Debate over Malaysia hosting 2026 Commonwealth Games hots up, Youth and Sports minister avoids media at event

It was an event sports reporters had looked forward to.

Armed with a long list of questions – mainly on Malaysia’s plans to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, and the hauling of a top government official who spoke out against the idea – media personnel were keen to get the Youth and Sports minister’s take on these issues.

Yet, Hannah Yeoh quickly left Menara CIMB right after witnessing a sponsorship deal between Malaysia’s top squash player S. Sivasangari and CIMB without meeting the journos who had wanted to speak to her.

CIMB was represented by Effendy Shahul Hamid, chief executive officer, Group Consumer and Digital Banking, CIMB Group.

This reporter and the New Straits Times’ Aftar Singh, who had noticed Yeoh leaving before the press conference, tried to catch up to her, but unfortunately, she had already entered the lift.

While disappointed at not getting answers from Yeoh, the media were impressed by Sivasangari, who openly declared that she was aiming for gold at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, when squash makes its debut.

It was the first time the player, who hails from Sungai Petani in the northern Malaysian state of Kedah, had stated her intention to go for gold in Los Angeles.

“This sponsorship fuels my passion for squash, but also instils a deep sense of responsibility in representing CIMB and the country with pride and excellence,” said Sivasangari, who is now part of CIMB’s stable of sporting ambassadors that includes track cyclist Datuk Azizulhasni Awang and professional golfer Ervin Chang.

“My sights are set on the ultimate prize of winning the gold medal at the 2028 Olympics. If I do not set such a target, people might question, why am I doing this?

“With the backing of CIMB and my loved ones, I hope to turn this dream into a reality.”

Sivasangari is one of four squash players – Ng Eain Yow, Aifa Azman and Aira Azman are the other three – who are part of the government’s Road to Gold Committee’s Fast Track programme aimed at winning gold at the 2028 Olympics.

Two divers – Bertrand Rhodict Lises and Enrique Maccartney Harold – are the only other athletes in the Fast Track programme.

Sivasangari, who returned from a horrible automotive accident in 2022 which threatened her career, paid tribute to those who supported her in her time of need, and promised that she would stay focused on Los Angeles.

“I will be based in the United States with my coach (David Palmer), but we may get some others involved as well,” said Sivasangari, who graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications at Cornell University in New York, the United States.

CIMB Group has been a mainstay in Sivasangari’s progress. As a budding junior and teenage star, she was the beneficiary of CIMB’s many programmes, including the CIMB Junior Squash Development Programme in early 2009, and the CIMB Squash Academic Scholarship by CIMB Foundation, when she was granted a full, four-year scholarship in 2018.

“This is sort of a homecoming for Sivasangari. We have tracked her, all of her career, and we are so pleased that she and her family have agreed to continue partnering with us as she sets her sights on the future,” said Effendy.

“She has the mindset and tenacity of a winner, and I expect her to be the source of immense pride for the nation as she progresses.”

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