Twenty-two could well be a lucky number for Singapore Squash!
After capturing the first gold medal in 22 years at the SEA Games Men’s Team competition in 2017, Singapore is set to return to the WSF Men’s World Team Championship for the first time in 22 years.
The 26th edition of the Men’s World Team Championship will be hosted in Washington DC by Squash On Fire, a newish 8-court facility built on a former fire station site (hence the name). The event will be competed by 23 nations from six continents, include hosts United States and defending champions Egypt.
Singapore first participated in the event back in 1981. Save for 1991, they have participated in the biennial event every time up to 1997, where it was held in neighbouring Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Singapore’s return to the pinnacle of Men’s squash is certainly welcomed by the squash world, as echoed by the World Squash Federation’s Media Director Howard Harding:
“It’s great to welcome Singapore back to the Men’s World Team Championship after too long a gap. Here’s hoping the returnees can emulate their distinguished predecessors in 1985 when they achieved their best-ever sixth place finish.”
Samuel Kang, Chua Man Tong, Chua Man Chin and Brandon Tan will be donning Singapore colours, who will make an appearance for the first time in the event since the turn of the Millennium. Save for Brandon, the other three members of the team will also be heading to the SEA Games in Manila.
Most of the competition at the event will be a class above, so there is really not much expectation and pressure on how they will perform. What is more critical is gaining exposure and experience from playing matches on such a big stage.
With their individual PSA ranking not strong enough to qualify for the bigger professional tournaments, this event also provides the team the best opportunity to get on court with the world’s best players.
Brandon Tan, who will be making his senior team debut in Washington DC, is definitely looking forward to the event. The 21-year old fan of Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad said:
“I’m looking forward to meeting players from other countries and to watch the best players in the world compete, as I have not watched players in the (world’s) top 10 in a competitive environment before.
“My main goal is to gain experience playing against the greatest the sport has to offer. I will take whatever result comes our way.”
Brandon’s thoughts on meeting players were also echoed by Chua Man Tong, who will first captain the Singapore team to the Manila SEA Games before the Men’s World Team Championships.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the experience of playing the top players in the world as well as watching them live. The opportunity to interact with these professional players is rare and whatever we learn and experience can be shared with our squash community
“We have prepared ourselves to the best we can, so hopefully we can just try and put our best performance forward”, Man Tong added when asked how he thinks they’ll do.
Singapore’s best performance at the event was back in 1985, when the team of Peter Hill, Zainal Abidin, Anthony Chua and Alex Tay finished 6th in Cairo, Egypt. Singapore also hosted the event in 1989 where the same team above, together with Simon Yang, finished 9th.
“After a long absence of 22 years, it gives me great pleasure to see Singapore back competing on the world stage. I hope that we continue to participate in this prestigious competition and that it will contribute towards the continued revival of the sport. I wish the team the very best of luck competing against the world’s best players”, said Kok Tsung-Hao, who was a member of the last Singapore team who participated in the event alongside Mohd Rizal Kadir, Tiong Ern Yeow and Melvin Lim.
Egypt, who won three of the last four competitions, will definitely start as favourites for the title. With their top four players (Ali Farag, Mohamed ElShorbagy, Tarek Momen, Karim Abdel Gawad) also occupying the top four of the world rankings, they will surely be the team to beat. After Tarek Momen lifted the World Champs trophy last week, all four are also now World Champions.
But they will face strong challenges from countries such as England and France. While they may not have the same fire power as Egypt, these teams do have depth in their squads and with this being a team event, anything can happen. On the Asian front, Hong Kong and Malaysia will be the front runners for the continent.