Teenage shuttlers hoping for SEA Games chance
Their friendship began when they both trained under ex-national doubles player Tan Eng Han at the now-demolished Vincent Hall in Bukit Timah, almost a decade ago.
Together, badminton players Yeo Jia Min and Ryan Ng excelled in age-group competitions like the Pilot Pen National Age Group Singles and the Singapore Press Holdings Age Group Doubles, as they progressed through the ranks of the National Intermediate Squad.
Now, Jia Min, 16, and Ryan, 17, are on the verge of representing Singapore at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June, after making the provisional men's and women's squads that were approved by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) last month.
Twelve names were submitted for each team, and the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) has been holding trials last week and this week to fill the 10 spots in each squad.
The results of the trials have not been released, with all national sports associations required to submit their final selections by early April.
The prospect of making their SEA Games debut on home ground is obviously an exciting one for both shuttlers.
Said Ryan: "I will be honoured if I make it to the team. There is no better feeling than to make my SEA Games debut in my country."
Jia Min added: "I am excited and a bit stressed. I hope I can perform well if I do get selected, because friends and family will be watching closely."
While senior players like Derek Wong, Danny Bawa Chrisnanta, Chayut Triyachart, Vanessa Neo, Chen Jiayuan and Shinta Mulia Sari all almost certain to get the nod for the Games, the recent retirement of seniors Ashton Chen, Yao Lei, Fu Mingtian, Gu Juan and Terry Yeo have left holes that have to be filled.
Younger shuttlers like Jia Min and Ryan are vying with their peers, as well as former internationals Ronald Susilo and Hendra Wijaya, for places in the team.
Eager to prove themselves, Jia Min and Ryan made a mindset shift when they were told at the end of last year to prepare for trials this month.
Jia Min, a Secondary 4 student at the Singapore Sports School (SSP), said: "I'd try to imagine myself in a 'competition atmosphere' at each training session."
The duo will leave for a competition in Europe at the end of the month, and may compete at the OUE Singapore Open here - a BWF SuperSeries level event - in April, as part of the national team's preparations for the 2015 SEA Games.
Beyond the SEA Games, which will be held from June 5 to 16, both shuttlers have lofty ambitions.
"I want to compete in the Olympics, and to reach the top 10 in the men's singles world rankings," said Ryan, who starts school at Republic Polytechnic next month as part of a through-train programme with SSP.
Jia Min, too, has similar targets.
She said: "I want to be a world and Olympic champion."
NAME: Ryan Ng Zin Rei
BIRTHDAY: Jan 14, 1998
IDOLS: Kendrick Lee and Peter Gade. "Kendrick is one of the best players Singapore has produced and I try to emulate his explosive playing style."
HOBBIES: Movies, bowling
RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS: Pilot Pen Age Group Singles 2014 U-17 boys' singles champion, SPH Age Group Doubles 2013 and 2014 U-17 boys' doubles champion
NAME: Yeo Jia Min
BIRTHDAY: Feb 1, 1999
IDOL: Lee Chong Wei "When he was younger he didn't have many achievements, but he worked hard to get to where he is today."
HOBBIES: Eating. I love anything spicy, as well as snacks, such as sweets
RECENT ACHIEVEMENTS: National Junior Championships 2013 U-19 girls' singles and doubles champion, Pilot Pen Age Group Singles 2013 U-17 girls' singles champion, SPH Age Group Doubles 2013 U-17 girls' doubles champion.