My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

2016 YONEX SUNRISE Hong Kong Open – Kowloon, Hong Kong

It was an incredibly rushed trip let’s start with that, I was only in Hong Kong for 1 night and not even 2 full days. The thing was that I didn’t find out I was going to the tournament until just 4 days before the tournament was to start. So that didn’t leave me much time to book my flight and hotel and let’s say that it wasn’t that easy seeing how little time and how expensive everything was working out to be. Lucky I found a flight directly from Beijing to Hong Kong for around $400 with air china so thankfully it was a star alliance airline. The hardest part was the hotel though, the official hotel was the Harbour Plaza Metropolis Hotel in Kowloon and it was crazy expensive at about $204 US a night which was even more Canadian around $260 for one night which is super hard to justify for a struggling athlete but at the same time it was such a unique experience to play in the event so was justified that way.
Hotel room doesn't look to bad

Now that all that was taken care of it was just time to prepare, the tournament started on Tuesday morning with the qualifications draws at 9am. My flight was Monday morning and I would get there Monday afternoon just in time to attend the team managers meeting at the hotel. Thankfully nothing was delayed and I made the connection to the bus to get to the hotel in time and was able to attend the managers meeting at 6pm on the Monday. I got to the hotel and lots of players were arriving and around so I checked in and got to my room which for the price was incredibly small but then again it’s the location and the hotel that made it so expensive for such a small room.

Until you realize exactly how small it is foe what it costs

That same night they had a welcome dinner, something that the china super series didn’t have despite being a higher level tournament. But let’s talk about the dinner itself, it was a buffet but the quality of the food was amazing and they didn’t skimp out at all on anything. There was an orchestra there playing live for everybody as well as some live singers throughout the night. The food was plentiful and abundant but the taste and variety was amazing from Alaskan king crab to caviar and some top cuts of meat. Then there was dessert, oh my gosh the dessert section was out of this world, cakes, pastries, anything and everything sweet that you can think of and everything that does not fit into an athletes diet.

Some of the food from the buffet, there was so much

So many desserts they were amazing

Live orchestra and singers
So I spent some time at the dinner but I was alone for it as I didn’t know anybody there very well, I recognized a few faces but nobody who I was close friends with and had hung out with before. After a few platefuls of food (I hadn’t eaten much at this point, the last time was the lounge in the Beijing airport) I headed back to my room for the night to rest and prepare for my match the following morning. Now keep in mind I got into Hong Kong at 4pm and to the hotel at 5pm then the managers meeting at 6pm then the welcome dinner at 7pm. That means I actually didn’t get to practice in the venue at all or even go over and see the venue period so I had no idea what to expect other than what I have seen from pictures of the event in the year past. My match was one of the first few up and there was nobody to warm up with let alone any room on the warm up courts to even have a hit. This meant I just had to warm up very well and get ready to adapt to the courts during the warm up.

We got a nice invasion to dinner and my player tag and program

Tournament venue, very cool set up
My opponent was from Hong Kong, Lee Chak Wai and like the greater majority of my opponents he was younger than me, not quite a junior but still younger 20’s. There was 4 courts in the venue and it was a very intimate venue, the courts were in very close proximity to the crowd and for a Tuesday morning the stands were completely packed with people watching the event. I was on court 4 which was on the far side of the stadium right next to the stands. Hong Kong super series is always known for its giant banner, this is the promotional banner that is behind the courts and serves as an amazing backdrop but very colorful and somewhat distracting at time. The venue dynamics itself weren’t horrible, the lights while bright wasn’t blinding and there weren’t horrible drafts it was just the case that one side played faster than the other with not much wind movement side to side. Once again the match started good, as always I’m able to rally and keep up with my opponent but then there’s that moment when I try and force it to much and make too many mistakes or they push more and put more pressure on me. Overall given the situation of not practicing at all or having a hit in the venue other than the warm up I’m pretty happy with how thing went, of course I hate to lose but I was fortunate enough to qualify and play a second super series even being the first Trinidad player to play one let alone two. So that was my super series experience in Asia none the less where badminton is at its greatest. These tournaments would also technically help for my world championships qualifications for men’s singles but not by much as I didn’t get to many points because I was qualifications, more points than first round of some of the lower level tournaments.

