Mother’s love knows no boundaries for Harvard-bound and Princeton-bound Penang squash players


A MOTHER is a very special person in our life. No matter how tough the going gets, she endures everything as she raises her child or children.

For Lim Bee Ling and Bharati Suresh Chand, they have no doubt put in a lot of effort in raising two children each together with their respective husbands.

So, when Bee Ling’s daughter, Teoh Li Yen, 20, and Bharati’s son, Ishant Shah Atul Kumar, 19, were recently accepted into the United States’ prestigious Princeton University (New Jersey) and Harvard University (Massachusetts) respectively, the two mothers were understandably brimming with pride too.

Both are grateful to the Squash Rackets Association of Penang (SRAP) in particular for their children’s squash achievements that played a big part in them successfully gaining entry into the Ivy League universities besides their academic excellence.

They have spent countless hours, ferrying their children to the Nicol David International Squash Centre in Bukit Dumbar after their classes and staying back for as long as three hours or more daily until the training session ended.

The interview session with Buletin Mutiara recently.

“I wouldn’t say this is a sacrifice because I really enjoyed doing what I did for the past 12 years,” Lim, a housewife, told Buletin Mutiara in a recent interview.

“I am really happy to have a good relationship or bonding with my children while we are in the car. To me, it is fun to take both my kids to school, cook for them and then send them for tuition and training.

Li Yen during one of the tournaments.

“Because our house is quite a distance from Li Yen’s school, I drove her straight to the squash centre.

“It’s a very nice and quiet squash centre. There, she could shower and do her homework. And she is happy to also mix with students from different schools, different races and backgrounds. Most of her friends in her school are Chinese.

Li Yen with her mother.

“Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Li Yen to focus on her studies and squash. But through her perseverance, she got her breakthrough.”

Bharati echoed Lim’s opinion that it was not a sacrifice as she also truly enjoyed bringing Ishant to the squash centre for training.

“The Nicol David International Squash Centre is like our second home. I can tell you that it is so important to find a squash centre with a conducive environment. And I will say the squash centre here in Bukit Dumbar is really one of the best.

“The coaches here are the best and they really accommodate the kids. No matter what, they are so patient.

Ishant (left) with his family during their outing.

“I have got a message for those who have children and want them to pursue squash. Give them the space and let them go.

“Thinking back, Li Yen’s mum and I never interfered in anything that happened in the court. I see that as a little distinction between us and some parents. We gave our kids to the coaches.

“We allow our children to grow and make their decisions. As parents, we are like their supporting arm.

“We should not restrict our children from carrying out their passion, but strongly encourage them in whatever that they do.

“As mothers, we should let our children explore their favourite sports.

“And when I think back, this is our biggest joy. We reap the fruit of it today and we’re very proud of them. They grew up together and played together,” Bharati said.

She was also full of praises for coaches like Aaron Soyza and Khoo Teng Hin, and also national squash player Low Wee Wern.

“Our children have the privilege to play with Wee Wern. Who gets the chance to play with our Malaysian No. 1 and world No. 5? They were so lucky to be in the court with her,” Bharati added.

She also shared one unforgettable experience when their children were selected for their first outstation tournament.

A lot of things were packed into the children’s bags, including packets of instant noodles, but when the coaches found that out, some of the food had to be taken out.

“Penang is the only state that does not allow their players to have snacks in any tournament. No Maggie mee, no chocolates allowed.

“That was very shocking to us. Because of the coaches, we have to change the children’s diet.

“We learned the importance of nutritious food for their tournament. And when you have these dedicated coaches, you have the confidence to let them go.

“Sports really teaches them patience, determination, discipline and perseverance. Resilience is also very important.”

SRAP vice-president Linda Geh said her association was very proud of Li Yen and Ishant furthering their studies in US, just as several local talented players before them.

“We’re like another big family. Some of the parents bring their children for training. They trust the coaches. But there are a few parents who want the coaches to do this and do that.

“Since 2000, SRAP has sent three coaches – Aaron Soyza, Allan Soyza and Khoo Teng Hin – to the WSF (World Squash Federation) Level 3 coaching course.

“I see they are very dedicated. We also want to equip our coaches with the highest level squash skills.

“From the mothers’ sharing, you can see that our coaches are taking the right approach.

“I hope other squash players can strive hard and emulate both Li Yen and Ishant.

“I also hope somebody would follow players like Nicol and Wee Wern to share their stories,” Geh said.

Khoo, who is the administrator and full-time coach of the Squash Academy of Penang, chipped in: “When the parents entrust their children to us, we do what we can to help them become a better player and also guide them through life.

“This is all their hard work. We encourage them to excel in squash. When they get the opportunity to study abroad, we are happy for them because this is their life.”

The Penang government recently gave a special RM3,000 incentive to Li Yen, Ishant and another Penang student, Herman Leong Xin Yang, 20, for also being accepted into Harvard University.

Li Yen said she has no regrets since taking up squash at the age of eight.

She and her brother had signed up for a taekwondo class but by a twist of fate, her brother broke his collar bone just a day before it began. They then later switched to squash and found the game to their liking.

Li Yen first represented Penang in 2018 Sukma. She won team gold in the 10th Asean School Games in 2018, girls’ doubles silver in the 2019 Ohana National Squash Championship (Premier Plate Event) and gold in the 2021 Penang Squash Championships.

She thanked her classmates and teachers from SJKC Chong Cheng and SMJK Heng Ee for helping her when she had to skip classes.

Li Yen

“Thanks too to my Mum, my taxi driver,” she said smilingly.

Li Yen, who had finished her A Levels at Inti College last May, will take up either a civil or mechanical engineering course in Princeton University and also represent the university in squash.

After finishing her degree course, she said she would only consider whether to play squash professionally, find a job or continue with a Master’s degree.

For Ishant, his mind is on playing squash professionally after his studies at the Harvard University.

He said he would only decide on his course after exploring his options in the first year. Chances are he will take up a course related to biology and pharmacology.

“I don’t plan to stop playing squash during Harvard or after Harvard. I want to keep on improving. Sure, I will be in touch with my coaches.

“Hopefully, if everything goes well, I want to make squash my career after Harvard, but I still want to get a degree. At the moment I want to graduate CIMP (Canadian International Matriculation Programme) with full grades,” Ishant, a vegetarian, said.

When he was a hyperactive boy, Ishant first studied at SK Minden Heights and then SMK Bukit Jambul.

He started playing squash at the age of seven and represented Penang at the 2016 Sukma.


In his debut in the British Junior Open in 2016, Ishant pulled a hamstring and could not continue his second round match against an American counterpart.

More troubles awaited. He later suffered a slipped disc and a knee injury.

But he said seeing how dedicated Wee Wern was when she underwent rehab inspired him to never give up.

Ishant fully recovered in late 2018 and finished third in the KL International Junior Under-17.

Ishant also won gold at the 10th Asean School Games 2018 and gold at the Under-17 HCL Indian Junior Open 2019.

Ishant (left) competing in one of his squash competitions.

The highlight of his career was the 2020 British Junior Open where he finished runner-up to Sam Todd.

Exciting challenges lie ahead of both Li Yen and Ishant, whose mothers will surely continue to provide all the encouragement for them to do well.

Story by Edmund Lee
Pix by Ahmad Adil Muhamad