BADMINTON star Goh Jin Wei will not be allowed to represent Penang in the coming Sukma in Ipoh from Sept 9 to 18, thus shattering the state’s hopes of at least a gold medal.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) want Jin Wei, who played in the World Championships in Nanjing, China, from July 30 to Aug 5, to prepare for the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October, instead.
Jin Wei won two golds for Penang in the last Sukma in Sarawak in 2016, winning the women’s singles gold and powering the women’s team to victory. Those were the only two golds won by Penang apart from one silver and one bronze medal.
Now at 18 years old, Jin Wei still qualifies for Sukma (Malaysia Games) that is meant for Under-21 athletes but BAM have put their foot down against her participation despite Penang’s appeal for her release.
Leong (second from right) talking with Penang Sukma shuttlers Fong Hau (second from left) and Ru Guat. With them are Kah (left) and coach Razlan (right).
“It’s a blow to the state who have high hopes of two gold medals,” said Penang badminton team manager Leong Kin Weng.
“She was originally in our team but BAM have other commitments for her like the Japan Open and the Youth Olympics. The Penang State Sports Council (PSSC) made an appeal to have her services but it was shot down. We have no choice as her national duty takes precedence over state selection.
“We accept and respect BAM’s decision. It is also good for Jin Wei’s career. She is now ranked world No. 24 and in order to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, she must be in the top 40. So, she needs to get as many points in the qualifying as possible.”
Jin Wei’s precocious talent was also noticed by Singapore, who wanted to lure her away when she was 12 years old. But Leong managed to convince her parents to keep Jin Wei at home, with assurances of some financial help through the PSSC.
This was the second time BAM had wanted to keep Jin Wei in their stable; the first was under the then coach Morten Frost. But at the last minute, the small-sized shuttler was released to represent Penang and she went on to bring glory to the state in the 2016 Sukma.
Jin Wei made a memorable debut in the World Championships, reaching as far as the third round. First, she swept aside Pai Yu-po of Taiwan 21-8, 21-15 and then claimed the scalp of World No. 16 Aya Ohori 21-18, 22-20 in a nerve-wrecking match. In the third round, she bowed out to defending champion Nozomi Okuhara 21-23, 13-21.
Without Jin Wei, Penang chief coach Razlan Abdullah said they are hoping that national back-up shuttlers Lim Jee Lynn and Lee Shun Mei can rise to the occasion in the women’s individual doubles event.
“We don’t have outstanding individual players and we’re hoping that our men’s team can create some upsets,” said Razlan, who has the distinction of winning the Penang Closed men’s doubles title three times with different partners, namely S. Kesamy (1988), Lim Onn Lye (1993) and Raja Ahmad (1995).
Cheow Kheng (right) putting a junior player through a net play exercise at the Penang Badminton Hall in Bukit Dumbar.
Giving Razlan a hand in the coaching is former international Khaw Cheow Kheng, who himself was an excellent singles player when representing SM Georgetown and the state team before carving a niche for himself as a doubles player with Chuah Han Khim for Malaysia as the second doubles to Razif Sidek and his brother Jailani in the 80s.
During the training session at the Penang Badminton Hall in Bukit Dumbar today, while Razlan was handling the Sukma players and other trainees, Cheow Keong concentrated on coaching the juniors. Also present was PBA president Kah Kau Kiak, who recently led the national team to the World Championships as the team manager.
Cheow Kheng still looks fit and he can be seen in action when Penang host the Asia Pacific Masters Games (APMG) in which he has entered for the above 55 category.
“Teams like Kuala Lumpur and Selangor are the ones to watch in Sukma. We hope to get a medal apiece for the individual and team events. Any colour will be fine,” said Razlan.
Cheam June Wei, who won the bronze medal in the men’s singles in 2016 Sukma, will likely be fielded in the singles’ and doubles’ events.
Other men’s shuttlers whom Penang will rely on are former national discard Yeoh Seng Zoe, who won the recent opening leg of the National Under-21 circuit in Penang, and Tan Jia Wei.
Although Seng Zoe took the title then in the absence of many better-known shuttlers, like Kedah’s national Under-21 champion Lee Zii Jia, Razlan hopes the victory will imbue Seng Zoe with confidence that he can compete against the best.
Seng Zoe also trains under Rashid Sidek and belongs to the same club, Sports Affair, as Liew Daren, who together with Zii Jia, are currently in Jakarta for the Asian Games. Daren was a surprised bronze medalist in the 2018 World Championships who lost to eventual champion Kento Momota of Japan 16-21, 5-21 in the semi-finals.
The Penang Sukma squad: Men’s team: Cheam June Wei, Tan Jia Wei, Yeoh Seng Zoe, Sim Fong Hau, Ng Eng Cheong, Choong Hon Jian, Ching Kaifeng, Low Eu Cong; Women’s team: Tan Zhing Yi, Lim Jee Lynn, Lee Shun Mei, Goh Yi Xuan, Teoh Lexuan, Lim Ru Guat, Lim Jing Ning, Lim Sze Jin.
Individual events: Men’s singles – Yeoh Seng Zoe, Tan Jia Wei; Women’s singles – Tan Zhing Yi, Lim Jing Ning; Men’s Doubles – Cheam June Wei-Sim Fong Hau, Ng Eng Cheong-Choong Hon Jian; Women’s Doubles – Lim Jee Lynn-Lee Shun Mei, Goh Yi Xuan-Teoh Lexuan; Mixed doubles – Ching Kaifeng-Lim Jing Ning; Low Ee Cong-Tan Zhing Yi.
Story by K.H. Ong
Photos by Alissala Thian