GEORGE TOWN: A total of 270 young shuttlers will battle it out for supremacy in the opening leg of the 100PLUS National Junior Badminton Circuit Zone A competition at the PBA Hall in Bukit Dumbar here today.
The Penang BA (PBA), who last hosted the tournament in 2005, have divided the boys and girls into four categories – Under-12, Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18.
PBA secretary Tony Tan Gim Hin said the four-day competition would involve youngsters from six states – Penang, Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Kelantan and Kuala Lumpur.
“Many of the players are unknown quantities. But with talent scouts sure to be present at the tournament, the shuttlers will definitely be giving their best so that they can be recruited into the sports schools,” he said.
“As such, we can expect an exciting tournament.”
It is not surprising to see talent scouts converging on the tournament as the northern states are noted for their superb junior development programmes.
These states have churned out some of the country’s top shuttlers. Penang have produced Lee Chong Wei and Chin Eei Hui, Kedah can boast of Tan Boon Heong, Chong Wei Feng and Tan Chun Seang while Koo Kien Keat, Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari and Wong Pei Tty hail from Perak.
So, this year’s tournament could give birth to future world beaters as well.
Among the juniors to watch out for are Kuala Lumpur’s Lee Jii Jia (boys’ Under-12 singles), Penang’s H’ng Ken Wei (boys’ Under-18 singles) and Kedah’s Khoh Jia Wei (boys’ Under-16 singles).
Jii Jia, runner-up to Penang’s Loh Kean Yew in the GP Finals in Seremban last year, is a hot favourite for the boys’ Under-12 singles title.
But he will have to be wary of the challenges from team-mate Soh Wooi Yik and Penang’s Tan Jia Wei.
Penang’s Ken Wei is the top seed in the boys’ Under-18 singles event and his biggest hurdle is likely to be second seed Loke Kok Peng of Kuala Lumpur.
In the girls’ section, Kuala Lumpur’s Ho Yen Mei (pic) is a firm favourite for the Under-12 singles crown while Nur Aiffa Pajeri looks good for the Under-16 title.