hamidah Naziadin advised the national juniors to continue reaching for greater heights.
“I’m extremely proud to see five of the CIMB Foundation-supported athletes clinch four titles at the British Juniors,” said Hamidah.
“Their achievements speak volumes of their discipline and determination to compete at the international stage,” she added.
G11:  Amina Orfi (Egy) bt  Jana Galal (Egy) 11-8, 11-7, 11-8 (27m)
B11:  Ahmed Rashed (Egy) bt [5/8] Mohamed Zakaria (Egy) 9-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-3 (28m)
G13: [3/4] Sehveetrraa Kumar (Mas) bt [3/4] Fayrouz Abouelkheir (Egy) 11-7, 11-9, 11-9 (27m)
B13:  Jonah Bryant (Eng) bt  Islam Kouratam (Egy) 11-2, 11-5, 11-6 (22m)
G15: [5/8] Aira Azman (Mas) bt  Sana Ibrahim (Egy) 11-8, 11-5, 10-12, 6-11, 4-2 disqualified
B15:  Sam Todd (Eng) bt [3/4] Neel Joshi (Ind) 8-11, 16-14, 11-0, 14-12 (37m)
G17:  Aifa Azman (Mas) bt  Marina Stefanoni (Usa) 11-7, 11-5, 11-9 (27m)
B17:  Mostafa Asal (Egy) bt  Omar El Torkey (Egy) 11-4, 11-6, 11-5 (38m)
G19:  Sivasangari Subramaniam (Mas) bt  Satomi Watanabe (Jpn) 12-10, 11-7, 11-9 (33m)
B19:  Marwan Tarek (Egy) bt  Victor Crouin (Fra) 11-6, 13-11, 11-7 (48m)
Pictures by BJO Squash