POWER SHOW: Malaysians win seven of 10 titles
GEORGE TOWN: MALAYSIAN juniors made the country proud by winning seven of the 10 titles in the PBA 10th Penang Malaysian Junior Open Championship 2012 at the Nicol David International Squash Centre Bukit Dumbar in George Town, recently.
The Kedah and Bukit Jalil Sports School players were the most successful, grabbing three titles each while Sabah collected the other. Pakistan and Hong Kong won two and one respectively.
Penang were expected to capture at least three titles, but faltered. Girls Vanessa Raj Gnanasigamani (Under-19) finished fourth, Celine Yeap (Under-17) took silver, while Nur Aliah Izzati Muhammad Anis and Zetty Zawanah Zulkiflee (both Under-13) were losing semi-finalists.
The five-day tournament was hosted by Squash Racquets Association of Penang (SRAP) on behalf of Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) while Penang Water Authority (PBA) was the main sponsor.
More than 500 players -- 225 foreigners and the rest Malaysians, from 12 countries competed in the five-day championship, which was hosted as the Malaysian Junior Open, on behalf of SRAM, after a lapse of many years.
Competing countries were Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Iran and Malaysia. Categories contested were the Boys' and Girls' Under-11, Under-13, Under-15, Under-17 and Under-19.
The event was part of the Asian Squash Federation Junior Series Gold Event and also, for the first time, a World Squash Federation Tier Two World Junior Circuit and Ranking programme.
Meanwhile, national coach Allan Soyza said he was very impressed with Girls' Under-17 champion, BJSS' Teh Min Jie, who despite only being seeded joint fifth-eighth, performed strongly to defeat Rachel Arnold and Celine Yeap, the top two seeds, in the semi-finals and final respectively.
He was also impressed with Boys' Under-15 champion, Ng Eain Yow of BJSS, and said both players worked very hard and delivered as when and where it mattered.
Allan said the competition was getting tougher and the players have to work very hard in order to keep pace with players from other countries, especially Egypt and Hong Kong.
He also acknowledged that Kedah had been doing very well, especially in the last five years where their juniors were winning junior competitions and knocking on the national team's door.
Allan said the development programme for squash was good, but hard work was needed if Malaysia wanted to remain in the top league.