Since I was out of the tournament and my flight back to Beijing wasn’t until 8pm that night I had some time to kill. I had been to Hong Kong a few time before and seen the city more so the harbour front at night which is a beautiful sight with all the lights and the light show. This time it was in the middle of the day but the weather was not favorable and raining but that wouldn’t stop me. I ventured outside and headed to the walk of stars but it was actually closed this was a bummer but they moved the statues to a garden close by now calling it the garden of the stars. The Bruce Lee statue was there and that I of course what I wanted to see and got my chance.

Harbour front on a slightly gloomy day

I do love me some panoramas
Bruce Lee statue

After walking around that area I headed down to the harbour front and spent some time there getting pictures during the day this time as well as enjoying the view and avoiding the rain. I have been to Hong Kong quite a few time before but always ended up at the harbour front in the night, not really the day. That killed a decent amount of time so I headed back to the tournament hall to get through the rest of the time before leaving to the airport and to eat as well. I had already packed up everything and left my bag at the hotel storage. Since this trip was so last minute and so expensive already I didn’t bring or take out any Hong Kong currency and was actually able to get away with not spending any money on food or anything else.

Outside the Tournament venue
Outside the tournament venue

Back at the venue spent my time in the players’ lounge which was outfitted with players’ Wi-Fi and of course the most important part food. After spending some time eating and browsing through the web it was getting close to head to the airport or well more so I was ready to head there early and spend some time in the lounge before my flight. I was happy to be heading back to Beijing even if just for a day as my flight home was the next day but that meant since I would arrive back to Beijing after midnight and my flight home was not for another day so I booked a cheap hotel for the rest of the night. The flight leaving Hong Kong was delayed a little but what happened when we landed in Beijing wasn’t the most fun experience. When we landed the hydraulics on the airplane failed and the front landing gear gave out. We ended up stopped on the runway just waiting there to be towed into the gate, but this took a long time and was slightly nerve-wracking. Eventually we did get towed in be in very slowly but got through custom and claimed my bag then got a taxi to the hotel which was very close to the airport.

Gotta love lounge food
Security and all coming to our rescue while stranded on the runway in Beijing

This would mark the end of the super series tour and at this point it had been about 2 weeks and a bit that I was away from home so it would definitely be nice to get home for a little while. I was happy to go on the trip and finally play my first super series tournaments, they are the highest in the world and it was an honour to collect some player’s badges from them to add to the ever-growing collection. I just had to sit through the 12 hour flight back home and that would be it for this long trip. One last tournament for the year and that was the 2016 USA international challenge down in Orange County at OCBC. A tournament I had played many times and also a venue I have played at even more times.

Monday, February 12, 2018

2016 THAIHOT China Open Super Series Premier Fuzhou, China

I hadn’t played a tournament in a month at this point which for me was a weird thing after playing 4 in a row. But this would be a special trip, this would be my first super series tournament, and a premier super series at that. Let me give you a little breakdown of the levels of badminton tournaments in the world, I’ll do that with a helpful little chart. Not to long of a read but gives some context to how special of an opportunity this was.

BWF tournaments

Olympics – top of the top, highest level tournament and requires players to qualify over a 1 year period
World Championships – same as Olympics just a level down, still need to qualify over 1 year period (64 players in men’s singles, 48 players/pairs in all other draws)
Team tournaments – Surdiman cup, Thomas cup, Uber cup
Super Series Premier – top 40 in the world regularly attend, top 10 always present (32 in main draw, 16 in qualifications)
Super Series – top 50 in the world regularly attend, top 10 always present (32 in main draw, 16 in qualifications)
Grand Prix Gold – usually players ranked top 100 in the world will play (64 in main draw, 16 in qualifications)
Grand Prix – usually players ranked top 150 players in the world will play (64 in main draw, 16 in qualifications)
International Challenge – low level and ranges by region for strength (32 or 64 in men’s singles and 32 in all other draws, 16 in qualifications)
International Series – low level tournament (32 or 64 in men’s singles and 32 in all other draws, 32 to 64 in qualifications) 
Future Series – lowest level tournament and does not have any prize money, minimal world ranking points as well
Now in order to get into any tournaments listed below the team ones it is all based on your current world ranking at the time of entry (1 month before the tournament). This ranking will be used to make the main and qualifying report which lists all the players present in the tournament accordingly on theory world ranking. A super series of either level has a 32 size main draw meaning there are 28 spots guaranteed and 4 spots for qualifiers from the qualification. Super series of either level have 4 qualifiers and a 16 size qualification, meaning you have to win 2 matches to make it to the main draw. On top of that there are players who simply won’t be ranked high enough to make either of those lists so they have what’s called the reserve list, listing players in descending rider of world ranking. This is in case a player from the main draw or qualifications withdraws before the draw or even after, then players from the reserve list can be used to fill their spots.

