IMPRESSIVE: Sponsors CIMB Foundation gives National Junior Circuit a further boostWITH seven more graduates of the CIMB National Junior Circuit turning professional this year, the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) received a further boost when the title sponsor agreed to increase funding for the age-group tour.
A string of successes by national juniors, including S. Sivasangari and Aifa Azman's triumph at the British Junior Open last month, prompted CIMB Foundation to "upsize" their support of the National Junior Circuit, part of SRAM's junior development programme.
"We are proud to witness the impressive accomplishment of the talented junior squash players under the programme," said CIMB Foundation chief executive Raja Noorma Othman at the launch of the 2014 development programme in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
"Therefore, in addition to renewing our commitment to sponsor the programme, we are pleased to give it a further boost by upsizing our pledge amount this year."
Raja Noorma declined to offer specifics but added that "this brings our total sponsorship to RM13.1 million thus far since 2008 when the development programme was first established."
The seven players -- 2012 Malaysia Games gold medallist Addeen Idrakie Bahtiar, Sanjay Singh Chal, Syafiq Kamal, Hannan Tarmidi, Rachel Arnold, Teh Min Jie and 2013 Asian Youth Games champion Vanessa Raj -- join several others before them in hitting the professional tour.
Though 4,200 players have gone through the National Junior Circuit since 2006, SRAM president Datuk Syed Mustaffa Syed Ali acknowledged that turning professional is a decision that requires much thought, hence few take the next step forward.
"The 4,200 players include those who have been on the circuit from the Under-9 category. It takes many years before the players are ready to turn professional," said Syed Mustaffa.
"Then they have to decide whether they want to turn professional or pursue their studies. It's a question that faces all sports in Malaysia.
"I thank the seven players for the decision to turn professional and I also thank CIMB Foundation for the extra budget which will help us produce more players under the high-performance elite junior programme."
The Rising Stars National Junior Circuit, now in its ninth year, starts today with the first leg at the National Squash Centre in Bukit Jalil, which will also host the Grand Finals on Aug 7-10.
The second leg of the Under-13, Under-11 and Under-9 tournaments will be held at the Hang Jebat Stadium in Malacca on April 17-20.
The fifth edition of the National Junior Circuit for Under-19, Under-17 and Under-15 categories will be held at the Ipoh City Council squash courts (April 3-6), Pahang Sports Council squash courts in Kuantan (May 1-4) and Bukit Jalil (Aug 7-10).
As an incentive for the junior players, CIMB Foundation will again fund a trip to next year's British Junior Open for the winners of the Malaysian Junior Open and Asian Junior Championships.
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