KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 3 ― With squash set to be demoted to a Tier-2 sport, most will think we cannot produce anymore top class athletes. However this is a false notion as we have a classic example of a home grown talent in Low Wee Wern.
In just four tournaments since her comeback in July, Wee Wern moved from 254 to 52 in the latest world rankings, a remarkable achievement considering she was the No. 5 ranked player in the world before an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in her knee that needed multiple surgeries kept her out of the game for 20 months.
She made four finals on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Tour and won all of them starting with the Malaysian and Tasmanian Open in July, Australian Open in August then the Queensland Open last month. All this while training in Penang under the only coach she has ever had, Aaron Soyza.
“Pretty decent considering the number of tournaments I've played. I have another two to go so by years end I should be in the top 50,” Wee Wern told Malay Mail.
Wee Wern was asked what she taught of the imminent changes to the sport’s landscape where the old “Kita Juara” and “Podium” programmes are swapped for a new “Tier System” with priority given to Olympic sports like cycling, badminton and diving.
“I'm speaking strictly for myself here. I don't use an exorbitant sum compared to other athletes. Before my injury I used to play 10-12 tournaments a year and I think I don't go beyond RM120,000 a year.
“I am based in Penang, hence I don't incur the costs of those who are training and living abroad. Moreover I have a local coach who in my opinion is severely underpaid.”
She was also asked what she taught of their pay packet being reviewed when they move to Tier-2 which is for sports that excel at the Asian and Commonwealth games.
“Being in the second tier, funding wise it shouldn't affect me too much, however the salaries could change.
“I expect funding to be lesser as well but I will find a way to manage that. In fact my last trip to Australia, I've made a loss cause the prize money in the tournament is barely sufficient to cover just airfare and accommodation.
“I lost my sponsorship from AirAsia and EcoWorld due to my injury but am lucky to still have Nusmetro. The cash injection from them is invaluable. However the ideal situation would be to secure a long term sponsor to help with squash's growth.”
The Tier system would have huge repercussions for eight-time world champion Nicol David and long time coach Liz Irving who are the highest paid squash duo in the country. Overseas stints to train and live abroad like national No. 1 Nafiizwan Adnan did, would probably come to an end.
This put the onus on Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia’s (SRAM) upper brass to work extra hard to secure funds for the future of squash.