National shuttler Yeo Jia Min's preparations for next month's World Junior Championships received the ideal boost yesterday when she captured two titles at the Asia Under-17 & Under-15 Junior Championships.
The top-seeded Singaporean was ruthless in the U-17 girls' singles as she dispatched unseeded Indonesian and local hope Sri Fatmawate 21-15, 21-13 in the final at the Stadium Gor Djarum Jati in Kudus, Central Java.
Despite only an hour's rest, Jia Min - ranked 32nd in the global junior standings - returned to the court to partner compatriot Crystal Wong as the duo overcame the Japanese pair of Natsu Saito and Rumi Yoshida 21-18, 21-18 in the girls' doubles final.
The 16-year-old, whose idol is Malaysian former world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei, had won the U-15 singles title in 2013 and finished joint third in the U-17 category last year.
Said the Singapore Sports School Secondary 4 student: "Being the first seed, there is some pressure to live up to the seeding but I just tried to perform my best in every match ... I feel happy and relieved that I've managed to secure both titles."
This was the first time that she and Crystal have played together but the chemistry between them was evident.
Said Crystal, also 16: "We used offensive and aggressive tactics to fight against every opponent."
Both girls were part of the new-look women's squad - following the retirement of several veteran players - who clinched a team bronze medal at the SEA Games on home soil in June.
Along with Liang Xiaoyu, 19, who defeated former world champion Ratchanok Intanon en route to a silver medal at the Thailand Open last Sunday, Jia Min is seen as one of the country's most promising talents.
Said national singles coach Kelvin Ho: "This tournament is a stepping stone for her (Jia Min) in terms of confidence to move forward.
"There is still a huge step ahead for her. After this tournament, there is still the World Junior Championships, which is the real test to gauge herself."
That tournament will be held from Nov 4-15 in Lima, Peru.
Retired shuttlers Yao Lei and Fu Mingtian were the first Singaporeans to win a world junior title when they lifted the girls' doubles trophy in 2008. The Republic's last individual medal at the biennial U-19 event came in 2002, when Kendrick Lee lost in the boys' singles final.
Said Jia Min: "I've been trying to better my game after every match that I've played. I thank God for giving me the strength to pull through. My next competition is the World Junior Championships and I hope to be able to go far as well."
This article was first published on October 12, 2015.
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