The Straits Times published a report card of each sport in its sports section on 2 September 2018, where squash was given a C+ rating with a comment, “The two singles players and the team did not win a match but it is useful experience for a small sport.
Well, they were very wrong with the information and understandably, the team who fought so gallantly in Jakarta, Indonesia, along with their supporters, are not happy with such irresponsible journalism.
Not only did the men’s squash team win a match, but they actually won more matches than they lost. The team finished third in the group and joint fifth overall, proving the sixth position at the Asian Team Championships earlier this year, which qualified the team for the Asian Games, was no flash in the pan.
Malaysia won gold after coming from behind to deny Hong Kong, while India and Pakistan finished joint third. Apart from Pakistan, all the top four nations comprise of full-time squash professionals who ply their trade on the PSA World Tour. Just to give you an idea of the playing field in the Games, Hong Kong’s top 3 players are all in the world’s top 25, Malaysia has 2 in the top 50 and India is led by the world number 12.
The team of Samuel Kang, Timothy Leong, Benedict Chan and Pang Ka Hoe were drawn into Group B alongside 2014 finalists India and Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia and Thailand. They couldn’t have asked for a tougher start to their campaign as they faced top two teams in the group Malaysia and India, finalists from 2014, on the opening day.
The team lost 3-0 to eventual champions Malaysia in the morning match, but both Samuel Kang and Benedict Chan had commendable score lines and stretching their opponents past the half hour mark. In the evening match, India proved too strong for the team once again as they ran away 3-0 winners without dropping a single game and the longest match lasting just 28 minutes.
With two losses in the bag, Singapore went into the second day bottom of the table. They came back strongly against Thailand, winning 3-0 despite resting team captain Samuel Kang. The team followed up with another 3-0 win the following day, this time over hosts Indonesia, who gave a much tougher fight than Thailand the previous day.
On the final group stage day, Singapore had the opportunity to finish beyond their seventh seeding, as they faced sixth seeded Qatar, who was headed by world number 28 Abdulla Al Tamimi. It was also their upset win over Qatar at the Asian Team Championships in March which qualified the team to this Asiad and the team repeated the feat once again.
Timothy Leong lost the opening tie Abdulla Al Tamimi in straight games, before Samuel Kang overcame strong resistance in the first game to win 17-15, before taking the next two 11-4 and 11-1 to level the tie. That left the job for Benedict Chan to secure the win for a second upset of the year over Qatar, and he did not disappoint.
Finishing third in the group is just a position away from medal honours. While it is true that the gap is still rather big between the first four teams and the rest, working towards a medal placing in the next Asiad in 2022 is a very tough hill to climb, but not impossible.
SINGAPORE lost to MALAYSIA 0-3
Timothy Leong lost to Ng Eain Yow 5-11, 2-11, 2-11 (21m)
Samuel Kang lost to Ivan Yuen 10-12, 2-11, 10-12 (38m)
Benedict Chan lost to Syafiq Kamal 8-11, 7-11, 6-11 (35m)
SINGAPORE lost to INDIA 0-3
Timothy Leong lost to Harinder Pal Sandhu 7-11, 2-11, 7-11 (19m)
Samuel Kang lost to Ramit Tandon 1-11, 3-11, 6-11 (28m)
Pang Ka Hoe lost to Mahesh Magaonkar 3-11, 3-11, 1-11 (23m)
SINGAPORE bt THAILAND 3-0
Timothy Leong bt Arnold Phatraparsit 11-4, 11-6, 11-9 (25m)
Benedict Chan bt Natthakit Jivasewan 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 (29m)
Pang Ka Hoe bt Chattaporn Juntanayingyong 11-8, 11-2, 11-1 (17m)
SINGAPORE bt INDONESIA 3-0
Samuel Kang bt Agung Wilant 11-7, 11-1, 11-5 (26m)
Benedict Chan bt Satria Bagus Laksana 11-7, 6-11, 11-6, 11-3 (33m)
Pang Ka Hoe bt Andi Hasanudin 11-3, 11-7, 13-11 (35m)
SINGAPORE bt QATAR 2-1
Timothy Leong lost to Abdulla Al Tamimi 9-11, 7-11, 8-11 (22m)
Samuel Kang bt Syed Amjad 17-15, 11-4, 11-1 (33m)
Benedict Chan bt Abdulrahman Al Malki 11-2, 11-4, 11-4 (23m)