SINGAPORE’S NEXT GENERATION OF SQUASH STARS
With Singapore’s recent success at the recent SEA Games, where they came back with a very healthy ten-medal haul that included gold in the Men’s Team title they last won 22 years ago, plus the men’s and women’s jumbo doubles, there is no better time in recent times to see a revival of the sport in the republic.
Vivian Rhamanan, who has long been the sole flag bearer on the professional tour, has in recent months had some compatriots join him, and in the near future, there looks set to be more. We take a look at some of our upcoming rising stars who we think will be making headlines soon.
Chua Man Chin
The hardworking 20-year old has in this season played in three events in Australia, improving himself every single time. At the Bega Open in September, he lost in the first round of qualifying before going one better into the qualifying finals at the North Coast Open, and most recently played in the main draw of the PSA M10 Australian Open.
Man Chin, who is now coaching and tutoring part-time to support himself being on tour, was a top-10 Asian junior under-19 just a year ago and has set his sights on breaking into the top 250 bracket in the near future. He adores Mohamed El Shorbagy for his resilience and ability to push through tough, gruelling rallies.
Chua Man Tong
The 23-year old is the elder brother of Man Chin and is currently playing in his second season on tour. Since joining the Professional Squash Association in July 2016, he has moved over 100 rungs to his current ranking of 353, with the highest in August at 328. At the SEA Games in August, he won the men’s doubles bronze medal together with Benedict Chan.
Man Tong is a sports science student at the Nanyang Technological University and is currently away in the UK on an exchange programme at the Loughborough University until February. He hopes to play on the professional circuit part time and aims to break into the top 150 eventually.
Finishing with a silver medal at his SEA Games debut sure is a good start for Timothy Leong, who partnered Pang Ka Hoe in the men’s doubles. The 2013 Singapore Open under-19 champion names Egyptians Amr Shabana and Nour El Tayeb as his squash idols, and the influence of the latter can be seen in his daredevil dives on court.
While Tim has no aspirations to be playing full-time, he does look forward to participating in PSA tournaments when opportunity arises. He has however, set his sights on donning the Singapore shirt for the Asian and Commonwealth Games, and is currently also the national junior team assistant coach.
Kojiro most recently made his SEA Games debut in Kuala Lumpur where he made the last eight before bowing out to eventual winner Ng Eain Yow. Having just turned 19 this year, he will be competing in his first year as a senior this season. He put in a strong showing at the 2016 Asian Junior Teams to help Singapore to a top eight finish.
He is currently a Year 3 student at the Singapore Polytechnic pursuing an Accounting education and plans to play on the PSA tour at least until he enlists for National Service. One of his goals is to be the Singapore number one player, and he rates Egyptian Ali Farag very highly.
Still only 17, Aaron Liang is focussed on working the technical aspects of his game. He hopes to play in PSA events years ahead of him, but first, he has set his sights on helping Singapore do well at the 2019 Asian Junior Teams, which will be his final event as a junior. He has also set his sights for a place in the 2019 SEA Games team.
He hopes to break the top 180 of the PSA rankings in the future and he has not had many opportunities to play on the senior stage, so the Singapore Squash Open 2017 will be a good avenue for him to gauge where he stands.
Rayden has recently got out of the junior ranks and is working towards making the cut for the multi-sport events – the Asian Games in 2018 and the SEA Games in 2019. The 19-year old will begin his course in Business at the Singapore Management University in August next year and will thus be also eligible to play at the World University Games.
He will be playing in his first PSA event in the qualifiers of the 2017 Singapore Squash Open and looks up to former world champion Amr Shabana.
Au Yeong Wai Yhann
Over a year ago, Wai Yhann made a bold decision as a 17-year old to defer her studies to train full time for the SEA Games 2017. The dedication was handsomely paid off as she came away with silver in the women’s team and a bronze in the women’s doubles with Sneha Sivakumar, another one of Singapore’s rising stars. She looks set to continue representing Singapore at the next SEA Games and Asian Games next year.
The pint-sized 18-year old made it to the main draw of the PSA W5 event at the Malaysian Tour in September and a month later, she played her biggest event at the PSA W10 Malaysian Open. Wai Yhann has set her sights on a top 80 ranking in the next few years, cites national legend Zainal Abidin as her squash idol, who was her first coach and attributes him to her wanting to always learn more.
Two-time winner of the Singapore Junior Open in 2015 and 2016, Sneha Sivakumar has a big aspiration to be the Asian Junior Champion by 2019. At the last nationals, she beat the odds to make it to the final before narrowly losing out to Mao Shi Hui and in her SEA Games debut, she returned with a silver and bronze.
Given the right opportunities and when the time is right, she hopes to play professionally but in the meantime, she has set her mind on improving her own game and qualifying for the Asian Games next year. Sneha looks up to Egyptian superstar Raneem El Weilily for her dynamic skills, and her attitude both on and off court as an inspiration.
Article by Alex Wan
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