Kareena beats stomach flu to win at SEA Asian junior meet, Latest Others News - The New Paper

Kareena beats stomach flu to win at SEA Asian junior meet

Kareena Sashikumar was just one point away from losing the girls’ Under-11 final of the South-east Asian Junior Individual Squash Championships in Bangkok on May 12.

The 10-year-old trailed 6-10 in the third game of the best-of-five fixture against Malaysia’s Nurul Nisa Najihah Md Nazir, after errors caused her to lose the first two games.

But the Farrer Park Primary School pupil steadied her nerves and clawed her way back to win 13-11, sparking a 3-2 (9-11, 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-7) come-from-behind victory at the Vajiravudh College in Bangkok.

It was quite a remarkable triumph, considering she had just recovered from stomach flu. Two days earlier, the 10-year-old had vomited twice – after she woke up and again after her practice session.

She said: “I was only a bit worried because I’ve gotten sick during competitions before. My parents are doctors so they took care of me a lot and gave me lots of medicine to help me stay healthy.”

Despite not feeling her best, the Singaporean was back on court for the semi-finals on May 11, when she defeated Malaysia’s Chew Sel Nuie 3-1 (9-11, 13-11, 12-10, 11-8), before clinching gold the next day.

“I was very happy to win the competition. I feel very honoured to represent Singapore and it’s a very good opportunity to win this tournament,” said the Primary 4 pupil.

She put her success in Thailand down to an improved mindset. She was also training five to six times a week ahead of the tournament and had the chance to practise with some older players in the national set-up.

She said: “I feel like my attitude changed during this tournament. I always try to pay attention to my teammates’ attitudes too and I learnt not to get angry when I hit a bad shot.

“I’m a bit better now, I tell myself to go for the next point if I hit a bad shot.”

Kareena’s victory contributed to Singapore’s haul of three golds, two silvers and four bronzes.

Singapore Squash general manager Alex Wan said the squad had exceeded their target, which was to win two golds.

He said: “We were once there to make the numbers in such events and to see so many of our juniors on the podium is very encouraging.”

Also taking home golds were Ong Zhe Sim and Jacintha Han, who won the girls’ U-17 and U-13 events respectively.

Jacintha was determined to finish at the top of the podium this time, after finishing third in the U-15 category in 2023.

Twice, the Raffles Girls’ School student trailed in the final against Malaysian Nurul Nageena Abd Basir but the 12-year-old ended up winning the 27-minute encounter 3-2 (8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6, 11-6).

The Secondary 1 student said: “In the first set when I lost, I told myself that I couldn’t give up and that I need to fight. There were so many spectators, my coaches and parents, and that gave me the motivation.”

Zhe Sim, who won gold after beating Malaysia’s Nurul Nisa Nasuha Md Nazir 3-1 (11-7, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9), hopes to build on her triumph at the regional competition.

The 15-year-old believes that she has grown after working with national squash player Marcus Phua under a mentorship programme, with the latter advising Zhe Sim how to tackle certain scenarios during matches.

The Methodist Girls’ School student said: “This title is the first time that I’ve gotten first place in such a major tournament. I’ve only gotten champion at those normal junior opens so this is quite special to me and I’m motivated by that.”