Shut­tling across the world

New Straits Times - - Higher ED - Zuli­tai@nst.com.my

ZULITA MUSTAFA

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.

AGE

24

ED­U­CA­TION

First-year of a Math­e­mat­ics and Eco­nomics de­gree pro­gramme at the Univer­sity of

Not­ting­ham

BEST ACHIEVE­MENTS

• 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

cham­pi­onships

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.

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