SINGAPORE SQUASH RACKETS ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES GOLDEN JUBILEE AND NATIONAL DAY WITH LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD TO SINGAPORE SQUASH LEGEND ZAINAL ABIDIN AND LAUNCH OF A NEW ERA OF SQUASH
- Nine-time East Asian Champion, 11-time National Champion and 1986 Sportsman of the year Zainal Abidin conferred Lifetime Achievement Award
- SSRA submits proposal for new three-storey state-of-the-art National Squash Centre to replace the Kallang Squash Centre, slated for demolition in 2023
- SSRA to reach out to people of all ages and abilities by innovating fun squash through technology, media, art, and storytelling
- Ong Zhe Sim of Methodist Girls’ School and Justin Yap of Anglo- Chinese School (Independent) receive SG Squash Junior Athlete of the Year Awards
Singapore Squash Rackets Association (SSRA) organised Squash Ball 2022, at
the Shangri-La Singapore, Island Ballroom, on 13 August 2022, to mark the 50th
Squash, in conjunction with Singapore’s National Day celebrations.
The Squash Ball 2022 saw the attendance of close to 600 guests. The Guest-of-Honour for the gala dinner event was Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development.
The inaugural Squash Ball 2022 is a significant event for the Singapore Squash community, as they had to wait two years to congregate and celebrate the belated 50th Anniversary of Singapore Squash. Originally scheduled to be held in 2020, the event was postponed twice due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The idea for the Squash Ball was first conceived in 2019 as an appreciation dinner to thank SSRA’s donors for their strong support in the fundraising efforts for the One Team Singapore Fund (OTSF) and the Bicentennial Community Fund (BCF), which was matched dollar for dollar by the government. A total amount of S$1.6M has been raised through the matching fund scheme since 2019.
Lifetime Achievement Award
In celebration of Singapore’s birthday together with Singapore Squash’s Golden Jubilee, Singapore’s very own iconic squash legend Mr. Zainal Abidin was honoured as the first recipient of the SSRA Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Mr Eric Chua, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Conferred by SSRA - the national sports association and governing body for Singapore Squash, the Lifetime Achievement Award is in recognition of Mr. Zainal Abidin’s outstanding contribution to Singapore Squash – putting Singapore on the world stage of international squash, bringing glory to Singapore through squash, and still contributing to the sport as the SG Squash National Coach.
Legendary Singapore squash player Mr. Zainal Abidin, who is the 9-time East Asian Champion, 11-time National Champion and Sportsman of the Year in 1986, said: “I am truly honoured and comforted to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award. I discovered squash when I was a National Serviceman at the Police Academy. I found a wooden racket that was thrown in a dustbin near the squash courts. I could not afford to buy one so I took the wooden racket even though it was warped. To me it was a blessed opportunity and that was how I started.
I observed how other people played squash and tried to follow them. I found a squash ball someone left behind in the court and tried hitting it. But it came with a challenge because the racket is warping. If you don’t hit it at the correct spot of the warped racket, it goes flying in different directions. So, I had to adjust and play with feel. Watching how others hit the ball, I just imagine. I tried to copy and figure out myself how they do the swing and I just practise on my own.
Most of my life is about squash – playing squash, training, playing in competitions, meeting friends and wherever there is squash, I will do. My dream is to be at the top and I work really hard to win competitions and I am very proud of my achievements. My biggest moments are winning the 1986 Sportsman of the Year and winning the 1989 Penang Open because it involved beating 3 professional players that were highly ranked in the world. In the final, I beat Ross Norman the world champion who was defending his title. So, it cannot be a fluke, it takes real hard work for me to win that competition.”
Children’s Picture Book on Zainal Abidin
SSRA commissioned Ms Rilla Melati Bahri, award-winning author of children’s picture books and Director of Mini Monsters to write a children’s picture book about Zainal Abidin and his love for Squash. The Englishlanguage picture biography book which includes Malay phrases is planned for publication by end of 2022.
Ms Rilla said: “Zainal has a gem of a story which I think will inspire many students. His journey to becoming a champion was not made in a day. What struck me was that he started from very humble beginnings. His humility touches me and I feel that is an important value for us to learn in an era where everything is done very fast, in an age of technology where everyone can claim to be an expert.
Zainal’s story is inspiring because he shows what it really takes to be a true expert. I feel very happy and truly honoured to be selected by SSRA to work on Zainal’s picture book biography and would like to thank Zainal for showing us what true grit and perseverance is all about.”
New National Squash Centre Proposal
For the promise and potential of Singapore Squash to be realised, SSRA also shared its hopes and vision for a new national centre for Singapore Squash to be built in Kallang Alive! to replace its 40-year-old home base at Kallang Squash Centre which is Singapore’s only tournament grade facility, that has been slated for demolition in 2023 without a suitable replacement.
SSRA President Patrick Thio said: “We have submitted a proposal to Sports SG on the replacement centre and it is a state-of-the-art 3-storey building with the three formats of squash - the singles, the international doubles and the jumbo doubles, sitting on 1600 square meters of land.
It is important to build a national squash centre in Kallang Alive! to inspire a new generation to come forward, to join us and bring squash to a higher level. We have been medalling and doing our nation proud - clinching the gold medal with our jumble doubles and silver medals with our international doubles.
