SEA Games : Singapore regain men’s team title after 22 years
By Alex Wan – Squash Mad Asian Bureau Editor
Hosts Malaysia won 6 of the 9 golds on offer at the squash event of the 29th South East Asian, or SEA Games for short, and it was considered a major failure no matter how one justifies it. Despite fielding a team of young players, the loss to Philippines, a nation who does not even have public courts, in the men’s team semi-final has to go down as a national embarrassment. Unfortunately, the loss of that one gold medal washes out the success of the 6 won. While Malaysian team manager Nik Razeen Daud said “We are not perfect, but we’re generally happy with the six golds,” the sentiment surely isn’t shared by the team’s players, coaches and fans.
Host Malaysia’s decision to bench second ranked Syafiq Kamal continues to puzzle many, as he and top ranked Ng Eain Yow were to contest in the individual event later in the evening. It wouldn’t be fair to the latter in this case. The Malaysian team maintained it was a team’s joint decision – though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math that none of the two players above would’ve agreed. Whatever the reason was, quite simply, it was downright bad management decision on Malaysia’s part. It is the semi-final stage, and you don’t mess around with the line-up. The ability to see a silver lining in the loss, in that there is more reason for Philippines (who will host the next games) seem to suggest how seriously they took the loss.
With Malaysia dumped, this meant there would be a new men’s team champion after 22 years of Malaysian stronghold in the event. Singapore went in as the favourites, but they had giant-slaying Philippines for company.
Pang Ka Hoe, Singapore’s number 3 and SEA Games debutant, had no trouble taking out Reymark Begornia, winning in three quick games. Things got interesting when Robert Garcia, easily player of the tournament, not to mention participating in every event he qualified to play, drew level when he edged Singapore’s Benedict Chan 3-1 to set up the deciding tie. As hard as David Pelino tried, Singapore’s Samuel Kang was simply a class above. After converting the match point, Samuel dropped his racket and wrapped his arms over his head in disbelief and shock. It was an emotional victory for the islanders, and where better to secure the gold than in Malaysia, who has long been their regional arch-rivals.
In the women’s teams, a young Malaysian side comprising of all juniors brushed aside Singapore. That to, did not come easy. With the playing order at 3-1-2, Ooi Kah Yan first took to court against experienced Pamela Chua. It was clear Kah Yan was a bundle of nerves from the start and Pamela drew her years of experience to edge Singapore ahead with a 3-2 scoreline. Andrea Lee was next on court and took a while to get settled, getting over a close first game against Mao Shi Hui, after which she found her range and was no match for the Singaporean. In the decider, 15-year old Aifa Azman was ice-cool and easily dispatched Sneha Sivakumar, and the title to the hosts.
A day earlier, in the individual singles events, they were all-Malaysian encounters, with former world junior champion Ng Eain Yow beating good friend Syafiq Kamal in three entertaining games. The pair must’ve have played each other hundreds of times, having been training buddies since young. While Syafiq may be the more exciting player with more flair in his game, the consistency and lower error rate of Eain Yow’s shots had won him the title.
World number 61 Sivasangari Subramaniam won the women’s even with an emphatic display to dethrone defending champion Rachel Arnold. The teenager did not give much away, hitting every shot with such accuracy and made Rachel work, and in each of the three games, Rachel simply wilted in the end. Despite donning elder sister Delia’s famous pink socks, it was simply Sivasangari’s evening.
Malaysia also dominated the international doubles, winning all three events. Men’s singles finalists Ng Eain Yow and Syafiq Kamal joint forces and blew their opponents aside with relative ease, not dropping a single game en route to the gold medal, beating Singapore’s Pang Ka Hoe and Timothy Leong in the final.
In the women’s doubles, Rachel Arnold and Andrea Lee, a last minute replacement for the injured Aifa Azman, justified their top billing and ousted compatriots Nazihah Hanis and Chan Yi Wen in the final. In the mixed doubles, 2015 men’s singles champion Sanjay Singh Chal combined with women’s singles champion Sivasangari Subramaniam to win gold over compatriots Ryan Pasqual and Andrea Lee, who upset Singapore’s second seeds Pang Ka Hoe and Mao Shi Hui in the last four.
Singapore reigned supreme in the jumbo doubles events. Vivian Rhamanan partnered Samuel Kang to win his second consecutive men’s jumbo doubles gold medal, brushing aside Indonesians Ade Furkon and Agung Wilant.
Mao Shi Hui and Sherilyn Yang both won their maiden SEA Games gold medals when they shocked top seeded Filipino pair Jemyca Aribado and Yvonne Alyssa Dalida. The third seeded Singaporean girls had earlier shocked second seeded Indonesians in the last four.
Malaysia may have finished the SEA Games at the top of the honours list with 6 golds, 4 silvers and 2 bronzes, but the ones really celebrating were Singapore, who returned with 3 golds, 2 silvers and 5 bronzes and Philippines with 2 silvers and 5 bronzes.
About SEA Games Squash
The South East Asian Games is a biennial multi-sport event competed by member nations of the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) community – Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Timor-Leste.
The SEA Games this year for offered a record 9 gold medals – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles, men’s team, women’s team and an additional 2 more in men’s and women’s jumbo doubles. A total of 6 countries participated in squash – Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar and Malaysia.
For decades, it has always been a battle between Singapore and Malaysia for top honours, but in recent years, we’ve seen Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand stepping up to give a much better showing. With Myanmar taking part in the last two editions, the growth of squash is definitely heading towards the right direction in the region.
Results (Finals only)
Ng Eain Yow (MAS) bt Mohd Syafiq Kamal (MAS) 11-4, 11-9, 11-2
Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) bt Rachel Arnold (MAS) 15-13, 13-11, 11-7
Ng Eain Yow/Syafiq Kamal (MAS) bt Pang Ka Hoe/Timothy Leong (SIN) 11-3, 11-6
Andrea Lee/Rachel Arnold (MAS) bt Nazihah Hanis/Chan Yi Wen (MAS) 11-4, 11-10
Sanjay Singh Chal/Sivasangari Subramaniam (MAS) bt Ryan Pasqual/Andrea Lee (MAS) 11-9, 11-10
Men’s jumbo doubles
Vivian Rhamanan/Samuel Kang (SIN) bt Ade Furkon/Agung Wilant (INA) 11-3, 11-3
Women’s jumbo doubles
Mao Shi Hui/Sherilymn Yang (SIN) bt Jemyca Arybado/Yvonne Alyssa Dalida (PHI) 11-5, 11-8
Singapore bt Philippines 2-1
Malaysia bt Singapore 2-1
Pictures by Alex Wan and M. Roslan Hisam