After coming close last year – winning three of the four titles at stake – in the 100PLUS National Interstate Under-16 and Under-12 Championships for Boys and Girls – Penang are eyeing a clean sweep this year.
Penang play host to this year’s championships to be held at the Penang Badminton Association Hall in Bukit Dumbar, Jelutong from Nov 27-Dec 1 that has attracted 28 teams in the Under-16 category and 29 in the Under-12 category.
However, last year’s host Kelantan will not compete in the Girls’ Under-12 and Under-16 categories this year. Kelantan’s absence in the Girls’ Under-16 is a surprise as the East Coast state competed last year. Putrajaya is also staying out in the Girls’ Under-16 as they are not able to raise a “strong” team.
Perlis, however, has brought some cheer this year and will compete in all four categories. Last year Perlis skipped the Girls Under-12 when the championships were held in Kota Bahru.
Penang was the toast- in Kota Bahru – winning the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-16 and the Girls’ Under-12 with the Boys’ Under-12 finishing in third place behind champions Selangor and runners-up Johor.
However, Penang head coach Razlan Rajan has boldly predicted a better haul this time as the state has the bulk of the players from last year.
“We have strength in all events. It is not impossible to make a clean sweep this year as the championships are held in Penang. There will be support from the home fans in the stands.
“Still we have to be wary of our rivals. Sabah, Johor, Selangor, and Kuala Lumpur have strong teams and we can expect tough fight from them,” said Razlan, adding that Penang wants to remain as a “badminton power” in the country.
In last year’s Boys’ Under-16 final Penang defeated Sabah 2-0. Penang also came out tops in the Girls’ Under-16 final with a 2-1 win over Sabah in the final. The Girls’ Under-12 final saw Penang smooth Johor 2-0 for the title.
According to Razlan, Penang has made minimal changes to the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-16 teams. Those retained from last year’s Boys’ Under-16 are Ong Zhen Yi, Rayner Beh Chun Meng, Goh Boon Zhe, and Samuel Lee – all core players. The newcomers are Ooi Yi Hern and Tan Wei Liang.
Newcomers Tan Mei Xin and Gan Wan Yan join Tan Zhing Yi, Khor Jing Wei, Lee Xin Jie, and Tan Shen Thing from last year’s winning team.
Penang gets top billing in both the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-16. The boys are in the three-team Group A with Kedah and Terengganu while second seeds Sabah has Melaka, Kelantan, and Perak for a company in Group B.
Group C is made up of No 3 seeds Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Putrajaya, and Sarawak while Selangor, the fourth seeds, Pahang, Perlis, and Negri Sembilan complete Group D.
The Penang girls have Negri Sembilan and Kedah in Group A with second seeds Sabah, Melaka, and Sarawak in Group B. Dark horses Kuala Lumpur is seeded number three and have Johor and Perak in Group C. Fourth-seeded Selangor are in four-team Group D with Pahang, Perlis, and Terengganu.