KUALA LUMPUR: National women's singles shuttler Ho Yen Mei may not be a household name just yet, but that is all set to change this year.
The ambitious junior shuttler, who draws inspiration from the wives of the two best badminton players in the world, has now started full-time training after graduating from the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
Last year, her badminton career took a backseat as she concentrated on her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations.
Yen Mei said that she draws inspiration from former world champion Xie Xingfang and 2007 China Open winner Wong Mew Choo.
Xingfang is the wife of five-time world champion and two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan while Mew Choo is married to Malaysian hero and world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.
“I admire Xie Xingfang because of her skills, movements, body language and fire on court. She anticipates her opponent’s movements very well and she is very calm on the court,” she said.
“Mew Chew is my local heroine. She is a very strong and tough player, who is also always very calm on the court,” said Yen Mei, who turns 18 in April.
Yen Mei, who is now training with the senior players, said that the physical and fitness aspects of her game have seen a lot of improvement since she began training under coaches Wong Tat Meng and Ronny Augustinus at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara.
“The full-time training here is better compared to that at the BJSS because I feel more focused and I can spend more time analysing my weaknesses and working on improving them,” she said.
“I used to train for only one session in BJSS ... but with the national team, we have a maximum of three sessions. As I’m a bit behind in training, I have committed myself to three sessions a day. I even train at night.
For now though, her training sessions have been hampered by an ankle injury. But she’s not about to let it stop her from making a major impact at the Asian Youth Championships, which will be from Feb 16-23 in Taiwan.
“An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan showed a slight damage on my ankle. I’m undergoing proper treatement. For now, I’m still able to run and train as usual.
“Injuries are a common problem for players ... we just have to overcome them. I will stay focused and and give my best,” said the gutsy Yen Mei, who aims to reach the semi-finals of the Asian Youth Championships.
It will be quite a feat as no Malaysian girl has yet emerged as champion.
She is one of four girls selected for the tournament. The others are S. Kisona, Lee Ying Ying and Goh Jin Wei.
Yen Mei will also be using the Asian Junior meet to try and qualify for the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing in August. The Asian Junior meet is one of the qualifying tournaments for the Games.
“I’m now No. 13 in the world junior rankings ... I want to break into the top 10 to strengthen my chances. Hopefully, I will be able to gather some points and qualify for the Youth Olympic Games by doing well in the Asian junior meet,” said Yen Mei.