KUALA LUMPUR: The World Junior Championships, which ended in Bangkok on Sunday, laid bare Malaysian badminton’s lack of sting in the junior ranks.
While some countries like Japan and Taiwan showed depth in their teams and potential for the future, Malaysia have to be contented with the breakthrough performances of singles player Soong Joo Ven and boys’ doubles Darren Isaac Devadass-Ong Yew Sin.
Joo Ven and Darren-Yew Sin, playing in their last junior tournament, made their first appearance in the quarter-finals of the boys’ singles and doubles events respectively before going down fighting.
It was the first time in many years that Malaysia had failed to have even one representative in the semi-finals.
Japan continued to show their impressive progress in world badminton when Akane Yamaguchi defended the girls’ singles title while Taiwan went home with one silver medal through Wang Tzu-wei in the boys’ singles and a bronze through Tien Tzu-chieh-Wang Chi-lin in the boys’ doubles.
South Korea, whose team enjoyed a short training stint in Malaysia before the world junior meet, were one of the big winners when they took home two titles – Heo Kwang-hee (boys’ singles) and Chae Yoo-jung-Kim Ji-won (girls’ doubles).
The only good thing to come out of the world junior meet for Malaysia was the exposure given to 13-year-old Goh Jin Wei of Penang.
Jin Wei withdrew in the third round of the girls’ singles with a hamstring injury but returned home with a wealth of experience.
National coach Wong Tat Meng, who was given the mandate to hold a selection trial for the girls’ singles before the world junior, should be credited for having the courage to include Jin Wei although she does not train in the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
In the past, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) only chose players who had completed their programme in the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and never took the risk of exposing players at a very young age.
Joo Ven and Darren-Yew Sin will now enter the senior squad and their rise, or fall, depends on what BAM have in store for them.
Are they going to be mere sparring partners or will they be given the due exposure and opportunity to establish themselves in the big leagues?