Lee Wei and Shakirin look set to reign again

FAVOURITES: Shakirin hits a return while his teammate Lee Wei looks on
during their 24th SEA Games mixed double match against Thailand, in Korat
in this Dec 7 file photo. — AFP photo

JOHOR BAHARU: The reign of Beh Lee Wei as the queen of Malaysian table tennis looks likely to be revived again, even for another year or two.

The 26-year-old Lee Wei, a 10-time winner of the National women’s singles crown, is tipped to win her 11th title at the 46th edition of the National Championship which begins at the City Council Indoor stadium here today, in the absence of the defending champion Ng Sock Khim.

Sock Khim, who won the title in 2007 and 2008, is still recuperating from an operation which kept her out of the recent Laos Sea Games and the Malaysian Table- Tennis Association honorary secretary Chan Fong Keong confirmed that the Kedah born paddler would be out of action until the Chinese New Year in February.

“It’s unfortunate but I am sure the women’s title would be a very much open affair now with the absence of Sock Khim,” said Fong.

Lee Wei, who won her first National title way back in 1997 as a 14-year-old, is seeded No 2 behind last year’s beaten finalist Chiu Soo Jin of Sabah but her current form, which included three bronzes at the Laos Sea Games, and her vast experience, will make her a real threat to the rest.

She is also expected to carry Kuala Lumpur in the team’s challenge in their pursuit of a second consecutive title together with her elder sister Lee Fong.

As the Beh sisters continue their hunt for glory, Muhammad Shakirin Ibrahim, the first non- Chinese to win the men’s singles crown, is looking for more.

Muhammad Shakirin who first took the title at the 2006 edition in Batu Pahat went on to win it again in Kuala Terengganu last year and a third title is within his reach.

Sabah’s Kho Mao Sheng, the 2007 winner and beaten finalist last year, is still a threat but the KL-born Muhammad Shakirin, has the edge over the rest including the four-time winner Chan Koon Wah who is now playing under the Putrajaya banner.

A total of 250 players from 17 teams are taking part in the four-day competition which is divided into two categories – the Open and Solidarity (Non-Chinese) division. — Bernama

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