Paris 2024 on her radar

Singapore's Jaslyn Hooi wins Polish event for first international title; dreams of Olympics

While Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min have been leading the way for Singapore badminton in recent years, another rough diamond is being polished as Jaslyn Hooi claimed her first international title.

On Sept 26, 10 days before her 21st birthday, Hooi beat India's Samiya Imad Farooqui 21-11, 21-9 to win the Polish International final. She claimed US$500 (S$677) for winning the lower-tier International Challenge event and rose from 135th to 119th in the world rankings.

As the international sports schedule gradually re-opens, she has her sights set on playing in bigger tournaments and surging up the rankings in her bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

She said: "I aim to be in the top 80 by the end of the year, play and do well in the bigger tournaments next year, and qualify for the next Olympics. This win helps affirm that I'm on the right track.

"I have the ability to play different styles and excel with different strategies, be it speed and power or defensive rallies. But I still can improve in terms of physical and mental endurance, and be more calm to make the right decisions during matches."

Hooi is backed by Singapore Badminton Association technical director Martin Andrew, a Briton who works with national coaches Mulyo Handoyo and Kelvin Ho to help the national players reach their full potential.

He said: "Jaslyn is an attacking style of player, utilising her power and trajectories with soft control to tactically and physically beat opponents. She has many strengths in her power and aggressive style of play. However, this style for any player often comes with a few errors, so it relies on good shot quality and belief that you can win points.

"Jaslyn's development areas, as she moves into the higher tiers of world badminton, will include improving her physicality, mentality and technical abilities to enable her to compete at a higher level whilst still maintaining her natural attacking attitude, which will enable her to play the tactical game style that she wants to play to challenge higher-ranked players."

Hooi was born in Penang and picked up badminton at age 10 because of the influence of her father and began more intensive training a year later because she enjoyed how she can manipulate the shuttlecock and her opponents in different directions.

"As I learnt more about the sport, other elements like speed and power came in, and with that came more unpredictability which made it even more interesting," she said.

Looking for an option to balance high-level badminton training and studies, she secured a Singapore Sports School scholarship when she was 13 and eventually became a Singapore citizen in 2018, when she also represented the Republic at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina. She finished fourth in the girls' singles in Buenos Aires.

At senior level, she had made the semi-finals at a couple of International Series and Challenge events in Iran and Malaysia before the pandemic threw global sport into disarray, although she did become a national champion in 2020 and 2021.

Without international competition, Hooi gamely juggled 8-11am training sessions with a 30-week internship as an investment analyst working straight after training until 7pm, before she graduated with a business studies diploma from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in May.

She admitted: "It was tough and stressful because both aspects are of high priority to me, but I matured a lot and learnt how to work well under pressure.

"Now that I have graduated, I think I should give badminton a fair chance, and so I decided to become a full-time player to pursue my dreams.

"As travel and competitions resume, I'm grateful for the opportunities to play overseas. There is the pressure to perform, but my experiences have helped me overcome such nerves and stress and I hope to continue to improve and progress in my badminton career."

Hooi will remain in Europe to play in this week's Dutch Open, the Czech Open (Oct 21-24) and Belgian Open (Oct 27-30).

Yesterday, she beat Slovenian Petra Polanc 21-19, 21-16 in the first round to continue her fine run.

She is joined in Almere, the Netherlands, by men's singles players Loh and Jason Teh, who finished second at the Polish Open, mixed doubles pair Tan Wei Han and Terry Hee. All won their opening-round matches yesterday.

Hee and Loh's brother Kean Hean's men's doubles match result was not available at press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2021, with the headline 'Paris 2024 on her radar'. Subscribe