Squash: $50k fillip for squash squad ahead of SEA Games

Singapore's Mao Shihui returning against her opponent Sneha Sivakumar at the SSRA National Squash Championships. She will be making her debut at the KL Games.
Singapore's Mao Shihui returning against her opponent Sneha Sivakumar at the SSRA National Squash Championships. She will be making her debut at the KL Games.PHOTO COURTESY OF SINGAPORE SQUASH RACKETS ASSOCIATION

Cash sponsorship comes in handy as training is ramped up with medal expectations high

Singapore's hunt for gold medals in squash at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games has received a timely boost thanks to a $50,000 cash sponsorship from dairy and beverage company Marigold earlier this month.

The 12-member squad is targeting two golds, doubling their one gold haul at the 2015 edition.

They also bagged a silver and four bronzes in the Games that was held on home soil.

Singapore Squash Rackets Association's technical director Allan Soyza said: "We have high medal hopes for the jumbo doubles event.

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"We hope to retain the men's title and also win the newly introduced women's title.

"With this money, I could do things that I could not do previously.

"For example, last week I brought in three players from Malaysia to spar with the team for two weeks."

In addition, Soyza will bring half the national squad to Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia for a three-day training camp in August.

The Penang native, who was Malaysia's national men's coach from 2009 to 2012 and its director of coaching from 2012-2015, is exploring other ways to utilise the extra funds.

Part of it will be used to support world no. 184 Vivian Rhamanan, who won the men's jumbo doubles gold and men's team silver in 2015.

The 31-year-old, who will again be relied upon to spearhead Singapore's charge, is playing in three professional events in Australia.

Soyza said: "We have sent some of our players abroad from the early part of the year and this will carry on till August."

Regional powerhouse Malaysia, who bagged four golds in 2015, will again start as favourites at the Aug 19-30 KL Games.

They will be led by reigning world junior men's champion Ng Eain Yow and world No. 54 Rachel Arnold, and have set a target of seven golds despite not competing in the two jumbo doubles events.

Despite the absence of the hosts in the jumbo doubles events, which increases Singapore's chances of gold, national player Mao Shihui cautioned against overconfidence.

The reigning Singapore national women's singles champion is one of 10 Games debutants in a young team that lacks experience.

The 25-year-old business analyst will compete in the jumbo doubles, international mixed doubles and women's team event.

She said: "I think the preparations have been great, I've managed to up my fitness which was really important for me.

"I've been keeping fit and practising squash in roughly 11 sessions a week.

"We know who the players (at the Games) will be, and we just want to perform as we are expected and win medals for Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline '$50k fillip for squash squad ahead of SEA Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe