Sankar fired up for chal­lenge

KLBA coach aims for bet­ter re­sults with team

The Star Malaysia - - SPORT - By NG WEI LOON weiloon@thes­

KUALA Lumpur Bad­minton As­so­ci­a­tion (KLBA) coach A. Sankar has re­turned to a fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory to guide the ju­nior shut­tlers with the city side af­ter his coach­ing stints abroad.

How­ever, the 40-year-old ad­mit­ted it would be an­other dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence es­tab­lish­ing a new re­la­tion­ship with the new faces in the Kuala Lumpur team.

“Most of the for­mer trainees have ei­ther moved up to an­other level or grad­u­ated from sec­ondary school. A ma­jor­ity of them in the cur­rent team are new­com­ers. We will be go­ing through an­other re­build­ing process in groom­ing the ju­niors,” said Sankar, who took charge of the Sri Lanka and Iran teams as well as serv­ing with the Bad­minton Asia Con­fed­er­a­tion (BAC).

And he is aim­ing to carry on his sweet home­com­ing when the Kuala Lumpur young­sters, strength­ened with the ser­vices of Asian ju­nior boys’ sin­gles semi-fi­nal­ist Zul­fadli Zulk­i­fli, went on to cap­ture the na­tional ju­nior in­ter-state mixed team crown last year.

“It was a great win­ning start in com­menc­ing my ten­ure with the Kuala Lumpur team again. It is go­ing to be tough to re­tain the ti­tle this year. We will need to in­spire our play­ers to strive for im­prove­ment and be all fired up in ris­ing to the chal­lenge,” said Sankar, who was also part of the vic­to­ri­ous team in 2007.

Re­cently, the four­some of Ho Yen Mei, Lee Shu Ern, Choo Chi Earn and Soh Wooi Yik re­ceived the call up to join the na­tional ju­nior train­ing pro­gramme based at Bukit Jalil.

Al­though the 14-year-old Yen Mei has been of­fered a place on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions for dis­play­ing her prom­ise over the years, her fa­ther Al­bert has de­cided to keep her closer to home in the past.

“We were concerned be­cause Yen Mei has re­mained stag­nant with­out show­ing tremen­dous im­prove­ment last year. We spoke to her fa­ther and he has fi­nally agreed that his daugh- ter needs to in­ten­sity her train­ing as well as get more ex­po­sure to stiffer com­pe­ti­tions in scal­ing greater heights,” Sankar said.

Be­sides fin­ish­ing as the semi­fi­nal­ists of the girls’ Un­der-14 sin­gles at the na­tional ju­nior grand prix fi­nals last year, Yen Mei paired up with Shu Ern to set­tle for sec­ond spot in the dou­bles of the same age­group.

Mean­while, Wooi Yik and Chi Earn also fea­tured in the boys’ Un­der-12 and Un­der-14 sec­tions re­spec­tively at the grand prix fi­nals.

Cur­rently, Sankar is keep­ing a watch­ful eye on 50 trainees aged be­tween 12 and 18 show­ing good com­mit­ment in train­ing.

And the hope­fuls will be out to im­press the se­lec­tors and se­cure their places in the na­tional ju­nior cham­pi­onships start­ing with the first leg of zone B con­test sched­uled at Seremban, Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan from March 3-6.

Sankar said they would get a clearer in­di­ca­tion of their play­ers’ cur­rent form af­ter con­duct­ing the rank­ing match-play in the four age­groups — Un­der-12, Un­der-14, Un­der-16 and Un­der-18.

“We are aim­ing to com­plete the ex­er­cise be­fore the end of Fe­bru­ary. It will also give us an idea of the com­bi­na­tions for the dou­bles be­fore nam­ing our en­tries for the open­ing na­tional ju­nior com­pe­ti­tion of the year. Al­though they are con­sid­ered as the un­der­dogs, the ul­ti­mate aim for them is to at­tempt to qual­ify for the grand prix fi­nals af­ter the two legs of zone tour­na­ments,” he added.

In form: Yen Mei de­cid­ing to join the na­tional ju­nior train­ing pro­gramme based at Bukit Jalil.

Lis­ten up: A file photo of Sankar (right) with the Kuala Lumpur ju­nior shut­tlers be­fore go­ing on his over­seas stint.

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