Shuttling across the world
IT is highly appropriate that a nine-year-old girl who have had the chance of her lifetime to train under former world badminton champion Han Jian is now a rising star, her name among world shuttlers. Yang Li Lian, now 24, scooped the Women’s singles title at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) National Championships, defeating fellow Malaysian Lydia Cheah 2 -1 in Sheffield, United Kingdom, recently.
Having already beaten the 2016 BUCS champion Cheah three times this season — including twice on the way to the 2017 AJ Bell National Badminton League title, sports scholar Yang went into the competition as number one seed but still had to make it through several gruelling rounds of competition.
Yang, who is in her first year of a Mathematics and Economics degree programme at the University of Nottingham, was delighted with her victory.
“It’s such a great feeling to win my first BUCS title and I’m proud of my achievement. After a tough weekend of competition, all my hard work over the year with my coach Martyn Lewis to ensure I was in the best condition possible has paid off.
Making the switch in September last year from training full-time with the Malaysian national squad to a sports scholarship at the University of Nottingham, Yang joined an elite badminton programme hosted in the brand new 24-court David Ross Sports Village.
“I’m incredibly thankful to the University of Nottingham for the professional support they have provided; from top coaching to physiotherapy to strength and conditioning training. This win is a great way for me to show my gratitude to university’s sport staff who have been so instrumental on my journey.”
Malaysian-born Yang, originally from Subang Jaya, has two elder brothers. Her father is a businessman while her mother is a housewife.
Yang started training at the age of nine under Han Jian and developed her interest in badminton at such a young age. When she was 12 years old, she was selected by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to be part of the National Junior team.
“From there, I set a goal to be the best national shuttler. I got promoted to the national elite team when I was 17. As a senior shuttler, I have competed in several major tournaments such as Uber Cup, Asian Games and SEA Games.
“My highest world ranking was 54 back in January 2015 and I was former national number one.
“I left the national team when I was 22 to focus on my studies. But I continued playing badminton for my university and at the international level.”
Her degree takes three years to complete and she hopes to do a summer internship this year to gain some experience in the working world.
“Juggling between my studies and training, I try to attend as many academic talks as possible provided by the university to increase my knowledge.
“And, if I don’t have to go for training, I usually spend more time revising my homework. I’m blessed to be able to do things I am really passionate about all at the same time — badminton, travelling and studying.”
Yang said after she left BAM, she was able to compete in tournaments she desired while travelling and venturing into other countries at the same time.
“Thanks to the support I always get from my family, I have travelled to more than 30 countries so far,” said Yang, who loves to watch drama series during her leisure time.
But if she has a competition around the corner, she will spend time studying her opponents’ game on YouTube to better prepare herself.
Yang said her best achievement locally (in Malaysia) was to win the Malaysia National Grand Prix Finals in 2013 and 2014 in Women singles.
Internationally, apart from her recent winning at BUCS, she also won a bronze in a mixed doubles with partner, Rohan Midha. Earlier this year, Yang won Iceland International in Women singles and doubles, and first place in the National Badminton League (NBL) representing the University of Nottingham Sport.
Looking ahead, Yang and her team have their sights firmly set on the British Universities’ team title, held as part of BUCS Big Wednesday this month and where they are hot favourites to triumph.
First-year of a Mathematics and Economics degree programme at the University of
• Malaysia National Grand Prix Finals in 2013 and 2014 in
Women singles • First place in the National Badminton League (NBL) • Gold at the United Kingdom National University
But first things first, the team must navigate the knock-out stages and in preparation, Yang and fellow sports scholars Serena Midha, Tiara Samuel and Emily Witts will head to Hong Kong this month for a week-long training camp with some of the world’s top players.
“My motto in life is, ‘If you love the sport then nothing can stop you from doing it’. I was a straight A student in all major exams (UPSR, PMR, SPM and A Levels). When you have the will and passion, you will make everything work.
“Set short-term and long-term goals in both studies and sports to ensure that you are working in the right direction,” she said.
Yang personally believes that one can achieve anything as long as he or she has the right attitude and is willing to walk the extra mile.
“I learn the good bits from everyone.”
‘If you love the sport then nothing can stop you from doing it’ is Yang Li Lian’s motto in life. Yang Li Lian with her trophy and Gold medal at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) National Championships.