Malaysia will be sending a big squad to the British Junior Open squash championships in Sheffield next January – and preparation is already in high gear.
A total of 19 players will leave on Dec 23 to compete in the most prestigious junior squash tournament, which will be held from Jan 2-6.
Thirteen players– Ng Eain Yow (above), Mohd Syafiq Kamal, Mohd Farez Izwan, Mohd Hafiz Zhafri, S. Kiven, Darryl Gan (boys); Andrea Lee, Nazihah Hanis, Zoe Foo, S. Sivasangari, Ooi Kah Yan, Aifa Azman and Jessica Kheng – earned their tickets on merit.
Six others – Yong Sue Ann, who is currently pursuing her studies at Harvard University, Aika Azman, Darren Chan, Ong Sai Hung, Harris Ramlee and Amirah Rusyidah – will pay their own way to Sheffield.
And national junior coaches Andrew Cross and Raymond Arnold believe that the players are shaping up nicely despite the school holidays.
The two coaches conducted a national training camp at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil last week for the British Junior Open-bound players and others earmarked for the 2015-2016 World Junior Championships.
“We usually have the non-Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) players come in on occasion … this is the first time in a long while that we’ve had a training camp like this,” said Cross.
“It was a great week of training and I believe most of them learned a lot … in fact, most of them are staying back for another week since it’s the school holidays.
“For us coaches, the camp was beneficial because we could take a closer look at the pool of players in Malaysia.
“As for those going to the British Juniors … they are definitely gearing up for one of the biggest tournaments in their lives and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen the past week, especially in 12-year-old Jessica and Nazihah.”
Malaysia will banking on the 15-year-old Eain Yow, already a two-time British Junior Open champion, to lead the challenge.
He will be looking to equal national No. 1 Ong Beng Hee’s record of three British Junior titles when he competes in the Under-17 category.
Fourteen-year-old Sivasangari is also a top contender in the girls’ Under-15 category, having finished runner-up this year.
She will be boosted by the fact that her conqueror this year – Egypt’s Habiba Mohamed – has moved up to the Under-17 category.
But the national juniors will have one more tournament to play in – the KL Junior Open from Dec 10-15 – before focusing on the British Juniors.