Courtside with Malaysia’s young shuttlers
Kuala Lumpur-born Lydia Cheah was a little apprehensive and tense before going against her Singaporean opponent, Xiaoyu Liang, during the women’s single segment of Maybank Malaysia International challenge on November 12th. It didn’t take long, however, for her to gain full momentum as the match progressed.
The eldest of three sisters, Lydia, 25, was quite young when she first started playing badminton. Watching her parents constantly playing the sport growing up, it seemed a natural thing for her to take up their interest too.
The most satisfying thing she finds about playing badminton is that besides having the opportunity to travel, she has also learnt to become independent and self-reliant.
“These are things that you learn from the sport that you cannot get from a book ,” she said.
Lydia will train at least three times a week in preparation for tournaments. A former national women’s single player, she resigned from the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) last year, but compared to her time playing on the national team, her schedule was not as full as it seems to be now.
“During my time in the national team, I would train every day except for Sundays. But when I was still in the national team, I would wake up and have light breakfast, have a morning training till 10 am, have a lunch break and rest before resuming my training from three pm till five to six pm,” she said.
Lydia has participated in numerous tournaments, notably winning the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games and Commonwealth mixed team in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Currently, she is taking A-Levels at a local, private university and is aiming to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympics in 2016.
Having spent half her life at Bukit Jalil Sports School, national number 2 player 24- year-old Sannatasah Saniru has lived away from her hometown and her parents in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah since she was 13.
It may sound like a lonely adolescence, but if it weren’t for her parents, Sannatasah felt that she would not be where she is now and have had the opportunity to pursue her interest in badminton.
She remembered her interest in badminton was sparked at the age of 9 when her father used to play badminton with her. She would be 10 years old when that spark was fanned into a flame .
“After I qualified to play in the Majlis Sukan Sekolah Malaysia (MSSM), I started to get serious in playing badminton,” she said.
Then, at the age of 13, she was accepted into Bukit Jalil Sports School and was a national player until she quit BAM last year.
Looking back on her time at Bukit Jalil, Sannatasah said that they had a very strict schedule where most of the time was spent practicing and perfecting their skills as well as studying.
Sannatasah said it would be hard for her to give up the sport since it is what she has been trained to do since young.
In the near future, Sannatasah would like to pursue her further education perhaps in Sports Science. “It’s not a sure thing yet, but if next year I do not continue with playing badminton anymore, I would like to continue my studies.
“For me, the most important thing is your discipline and how you manage your time in training, studying and socialising with friends. It is not something that you could take lightly if you are to pursue it seriously. Playing badminton is fun, but to win is the challenging part,” she stressed.
Sannatasah has been playing under Kelab Badminton Suruhanjaya Perkhidamtan (KBSPA) since quitting the national team last year.
Since Shevon Lai Jemie , 21, and Tan Chee Tean, 20, were paired up a little over a year ago, they have played numerous tournaments together in mixed couple matches and know each others’ style of playing as well as strengths and weaknesses.
Hailing from from Kuala Lumpur and Kedah respectively, the pair were up against Indonesia players, Swastedian Rian and Puji Lestari Nisak during the Maybank challenge.
“We put out our best effort and combine it together, making it work during the game and from there we know each others’ strong points. And so we use that during the game,” said Shevon.
A typical game strategy when it comes to mixed doubles will see women cover the front court area while the men cover the mid and back court although in some cases, the women may be stronger than the men, covering most of the area.
The player in the front court is responsible for hitting the shuttle at the front area while the partner must be ready to smash from the back if that partner misses.
According to Shevon, if the front player misses the shuttle from the front, the player in the backcourt has to be prepared to catch it, thus giving Tan more responsibility and pressure.
On their team chemistry, Tan says: “Before the game, I would have a lot of things going through my mind and I am always worried our opponent might beat us, but she would talk and console me before the match so that I would calm down. It’s because I have more responsibility on the court and I tend to over-think stuff.”
Before each of them was partnered up, they both played for men and women’s doubles respectively.
The Maybank Malaysia Kuching International challenge was held from November 11-16 at Stadium Perpaduan Negeri Sarawak where the tournament was participated by over 200 players from 15 countries such as Indonesia, Chinese Taipei, Australia, Brunei, Canada, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam to name a few.
For the tournament, a total of US$15, 000 prize money was up for grabs in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Level 4 tournament.