Part 1 : Very encouraging feedback from participants of the Tech Mahindra SGSquash Novice Tournament on their experiences and organisation of the event

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By Alex Wan

In this two-part series, we look at the different angle of responses from the participants of the Tech Mahindra SGSquash Novice Squash Tournament held earlier this month just before the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) Safe Distancing Measures came into play on 8 May 2021.

“A good experience…”

“I was nervous…”

“It was very well organised….”

These are just some of the more common reactions when we asked them what they thought of the competition in general. The event was truly a roaring success in our books, but what mattered most was that participants were happy, they made friends and they competed sportingly.

The biggest entourage of the event certainly came from the school girls from the Singapore Chinese Girls School. The mostly 14-year old girls did splendidly, with Charmaine Yeo finishing second and Elizabeth Chen third. Like many we spoke too, the girls all had one common feedback – that it was a good experience.

The hard-hitting Charmaine told us apart from the great experience, ““It was really just a great event that helped open my eyes to see the amazing squash community around me. As a finalist, I am very grateful for the opportunity to have gotten the chance to be live streamed and commentated on, as this helped me gain feedback on how to improve as a squash player which I am genuinely very thankful for.”

Jenelle Tan also echoed that she had a good experience, saying, “I felt that the event was a good experience in terms of getting to play with different people. Even though I didn’t win, I had fun and made many new friends.”

Meanwhile, Maxine Lam also added it was an experience playing people of different ages. The 14-year old said, “It helped me gain experience and confidence in playing against other people of all ages.”

Elizabeth meanwhile said, “I think that the tournament gave me an opportunity to display and learn new values and morals like sportsmanship and safety. other than that, it also helped me gain experience in tournaments and learn more about squash techniques and etiquettes.”

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For 14-year old second runner-up, Elizabeth Chen (right), this tournament has given her an invaluable opportunity to learn more about squash techniques, etiquettes and sport values.

A good experience for many

It was no different for the other participants as many felt that playing the tournament was an eye-opening experience, in their own unique ways. One of them was Low Zhende, who said, “The spirit of this tournament is very good – everyone is very nice and friendly. For us novices, it’s a really good experience. I’m definitely enjoying it.”

Singaporean Low Xi Zhen was also full of praise of the event, saying, “It’s been a really good organisation, and I feel that it’s been pretty safe. Actually, the best thing so far is that all of the players have been quite friendly, and the spirit has been really good.”

Women’s champion Chua Wan Tong, an undergraduate student at Singapore Management University told us, “I wanted to experience a new sport, try a new game given my badminton background.”

Another local participant, Toh Eng Teck, who was playing in his second tournament, said, “It’s quite an eye-opener because we get to play with different players from the novice and beginner levels. So it’s quite fun that we get to practice and play with different styles.”

For Colin Ng, his experience was not limited to only playing. He said, “I only picked up squash a few years ago, so it’s cool that I get experience to play in a tournament like this. It’s also interesting to get the experience of refereeing in a competition as well.”

Aussie Joseph Nash, who had a good experience at the event, added, “I think the management and organisation has been military precision. It’s very well organised.”

Local Tan Li-Jung was also impressed and gave credit to the organisation of the event:

“The way you managed the social distancing thing – I think it’s damn genius. If we didn’t have this tournament, there would be no other opportunities, because there aren’t many novice events like these for us.”

Novices can’t wait to get more competitions

Ow Yong Zheng Heng, who usually plays in SAFRA Tampines, added, “It’s been quite an exciting experience for me to be playing in an official tournament. It’s (also) been a very relevant experience so if I had the choice, I would definitely come back again.”

Ow also added that the age factor in his younger opponents was a challenge to him given their superior strength and fitness. His sentiments were also shared by Meghna Mehta from India, who said, “It’s been a nerve wrecking experience of course, to be competing with such young talent. But at the same time, we play it for passion and fun.”

Another participant who would definitely be back for more is Kim Freitag from Zurich, Switzerland: “I think it’s great because I would only play against the same person before, and now it’s pretty cool to play different opponents. It’s a great experience and (I) will definitely sign up for more.”

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Third runner-up, Kong Wing Ken (left), was amongst novice players who found the experience of playing against different opponents helpful in identifying which areas he has to improve on.

It got nerve-wrecking for some – which is normal

Playing in her first tournament, National Junior College student Wanyan Yuxuan was beaming left to right when we spoke to her. She said, “This is my first tournament ever. I was very nervous at the start. I felt that all my opponents were also very nice and overall, I really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t even care if I won or not!”

Vivek Kumar, an Indian national who works for the title sponsor Tech Mahindra, used the event to see where he stood against others. Like many, he too was nervous and shared, “I was very nervous from the start of the event but this is giving me a very good experience.”

Crystal Lai, a native of Guangzhou, China, had never played squash prior to coming to Singapore. She has since took some lessons and felt brave enough to compete. She said, “It’s quite exciting to play with different people. At first, I felt nervous but now, I feel more comfortable and I enjoyed the matches a lot more.”

Despite reaching the semi-finals, it was no less nerve-wracking for Japan’s Ami Arita: “It’s very frightening every time, but I have somehow enjoyed playing. It’s good to know that so many people are playing squash. There hasn’t been many opportunities for me to play since COVID-19 so this is very good.”

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Third runner-up, Ami Arita who hails from Japan, warming up for her semi-final match against Charmaine Yeo.

The circuit format was a winner

The circuit format of the event, which allows participants to play an equal number of matches and have a final position, was also a welcome to many.

Amongst one who felt so was Mark Chechin from Hawaii, United States, who said, “It’s been really fun actually, I think the format is really interesting where you get to play every day and even if you lose, you get to play new people and go down the brackets.”

His sentiments was also shared by Aussie Nick Inatey, “I really enjoy this and I particularly like the format – so even if you get eliminated early, you still get six games, and you get to meet new people. It’s really good fun!”

With such positive feedback from the participants, perhaps we should be looking at having more novice events in the future?