Wednesday October 24, 2012
Not much expected of the juniors this time around
PETALING JAYA: Last year, a Zulfadli Zulkifli-inspired Malaysian juniors achieved their best-ever team result in the badminton World Junior Championships when they swept past powerhouse South Korea 3-0 to win the elusive team title for the first time in history.
Zulfadli then went on to clinch the boys’ singles title for the first time in Malaysian history while Nelson Heg-Teo Ee Yi continued the country’s fine tradition in the doubles department by bringing home the individual title for the fourth straight year.
Unfortunately, this year’s national junior squad are significantly weaker compared to last year’s as they will not have Zulfadli and Nelson-Ee Yi to bail them out of trouble when the tournament begins in Chiba, Japan, tomorrow.
Instead of Zulfadli, the team will rely on two 17-year-olds – Soong Joo Ven and Soo Teck Zhi – to spearhead the team.
Joo Ven certainly has a bright future ahead of him and will be doing his best to live up to the high standards set by Zulfadli.
The national junior champion has already bagged the Selangor Open Division Two title and came close to winning the Asian Junior title before falling short in the final.
Teck Zhi, on the other hand, skipped the Asian Juniors this year but made up for it by winning the Asean and Asian Schools individual titles.
However, junior singles coach Zhou Kejian believes Joo Ven and Tech Zhi are still “a work in progress”.
“The standard of our junior squad this year is without doubt a lot lower,” said Kejian.
“Zulfadli was an exceptional player and the doubles squad were a lot stronger last year.
“Joo Ven and Teck Zhi are good but they still have a long way to go ... their game is not polished enough.
“Still, I expect them to perform and Joo Ven, in particular, will have to reach the high standards he has set for himself since the Asian Juniors.”
Malaysia have been drawn in Group Y1 with France, Vietnam and Ukraine and will open their title defence against the Ukrainians tomorrow. Group Y2 comprises Indonesia, Holland, Ireland and Canada.
Malaysia and Indonesia are expected to top Y1 and Y2 respectively and meet in the second stage, with the winners earning a potential semi-final clash against either China or Hong Kong.
The other top contenders in the fray are hosts Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and India.
“Although the team is weaker, I do not expect them to give up without a good fight,” said Kejian.
“It is important that we win all our group matches and take out a very strong Indonesia side in the second stage before we can think ahead.”
Besides Joo Ven and Teck Zhi, the other singles shuttlers in the team are Tan Kian Meng and Chong Yee Han. The doubles pairs consist of Darren Isaac Devadass-Ong Yew Sin, Tan Wee Gieen-Tai An Khang and Dede Ryan Phillip-Marcel Simon.
Boys’ singles: Soong Joo Ven, Soo Teck Zhi, Tan Kian Meng, Chong Yee Han. Boys’ doubles: Darren Isaac Devadass-Ong Yew Sin, Tan Wee Gieen-Tai An Khang, Dede Ryan Phillip-Marcel Simon, Chua Khek Wei.
Girls’ singles: Lim Yin Fun, Lim Chiew Sien, Yap Rui Chen, Ho Yen Mei.
Girls’ doubles: Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean, Joyce Choong-Yap Cheng Wen, Cheah Yee See-Chin Kah Mun. Erica Khoo.