Vanessa Raj, playing in the SUKMA individual events for the first time, kept Penang’s rich tradition in the biennial games by winning the women’s squash singles gold with a 11-2, 7-11, 15-13, 12-14, 11-8 win over Wilayah Persekutuan’s Rachel Mae Arnold in the final.
The bronze went to Teh Min Jie of Selangor who beat Negeri Sembilan’s Zoe Foo 6-11, 13-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-7 in the playoff.
It was the 18-year-old Vanessa’s second SUKMA gold, having helped Penang win the team event at the last Games in Pahang in 2012.
“Of course I am thrilled to have the gold medal in my first outing in the individual event,” said the top seed after her win in 70 minutes over the second seeded Rachel.
“It is exciting to win the (individual) gold in your debut. It means a lot to me and I hope to play my role for Penang in the team event.”
Except in 2004, Penang women have dominated SUKMA squash since 1998 with current World No 1 Datuk Nicol David and Malaysian No 2 Low Wee Wern winning three times each.
Last year Wee Wern’s younger sister Wee Nee won the singles gold in Pahang.
Vanessa, the reigning Asian Youth Games champion, however, admitted it was not an easy win against Rachel who took her to the distance in a thrilling encounter.
“As usual it was a tough game. I lost focus along the way a number of times. My coach told me not to rush for points. I am glad I heeded the warning.”
Vanessa, a key player in the team event, believes Penang has the material to complete a double in Perlis.