Squash: Jumbo upgrade for Singapore squash

From left: Vivian Rhamanan, Pang Ka Hoe, Benedict Chan and Samuel Kang showing off their gold medals on the podium after pipping the Philippines 2-1 to win the SEA Games men's squash team final at the Nicol David Arena. Singapore won two more golds i
From left: Vivian Rhamanan, Pang Ka Hoe, Benedict Chan and Samuel Kang showing off their gold medals on the podium after pipping the Philippines 2-1 to win the SEA Games men's squash team final at the Nicol David Arena. Singapore won two more golds in men's and women's jumbo doubles.ST FILE PHOTO

Redevelopment of Kallang premises could involve adding doubles courts to facilities

Changes could be in store for the Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA) to boost its high-performance capabilities.

The Straits Times understands that the SSRA is in discussions with Sport Singapore (SportSG) to redevelop its existing training centre at Kallang, which has seven 6.4m x 9.75m singles courts.

While the timeline of plans and exact location have yet to be confirmed, it is understood that one proposed option involves expanding the current site and taking over the adjacent tennis courts.

This would allow the improved training centre to hold bigger courts. International doubles courts measure 8.42m x 9.75m and a jumbo doubles court is 7.62m x 13.72m.

A SportSG spokesman told ST that the national sports agency "is working closely with Singapore Squash Rackets Association to enhance an existing facility for the association to further pursue its high-performance targets".

Singapore has excelled in the jumbo format, winning three SEA Games golds from the past two editions. The victory by men's pair Vivian Rhamanan and Marcus Phua at the 2015 Singapore Games was the country's first squash title since 1995.

At the Kuala Lumpur edition in August, Singapore bagged the men's and women's jumbo doubles plus the men's team gold.

BIG CAN BE BETTER

When you're older, playing singles or international doubles is hard on your knees because the pace is fast, but you can play jumbo doubles because of its slower pace.

MAO SHIHUI, who won the SEA Games women's jumbo doubles with Sherilyn Yang, on making squash more accessible to the public.

With only The Tanglin Club and Singapore Island Country Club - where the national team train for free - boasting jumbo doubles courts, there is a lack of adequate facilities here, said Rhamanan.

The 31-year-old added: "Hopefully with a squash centre that has these facilities, we can start to host regional and international tournaments and the sport will gain more interest in Singapore."

Team-mate Mao Shihui, who won the women's jumbo doubles title, said a centralised location would be beneficial. The 25-year-old had spent the months leading up to the Games shuttling between SICC and Kallang as she competed in three events (women's team, jumbo doubles and mixed doubles).

She said: "This time, we went to Kuching in Malaysia to train for international doubles and were lucky enough to get permission to train at SICC for jumbo doubles, but it would have been more efficient to train at Kallang."

Singles world No. 240 Rhamanan also pointed out the importance of keeping up with the Republic's regional counterparts.

Powerhouse Malaysia's facility at the Bukit Jalil Sports Complex boasts 10 glass-backed courts and an all-glass centre court.

The Philippines, which won two silvers in KL and will host the 2019 SEA Games, is reportedly looking to build a new squash centre with eight singles courts that can be adjusted to international doubles, and a jumbo court.

SSRA president Woffles Wu believes that an improved national training centre would provide "a home for Singapore squash to focus on continued progress of player development".

It could also increase the sport's accessibility to the public, noted Mao. "When you're older, playing singles or international doubles is hard on your knees because the pace is fast, but you can play jumbo doubles because of its slower pace."

According to data from a 2011 National Sports Participation Survey, the sport's participation rate was 0.32 per cent, or 10,374 regular participants - those who played it at least weekly in the past three months.

The SSRA said it has seen greater participation numbers, estimating that the number of players in its national squash league has grown by 10 per cent each year over the last two to three years.

Wu said: "Many parties are beginning to see that we can restore the sport to what it used to be before."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2017, with the headline 'Squash receives a jumbo upgrade'. Print Edition | Subscribe