So based on all this information for me to actually make it into the qualifications was a decently big deal. Be it that I was only in the qualifications it was still a Super Series Premier event and I was thrilled. I was also on the reserve list for the Hong Kong Super Series that was happening the week after China. China Super Series has always been notorious for not being well attended despite being the week before Hong Kong, so this was my best chance to play one and I wouldn’t be passing up the opportunity again. Earlier in the year I had been on the reserve list for the Australia Open Super Series but did not find out until 3 days before the event that I had been promoted into the qualifications. Because of the short notice and how long it would take to fly to Australia I was unable to attend the event. This time would be different as I already knew I was in the qualifications draw when the draws came out so I booked my flight. I did not know for sure about Hong Kong though so I booked my flight to stay in China past Hong Kong just in case I did get into play.
Lounge in Beijing, I am no stranger there

Lounge food in Asia is easily the best period
That time again to head to the airport, a place I hadn’t been in a whole month. Boarded and started the route with a flight to LA, then to Beijing and finally to Fuzhou where I would be meeting up with Yuko and Tuck who were playing mixed. The flights were long and it had been a long time since I went to Asia so that 13 hour flight from LA was a little long but nothing I hadn’t done multiple time before. Arriving in Fuzhou it was late at night and I made it to the room to see Yuko there and get some well needed rest after all the travel, Tuck would arrive the next morning. Let’s start with the breakfast at the hotel...the buffet was simply amazing so much variety and choice. After eating for what must have been an hour just trying all the different food mostly the Asian items, we went back to the room and waited for Tuck.
Breakfast at the tournament hotel, yes all that is just for me

We had practice in the main hall that day as well as in the practice courts which words cannot describe. The venue was amazing and not to mention had some intense security outside to go through. We were given our players accreditation which had a special chip inside that would be scanned when we passed through scanners. The arena though let’s start with the area shall we. This tournament was being held in a sports park and it was huge it had everything from a swimming center, tennis center, stadium and many other buildings for sports and other activities. One of the later days Yuko and I wanted to see what there really was around so we did a walk through the park and saw it all. There were not many people using the facilities at the time though but that might be due to the tournament taking place. So we toured around and saw the giant stadium as well as all the other buildings, amazing for a sport park and something that you would never really see in North America.

The main stadium

Practice hall
Now getting onto the venue, this was a super series after all and the set up was nothing short of amazing. Macau Grand Prix Gold was the best set up tournament that I had attended up until this point but seeing this venue blew that out of the water. Maybe because it was a super series that’s what made it that much more amazing but it was huge. That also meant that it was very hard to play in the main hall, the practice court area itself was huge too and you could easily hold an international tournament just in there. We spent quite a bit of time in there as we didn’t have a court in the main hall as of yet. That is when we saw the majority of the top international players, super casually we were surrounded by players ranked top 10 in the world. Famous names like Chen Long, Rathanot Inatanon, Jan Jorgensen, and many more. This is when we took the opportunity to get a picture with Chen Long, another top player to add to the collection (Taufik, Lee Chong Wei, Peter Gade, were already in the book) and later on would be fortunate to get one with Viktor Axelsen but we will save that story. After some time of hitting in the practice hall we finally had a court in the main hall and moved into there to practice with 2 other USA players, Beiwen Zhang and Maya Chen.