What we hope to achieve in this world class facility is to provide the players with a comfortable environment to train and to invite overseas players, professional players, world renowned academies, coaches and referees to come and share their experience with us and to impart their knowledge to our locals.
With this sharing of skills our players will be able to improve and with this eco system. We want to encourage others in the region to come and join us and improve together with us in Singapore.”
SG Squash Athlete Samuel Kang who is 6-time national champion in Singapore, played in 3 SEA Games, winning 2 gold, several silver and bronze medals and also clinched gold medals in the men's team and jumbo doubles events in 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, said: “It is important for Singapore Squash to be part of the whole Kallang Alive! project as it symbolizes the unity between all the sports. One of the hopes for us as players and as the squash fraternity is to remain connected to Team Singapore.
Having easy access to the Singapore Sports Institute located in the same area is a big advantage for the national squad. It is very convenient now for us to go from the courts at Kallang Squash Centre to the Singapore Sports Institute for Sports Science and Sports Medicine facilities and services such as gym sessions, sports physiotherapy and rehabilitation for injury recovery.
Being in the same hub with the rest of the sports is critical to boost the profile of squash, make squash accessible for the community and keep it in people’s minds that squash is still a part of Singapore’s sporting culture.”
New Roadmap: Innovating Fun Squash for Community Outreach
Charting the path forward for Singapore Squash, SSRA announced the roadmap to bring Singapore Squash to the next level with its strategic plans to grow the sport, increase access and achieve high performance excellence for squash to bring glory to Singapore again.
SSRA also launched a new era of squash that embraces technology, media, art and storytelling to create new fun squash experiences for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy and to build an inclusive community for Singapore Squash.
For people in the community who are new to squash, social recreational squash players and high-performance squash athletes, SSRA will be making the new fun squash experiences accessible to everyone to enjoy the many benefits of practising squash drills and playing squash, which was ranked the Number 1 healthiest sport by Forbes magazine in 2013.
To encourage more people to get active by playing squash, SSRA has partnered Digital Dream to create Mixed Reality Squash, integrating the sport of squash with digital technology and gamification. A series of innovative mixed reality squash experiences with different levels of difficulty will be developed for differently abled people.
Paralympian Swimmer Theresa Goh said: “I found Mixed Reality squash with the game element really fun and engaging! By adapting the sport of squash, it lowers both mental and physical barriers making it easy to pick up and play. With squash being played on flat ground, we can have people on personal mobility devices and wheelchairs participating in squash and that just creates an integrated and inclusive community.”
Bringing the best of both worlds of sports and arts together, SSRA is also collaborating with artists Glacy Soh, Chan Yoke Ying and Leong Yiat Teng to organise Splash Paint Squash – an inclusive community campaign open to all to be held from September to October 2022.
Starting with squash tasters in the September school holidays, SSRA coaches will introduce participants to the basics of squash, before the participants progress to splashing paint using squash rackets and balls to create an inclusive community art mural together with the three artists, to celebrate World Squash Day 2022 in October.
Karen Poh, Head of Engagement to Empowerment from Caregivers Alliance Ltd (CAL), said: “CAL is delighted that Singapore Squash is developing these creative fun squash experiences that will benefit our community to beat the blues. Activities such as squash and art are great for physical and mental health. It is a great outlet for stress, improving mindfulness and a fabulous way for creative expression.
At CAL, we support and teach caregivers how to take care of themselves and their loved ones in their mental wellness journey. Self-care is very important. Having your own me-time, doing the things you enjoy, participating in activities - playing a sport such as squash, bonding and laughing with your friends!”
Lim Si Hui, who is in charge of Group Sponsorships at GLYPH, a children's charity and social enterprise, said; “Our mission is to create a conducive environment over the weekends for kids and youths from disadvantaged communities to come and learn and play.
We want children to live a healthy and active lifestyle, and at the same, time trying out something new. Particularly with squash, we realize that this is a good way for kids to build up resilience, confidence and character.
We are also looking at expanding the program to support families as a whole. So this would include a family bonding program, through squash. And we believe this is a great way for families to stay active, and at the same time, stay bonded.”
Junior Athlete of the Year
To motivate the new generation of Singapore Squash players to pursue their dreams and achieve sports excellence, SSRA Vice-President Josephine Choo presented the SG Squash Junior Athletes of the Year Awards by SSRA to recognize juniors who have achieved consistent results and performed beyond expectations in local and international tournaments, exemplary attitude, and training attendance.
Ong Zhe Sim from Methodist Girls’ School was the recipient of the SG Squash Junior Athlete of the Year Award (Girl’s Category). At only 14 years of age, Zhe Sim is Singapore’s Double National Junior Champion - winning the championship title in both the Under-19 and Under-17 tournament categories. She also achieved Top 8 in the Asian Juniors Championships held in Pattaya, Thailand.
Justin Yap from Anglo Junior Chinese (Independent) was the recipient of the SG Squash Junior Athlete of the Year Award (Boy’s Category). Justin bounced back stronger than ever from injuries caused by an accident at home and went on to achieve 3rd placing in the Qatar Junior Open 2022.