WHAT a remarkable turnaround it has been for national woman squash player S. Sivasangari.
Just a year ago, she wasn’t even sure whether she would be able to feature in the Hangzhou Asian Games, let alone win a team gold medal.
That’s because in June last year, she was involved in a horrific road accident along the Maju Expressway in Kuala Lumpur — just about a month before the July 28-Aug 8 Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games — and there were questions marks about her future in squash.
The 24-year-old Sivasangari, who was named as the country’s flag-bearer for the Birmingham Games together with world powerlifting champion Bonnie Bunyau Gustin, needed a few months to recover from the head and spine (C1) injuries sustained in the crash.
Sivasangari, however, showed that she is made of sterner stuff when she slowly, but surely, regained her fitness and confidence to again be named as the flag-bearer with track cyclist Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom for the Hangzhou 2022 Games.
And today, with Malaysia down 0-1 to Hong Kong in the women’s team final, she showed her mental resilience when she exuded class and composure to win the second game and inspire a fightback.
Malaysia went on to win 2-1 to wrest the gold from Hong Kong, after having to be satisfied with the bronze in the previous edition.
“I was my biggest challenge… I am just grateful to God that I am still here, able to play squash actually. Being part of this team, I am just very blessed. I think everyone has their own challenges and it’s how we overcome them mentally.
“In the final, I went in nervous (after trailing). I mean we all know Rachel Arnold did her best, it’s tough playing in the first match, (and I am) proud (of) the way she fought. I was able to be positive, focused on one point at a time and happy to give a win for Malaysia,” she told reporters after the victory.
Earlier, Malaysia went 1-0 down when Rachel lost 11-7, 7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 6-11 to Hong Kong’s Tong Tsz Wing before Sivasangari produced a dominant performance to oust Ho Tze Lok 11-5, 11-8, 11-6 to level the tie. Aifa Azman then took centre stage to confirm the winning point by defeating Chan Sin Yuk 11-5, 11-8, 11-13, 11-8.
Malaysia, led by former great Datuk Nicol David, won the gold in Guangzhou in 2010 when the team event was introduced and repeated the feat in the 2014 edition in Incheon, but had to be satisfied with just the bronze medal in the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Games after being stunned by India in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Aifa credited her mental toughness for clinching the winning point, saying she went into the game with a ready mindset and a good game plan although this was her first time playing in a deciding tie.
The gold medal was also a timely birthday gift for her younger sister, Aira, who did not get to play today and who turned 19 yesterday (Sept 29).
Now that the team event is done and dusted, Sivasangari and Aira will continue their medal quest in the women’s singles event on Monday. In addition, Aifa will pair up with Mohammad Syafiq Kamal while Rachel will combine with Ivan Yuen in the mixed doubles event tomorrow.
Ng Eain Yow and Muhammad Addeen Idrakie Bahtiar will carry the nation’s challenge in men’s singles. — BERNAMA