Playing in the main hall was so different than the practice courts for sure. It was easily 3 times as large not to mention a few drafts and you can’t hear your shot at all. Despite all this we were able to get a great session in before qualifying started the next day for Tuck and I in single and first round mixed doubles was also after qualifying for Tuck and Yuko. As that was it for training we headed back to the hotel and went in search of food for the night. Luckily there was a mall across the street with an abundant supply of restaurants and a grocery store. This was the first time Yuko went to China so everything was very new and shocking but to me it was pretty straight forward and I had been to China many time before. Later that night came the second picture with a big player of the trip. Yuko is very close friends with Viktor Axelsen and long story short his room was next to ours in the hotel and on top of that he brought his bronze medal from the 2016 Olympics to show Yuko. So to sum it up I got to meet Viktor and hold his medal while getting a picture with him. That means that at this point the only picture left that I wanted to get was with Lin Dan (he wasn’t at this tournament despite it being in China).  
Thanks to Yuko I got to know Viktor and hold his bronze medal from the 2016 Olympics

Also got fortunate enough to get a picture with Chen Long, Olympic gold medalist

Now it was time for my match, due to this being a Superseries it started on Monday with qualifications for all events in the morning and first round of mixed. The matches came around, Tuck was up first for men’s singles qualifications first and we all watched that one. I was up next with my match and it was definitely a fun experience. I was fortunate enough to play on court one, show court, and on top of that I had one of the best badminton photographers to take pictures of me during the match. I was playing against a Chinese backup national team athlete, Wu Xin and that was a tough one to begin with. The match started off pretty good we had some long rallies and then he stepped it up a gear taking the lead. I was able to rally with him though and through the match was able to control him around the court. He wasn’t always able to just overpower me or hit straight up winners which was a nice feeling. The hall wasn’t a bad one to play in and didn’t have a crazy draft the day of matches, it was almost ideal situation for such a huge venue. Ultimately in the end though it was my mistake that ended up costing me the match. Just like that my superseries experience was over but we had a few days left in Fuzhou to experience the city and culture.

First up Yuko wanted to really get a cupping session done as well as a massage so that was the first thing for us to find. We (each country) were given a certain number of volunteers based on the amount of players that the country had. I was given 1 because it just me but Tuck and Yuko being part of team USA were given 2. So we went to our respective volunteers and asked if they would be able to help us find a place. Low and behold they were able to and we soon jumped into a taxi and were off to our destination. The place provided massages (lower body, upper body, whole body) as well as cupping on top of that. Tuck and Yuko choose the lower body massage while I picked upper body, then we all got cupping done on our backs. Going into the room we were given these retro looking clothing to put on and then lay on these chairs/beds waiting for the ladies giving the massage to come in. The massages started with screams from Tuck and Yuko as their feet were being massaged not only by hands but also by wooden dowels and various other instruments in addition to scolding hot water. I, on the other hand had a very relaxing time as the lady worked over my shoulders, arms, back and the rest of my upper body. Now that all that was over and the screaming had stopped it was time to bring out the cups for use. If you have never seen or had cupping done then it is when there are glass cups which are heated up and placed on the skin in strategic places. At this point the skin is then sucked up into the cup because of the pressure differential and it is left on the skin for 10 minutes or more. At this point all the blood has been drawn to the surface and then the circle I a different shade of red, the shade represents the amount of “toxins” in the blood and the darker the circle the more bad stuff that has been removed. Overall it was a great experience and a fantastic bonding experience for us all to have together.
It was very relaxing

Somebody say fire


The aftermath

Once that was done and we were beaten up but built a new it was time for a walk and to find some food. There was a street market outside which we took a few walks up and down, checking out all the local goods, counterfeit items, street food and various other things present. This marked our second last day in the city and the following day was the last we would have together as Tuck and Yuko were heading back to the states and I would go into Beijing and stay with my friend for a little as I awaited to hear about the Hong Kong superseries. So the Wednesday came and we started with Yuko and me going to the tournament venue to watch matches while Tuck rested at the hotel. We watched some matches and checked out the shops outside then headed back to the hotel and walked around the mall a little bit more. I ended up going for a workout later in the day which was nice even despite the small and limited gym that the hotel had. We all went out for dinner together and then settled in for the night, packing bags and getting ready for departure the following day as we were all on the same flight back to Beijing.
The stadium from the outside

