WITH Malaysia's badminton talent pool having shrunk over the years, the progress of a handful of players in the National Schools Sports Council (MSSM) championships starting today in Labuan will be closely followed.
These players, who have shown promise on the junior circuit the last few years, have it in them to make it in the senior level.
The meteoric rise by Penang's Goh Jin Wei, 13, should give the BA of Malaysia (BAM) some comfort especially with Malaysia struggling to produce top class women players in the mould of Wong Mew Choo.
Jin Wei showed her pedigree by winning the Division Two women's singles in the recent Kedah Open by beating top national junior Ho Yen Mei and her win was all that more admirable as it was in an Under-21 event.
Jin Wei was peerless in national age group under-12 tournaments and will be playing in the girls' Under-15 singles category where she will be the one to beat.
Last year's Under-15 champion S. Kisona, who is with the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS), is one of the top talents under the national junior programme but will face a daunting task of defending her title with the presence of Jin Wei.
Jin Wei beat Kisona in the Kedah Open with ease, and they are expected to meet in the semi-finals in Labuan. The other semi-final is expected to be between M. Thinaah of Selangor and Johor's Yap Yee.
The boys' singles will see three players battling for the crown.
Defending champion Zairul Nizam Zainuddin, 18, will face a stiff test from Selangor's R. Sathiestharan and Cheam June Wei of Penang, both 16, who have been showing good progress of late.