Squash: Mao's ready for more

Squash: Mao's ready for more
Singapore's Mao Shi Hui in action against Malaysia's Rachel Arnold.

SINGAPORE - She might have lost in straight sets yesterday but Mao Shi Hui feels that the past week's performance is a good stepping stone to the South-east Asia (SEA) Games next year.

After all, the 22-year-old Singaporean did not have the best of preparations for the Old Chang Kee Singapore Squash Open 2014.

She flew in from the United States - where she is studying sociology at Yale University - just before the tournament started but did well to progress all the way to the final of the Women's Premier category.

Facing Malaysian Rachel Arnold in the final at the Kallang Squash Centre yesterday, Mao, seeded second, put up a good fight against the tournament's top seed but still lost 5-11, 10-12, 5-11.

Speaking to The New Paper after her match, Mao said: "I think I've done quite well over the past few days, considering the circumstances that I've had to face.

"As for my performance, based on the fact that Rachel's a professional player with a much higher world ranking, I thought I did pretty good."

Mao is hoping to use this week's experience as a platform to qualify for next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be hosted by Singapore.

The first round of qualification for the biennial Games will be held on Friday.

She said: "I'm trying to take things one step at a time, so at the top of my list right now is definitely next year's SEA Games.

"We're having the SEA Games trials after Christmas and, until March, I will play my squash in the collegiate circuit in the US. After that, I'm going to train all the way until the SEA Games in June.

"It's going to be an exciting year, and I can't wait."

Woffles Wu, president of the Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA), wants to build on the success of the Old Chang Kee Singapore Squash Open 2014.

Speaking to The New Paper on the sidelines of the tournament, the 53-year-old plastic surgeon said: "We (SSRA) have been trying to stimulate and grow the next generation of squash players and, to that end, the progress over the past year has been very successful.

"We're trying to create a micro-environment by creating tournaments, improving refereeing standards and boosting mass participation. I think we've been doing that well.

"Just look at this tournament. We managed to get a wonderful title sponsor in Old Chang Kee.

"The players like the tournament, the parents like it too, and that's the important thing about squash."

The long-term aim of the SSRA lies in youth development, which will guarantee the future of the sport.

Said Wu: "Tournaments like the Singapore Open are not just preparation for next year's SEA Games.

"We're looking at planning for many subsequent SEA Games after that. Singapore has talent, and what we need is more of such international-level tournaments to inspire our youngsters.

"The kids need to have something to train for, because hunger feeds success."

This article was first published on December 22, 2014.
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