KUALA LUMPUR: The return of China’s Zhou Kejian as the boys’ singles badminton coach at Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) has seen a sharp rise in the standard of youngsters Soong Joo Ven and Soo Teck Zhi.
Today, the duo will get the chance to show their potential when they compete in the inaugural Malaysia International Youth Under-19 tournament at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara.
Kejian was BJSS coach from 1992-2006 before leaving for Macau. The 62-year-old was re-hired one-and-a-half years ago to strengthen BAM’s junior programme at the school.
Joo Ven did the country proud when he reached the final of the Asian Junior Championships in South Korea in June.
Despite the good progress of his charges, Kejian was modest about their chances in the inaugural meet.
“Our standard is quite close with that of players from Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea and I expect a closely contested boys’ singles competition. Winning or losing is secondary, I will be pleased if our boys can show their true potential. I know what they are capable of and I hope they meet my expectations,” said Kejian.
The coach said he would use the Under-19 tournament as one of the platforms to name his team for the World Junior Championships in Japan from Oct 25-Nov 3.
Last year, Zulfadli Zulkifli emerged as the country’s first world junior boys’ singles champion.
Asked if his boys had the potential to narrow the gap on world No. 2 Lee Chong Wei, Kejian said: “It will take some time.
“The boys have been making progress in the singles.
“It is important that when these boys move up to the back-up team, there will be proper guidance.
“Their lifestyles will change and we need to have some of control over them.”
Second seed Joo Ven faces Nepal’s Dipesh Dhami in today’s opening round.
His main challengers in the lower half will be third seed Sitthikom Thammasin of Thailand and Jeon Hyuk-jin of South Korea.
Seventh seed Teck Zhi is in the top half with top seed and favourite Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand.
A total prize money of US$15,000 is at stake in the tournament, where Malaysia are hoping to come good in the girls’ doubles through top seeds Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and the mixed doubles of Tan Wee Gieen-Mei Kuan.