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Malaysian Squash News Bundle

CIMB reward SRAM success with two-year sponsorship
The huge success of Malaysian squash players — both seniors and juniors — at the international level has prompted CIMB to extend their contract for another two years.

CIMB will continue to contribute RM2mil a year to the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) for their tournaments, administrative expenses and development programmes.

Thank you: CIMB’s Effendy Shahul Hamid (second right) handing over the sponsorship to SRAM deputy president Datuk Syed Mustaffa Syed Ali (second left) as participants of the junior circuit celebrate.

CIMB Group head of group corporate communications Effendy Shahul Hamid said they were pleased with the development and success of the CIMB-sponsored national junior circuits.

“We are also delighted with the Malaysian players for their exceptional performance in the senior and junior tournaments.

“We hope that through the national junior circuits, young players will be able to hone their skills and lift thier performance on court.

“We look forward to extending the contract with SRAM, which expires in June, for another two years,” Effendy said during a ceremony to announce CIMB’s continuation as title sponsors for this year’s national junior circuits.

SRAM deputy president Datuk Syed Mustaffa Syed Ali attributed the squash players’ success to the availability of good coaches, facilities and high-level competitions.

“We would like to thank CIMB for extending their contract for another two years as we need RM2mil a year to carry out our activities,” said Syed Mutaffa.

“We need RM1.3mil to organise the Kuala Lumpur Open and Malaysian Open, RM500,000 a year for junior development programmes and RM200,00 for administrative expenses.”

Malaysian squash has enjoyed tremendous success of late, thanks largely to the exploits of players like Nicol David, Ong Beng Hee, Mohd Azlan Iskandar and Low Wee Wern.

World No. 1 Nicol created history when she won all the 10 Women’s International Squash Players Association (Wispa) tournaments last year. It was the best ever achievement for the Penangite since turning pro in 2000.

National No. 1 men’s player Beng Hee won the Kuala Lumpur Open and Malaysian Open last year.

Malaysia also made a clean sweep of all the four titles in the Asian Championships in Kuwait last February, with Azlan and Nicol bagging the men’s and women’s individual titles apart from the two team crowns.

Wee Wern also shone last year, retaining her Asian junior girls’ title in Busan in July.

Meanwhile, 384 juniors will compete in both the boys’ and girls’ Under-9, Under-11 and Under-13 age-group in the five-legs of the CIMB junior circuit this year.

Each of the junior received a RM10 ang pow from CIMB yesterday.

The first-leg started at the NSC Courts in Jalan Duta yesterday and second-leg will be held in Pahang from April 3-5.

The other legs are in Kedah (from May 1-3), Terengganu (June 19-21) and the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil (July 16-19).

SRAM turn to states for talent
As the well of talent at the national level runs dry, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) is turning to the states for help.

After its own effort to unearth talent through the National Junior Circuit bore little fruit, SRAM is increasingly reliant on its state branches for junior players to represent the country at international tournaments.

At the recent Asian Junior Championships in Chennai for example, four of the eight team members were products of the Selangor SRA junior development programme while two others honed their skills under Penang state coach Allan Soyza.

Such is the perception that talent is going to waste at national level that some states are reluctant to release their players to train under SRAM coaches at Bukit Jalil.

But it is not all doom and gloom for squash at the grassroots if the turnout at the January trials at Selangor SRA-Petaling Jaya City Council development programme at the Astaka courts is any indication.

While pleased with the response, Selangor SRA honorary secretary Mary Ong said the huge turnout, however, forced them to turn away some enthusiastic youngsters as the programme could only cope with a limited number of players.

"We took in 25 promising players who will undergo an orientation programme to test their skill and aptitude. We are still receiving responses but we had to stop the intake due to a shortage of coaches and courts," Mary said.

"This programme has been running successfully for the last 19 years with most of the players from the national side coming from us. One way or another, most of our players have represented the country and we have a new crop coming up."

Over the years, the Selangor programme uncovered talent such as Ong Beng Hee, Michael Soo and Tricia Chuah but more recently Ivan Yuen, Ng Jo Wen, Zul Azri Abd Aziz and Tan Yan Xin helped Malaysia to a clean sweep of titles in Chennai.

Selangor also have Darren Subramaniam, who was seeded first in the recent British Junior Open boys' Under-15, and Yong Sue Ann, a semi-finalist at the 2008 British Junior girls' Under-13, training at Astaka.

From Penang, besides women's World No 1 Nicol David, emerged the Low sisters, Wee Wern and Wee Nee, with the former winning the British Junior Under-19 and Asian Junior titles this year.

Bug forces Beng Hee out
Illness has forced Ong Beng Hee to withdraw from tomorrow's Swedish Open PSA Tour tournament in Linkoping which could give him less time than he wanted to defend his Kuala Lumpur Open title next month.

Beng Hee has yet to fully recover from a stomach bug which caused him to bow out tamely in the second round to Australian David Palmer at the Tournament of Champions in New York last week.

The defeat meant he dropped one rung to 11th in the latest world rankings but the National No 1 thought it was best to skip the five-star Swedish Open, where he was seeded third and could have expected to meet World No 1 Karim Darwish in the semi-finals.

"I've pulled out of the Swedish Open as I'm not quite fit to play. I fell sick in New York and the virus left me sapped of energy," said Beng Hee, who turned 29 yesterday, in a mobile sms.

While health concerns came first for the Malaysian, he also hopes to recover his strength in time for his home tournament on March 4-7.

"I will be returning to Kuala Lumpur soon. I'm still recovering but I hope to return to training as soon as possible and get ready for the KL Open," added Beng Hee.

Beng Hee may have slipped in the rankings but Azlan Iskandar's run to the quarter-finals in New York saw him move up one spot to 12th, only 22 points adrift of his compatriot, while national No 3 Nafiizwan Adnan improved one rung to 57th.

Malaysia now have five men in the top-100 after Nafzahizam Adnan reached a career high 97th, up from 103rd, behind 82nd-ranked Asyraf Azan, who gained five places.

On the women's side, Nicol David maintained her status as World No 1 for the 31st consecutive month and 34 in total, maintaining a near 2,000-point lead over Natalie Grainger of the Netherlands.

Sharon Wee stemmed a slide in the rankings by moving up two spots to 23rd while Delia Arnold continued her climb by improving two places to 26th.

British Junior Open Under-19 and Asian Junior champion Low Wee Wern broke into the top-40 for the first time when she moved up five rungs to 37th.