Watch out for shuttlers at 2018 Asiad
National coach Chua coy on medal hopes at next year's SEA Games but optimistic about 2018 Asiad
It will be "challenging" for Singapore's shuttlers to win a medal at the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur next year, but national coach Chua Yong Joo reckons his team will be ready to challenge for honours at the 2018 Asian Games.
The sport has faced a changing of guard in recent years, with stalwarts such as Yao Lei, Terry Yeo and Ashton Chen hanging up their rackets.
This year, doubles specialist Vanessa Neo also called it quits after failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics, while her husband, the Republic's top men's singles player Derek Wong, also called time on his career after Rio.
Loh Kean Yew, who won a men's singles bronze at the SEA Games last year on home ground, is currently serving National Service, while Shinta Mulia Sari is on maternity leave.
Other than Loh's bronze, Singapore also finished third in the men's doubles, and both the men and women's team events last year.
Former national doubles player Chua said: "It might be quite challenging for us because some of our key players are not around... but we still have to take up this challenge and, hopefully, get some good results.
According to Chua, there are about 20 players across all events in the current squad, which is dominated by shuttlers under the age of 20.
As such, the likes of Hendra Wijaya, 30, Danny Bawa Chrisnanta, 27, as well as 20-year-old Liang Xiaoyu, who made her Olympic debut in Brazil this year, are looked upon for experience.
The signs are promising, as young players such as women's singles players Grace Chua and Yeo Jia Min, as well as mixed doubles pair Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han are starting to make their mark.
Ranked 87th in the world, Chua, 19, is currently the country's No. 2 women's singles after world No. 28 Liang.
World No. 101 Yeo has also won several titles this year, including the third-tier Vietnam Open Grand Prix.
The general idea for 2017 would be for the players to bring themselves to the next level, depending on their current capabilities.
For example, mixed doubles world No. 17 Hee and Tan should be gunning for more Grand Prix Gold titles before stepping up to the Superseries tournaments, while Liang is looking forward to overseas training camps to hone her skills as part of her journey towards Tokyo 2020.
I think we will be able to challenge for a medal at the Asian Games, we still have about two years to prepare our players. As for the Commonwealth Games, we have to win medals, because we have been winning medals in that Games.National coach Chua Yong Joo
Chua is quietly confident that the current crop would be able to challenge for medals at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, which Australia and Indonesia will host respectively in 2018.
Singapore last won a medal - a women's team bronze - at the 2006 Asiad, while the Republic have won at least a medal at every Commonwealth Games since 2002.
Chua said: "I think we will be able to challenge for a medal at the Asian Games, we still have about two years to prepare our players.
"As for the Commonwealth Games, we have to win medals, because we have been winning medals in that Games."