KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia face two big hurdles in the mixed team badminton event of the Asian Junior Championships in Taiwan from Feb 16-23 – namely, China and Thailand.
The 14 participating nations have been split into four groups. Groups A and B will comprise of four teams each while Groups C and D will have three teams each.
Malaysia have been drawn in Group D with China and Sri Lanka.
The country will be represented by Cheam June Wei (boys’ singles), Ho Yen Mei (girls’ singles), Chua Kek Wei-Cheam June Wei (boys’ doubles), Goh Yea Ching-Peck Yen Wei (girls’ doubles) and Chua Kek Wei-Peck Yen Wei (mixed doubles).
The Malaysian team should have no problem getting past Sri Lanka. However they are expected to face a very tough match-up against China, who are the defending champions.
All of the Chinese players are ranked in the top four of the world junior rankings.
They are Zhao Jun Peng (boys’ singles), He Bing Jiao (girls’ singles), Huang Kaixiang-Zheng Si Wei (boys’ doubles), Jia Yi Fan-Chen Qingchen (girls’ doubles) and Huang Kaixiang-Chen Qingchen (mixed doubles).
There is a high probability Malaysia will finish as runners-up in Group D behind China. They will then face an uphill task in the quarter-finals against the winners of Group B, which comprises Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Macau.
The team likely to finish at the top of Group B is Thailand, who have been on the rise in recent years.
“It will be tough to advance to the semi-finals as there are strong contenders from China,” said Malaysia’s top girls’ singles player Ho Yen Mei, who is ranked 13th in the world junior rankings.
“We expect to meet Thailand in the quarter-finals. We will be the underdogs but hopefully, we can create an upset against them,” she added.
Malaysia have won the Asian Junior Championships mixed team event twice – in 2007 and 2009. Last year, they were knocked out by Japan in the quarter-finals.