Giant Soccer stadium

Up bright and early we headed to the airport and checked in, we weren’t the only players heading back home as a few of the Europeans whom had lost were also on the flight. The flight itself was a nice quick one and definitely not too hard to handle like the 12 hour flight to Beijing. Now it was just a waiting game for Hong Kong, I sent an email to the HKBA (Hong Kong badminton Association) and was just awaiting their reply to see if I had been promoted to the qualifications draw of the tournament. Until then it was time to relax in China and have some awesome food as well as experience the culture.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2016 Columbia International Nevia, Columbia

This would be the last tournament for a month and a bit but at this point I at least had a week off after 3 in a row. Now it was time to go to Columbia for the Columbia International, my 7th tournament for the year and 3rd tournament with Matt for doubles. This was in yet another little city and not one of the main ones so it meant quite a few flights to get there, 3 to be exact. After arriving into Bogota in the early hours of the morning we had to take a small propeller plane at sunrise to the city of Nevia which was where this edition of the tournament was being held. On arrival we were picked up at the airport which was actually a surprise for me since in South America if you get picked up by the tournament can be a hit or miss. Checking into the hotel we noticed that we were in fact in the center of the city but there actually wasn’t much around in terms of food. The hotel itself was relatively nice and it had a roof top where you could have a 360 degree view of the city.

Our hotel, pretty much in the middle of the town

The same day that we arrived we were able to go to the tournament hall and get some practice in, the tournament would start 2 days later. We were fortunate to have a good amount of time to practice in the hall and believe me when I say it was much needed. The venue was in the top 5 for worst venues that I have played in and of course all of them have been in the Pan Am region mainly the Caribbean and South America. This was an open air facility aka there was slits in the wall for air/wind to come through as well as giant open areas so there was a lot of wind and weird drafts. The lighting wasn’t the best but all these holes also allowed for the sunlight to come through and create massive blind spots on the court.

The open air venue that we would be playing in

For this tournament I was first seed in singles and we were 2nd seed for doubles, Guatemala made up the majority of the other seeds for the tournament. Due to this when Matt and I were practicing there was a lot of Columbian players around who pretty much stopped what they were doing and started to watch me practice. It was humbling and made me nervous at the same time as I’m usually the one watching the top players practice when I go to these big tournaments but this time the roles were reversed and I was being watched. It was a different feeling, one that I have only felt a handful of times like in Tahiti back in 2013 when I had lots of fans cheering for me as I won round after round. Aside from this we were able to get some good practice in at the main hall and it would be crucial because as I said before this was an open air huge facility which was definitely not designed or made for badminton in mind.


The matches were scheduled to start with singles occurring first, I had a local Columbian player as my first match in single and the same for doubles. The first match went rather smoothly with me getting a feel for the player as well as the venue. The courts were taped out onto the floor and the draft was an interesting one changing every few seconds. I was able to stay on top and made it through my first round with a win, that would be all for the day and with a win I was into the quarterfinals since I had a bye first round. For doubles Matt and I had only played 3 tournaments together and were still coming together as a pair, figuring out what the other does and how we work best together. We had a bye and then would play against a local Columbian pair.

Courtside view of the facility, can you spot the badminton lines? Yeah it was really hard to see the duct tape courts.

The next day was both singles and doubles with singles being up first. I had another local player and this time it was a lot easier as I was more use to the courts and just played my game moving him around playing a consistency based match. I won my match with ease and was onto the semifinals in singles. But before all was over there was a doubles match to be played with Matt. This match was not as easy as we wanted, it was a match that would go to 3 games with us winning the 2 games that we did fairly easy yet losing one very close. It was a weird situation yet one that we came back from as a pair adding yet another win to our partnership. This marked the 2nd semi-final that I would be in for the tournament. Now it meant back to the hotel to rest up and prepare for the following day. In both semifinals I would be playing against Guatemala, singles would be against Rodolfo Ramierz who I previously played at the Pan Am Championships in Lima, Peru back in 2012. In doubles we would be playing Ruban Castellaons and his partner Anibal Marroquin for the opportunity to go to the finals, I have yet to play them in doubles but had played Ruban in singles at the recently concluded US Open.

Setting up for the prize giving ceremony.

Semifinals day came and as always it was very windy in the venue. Singles was up first against Rodolfo and it was a tough match, nothing went my way I tried to force too many things and ended up losing due to my errors. This was not the way I wanted to start my first semi-final appearance in an international tournament. I would definitely be wanting to redeem myself in the doubles which would happen in a little while. Matt and I played good together, we were coming together as a pair and this time there was no go again, we lost the doubles semi-final but it was a close match just missing out on the win 18-21, 19-21. We were sad but happy in a way, that meant that I would get two bronze medals at the Columbia international which I was pretty happy about in that regard. Matt would however leave that night as opposed to staying for the medal ceremony the following day. Seeing as how these were the first international medals I would win for the year (aside from the team bronze medal at CAREBACO in Aruba a month prior) I wanted to stay and get my pictures on the podium with my medals as well as collect my prize money.

On the podium for men's singles, the other 3 players were all from Guatemala.

The finals day came and I went with everybody as there was only 1 bus there in the morning and then 1 bus back. Up till this point I hadn’t really talked with any other players at the tournament, not because I was antisocial but it just didn’t come up I would play and then leave. This time I sat in the stands and was approached by some of the local Columbian athletes playing and they spoke decent and enough English to have a conversation. So we watched the matches and talked about lots of stuff, they asked about my travels and we talked about school, badminton, etc. There was a substantial amount of wind though during the finals and that was noticeable by the flags that were courtside during the whole tournament. You could see them blowing in the wind as if they were outside just waving back and forth. Finally the finals finished and it was time for the medal ceremony. They brought out the podium and started to do them event by event. I had my name called and went up for doubles first followed by going up for singles to claim my second bronze medal. It felt great to be standing on the podium to receive a medal not only for me but for my country too. Afterwards we took some pictures of everyone followed by the awarding of prize money to the athletes which I got in both singles and doubles.

Got some medals and prize money too. Not bad for a few days work.

Now that was the tournament but we haven’t covered Columbia as a whole yet. I decided to write this blog post a little different and get the tournament out of the way and then discuss the exploration of the small town in Columbia. We were not in the capital of Bogata instead we were in the small town to the south about a 2 hour flight away called Nevia. It was a beautiful smaller town with a main river running through it and a small population. Their downtown wasn’t anything fancy but they did have a university and some other big buildings just nothing overly big. Across from our hotel was a large plaza which was always full of people and vendors selling anything and everything. Down the street was the same a slightly smaller plaza that was surrounded primarily by grocery stores and shops. Beside our hotel was also a church which I did venture into and took a look around, it was rather big and definitely stood out in the city.

Plaza under the trees across from our hotel, always looked like shady deals were going down

The big church beside our hotel.

Contrary to popular belief I didn't burst into flames upon entering.

Around our plaza at night the side streets or allies would be turned into a market with the entire street being taken up by more stalls/carts catering to anything you could every need. Finding food was actually on the challenging side as there wasn’t many food places directly around us. There was a burger place in the plaza opposite the hotel which I ended up eating most of my meals at. One day though we ventured up the street a ways and were able to find a bunch of restaurants none of which were open for lunch though. There was a Chinese place which Matt and I sat down and ate at and the food was great not to mention a large enough portion that I had food left over for dinner that night too. Aside from that most of the meals were eaten across the street at the burger place where the chicken breast burger was very delicious and filling for a fair price.

The side stress at night, set up with temporary shops selling anything and everything.

As for exploring there wasn’t a lot of stuff to see, walking down towards the river lead to some nice scenery and a fantastic statue which you would never guess a place like that had. It was hard to get a good picture of it though due to the lighting. I did miss seeing one thing though it was a giant head which you could climb up into and look out from. I didn’t venture far enough along the river to see it. Aside from some other plazas and statues there wasn’t anything crazy notable unlike the waterfalls and the dam in Brazil.


Finally though the string of tournaments had come to an end, I could go home for a month and not have to travel. As weird as that sounds to people, who would have thought but it’s true I’m travelling for competitions and not for pleasure. But not only that, for each trip I went back home to Calgary and then back out. That was 4 round trip flights from Calgary to the Caribbean (Aruba), South America (Brazil), North/Central America (Mexico), and back to South America (Columbia). I had gone through the Houston International airport 7 times with the exception of my flight to Brazil going through Chicago’s international airport. On top of this I had already acquired gold status with united and gold status with star alliance so that would make all my future flights even better with all the perks and upgrades. But alas was time to catch my small prop plane back to Bogota and then fly home for some much needed rest.   


Friday, August 18, 2017

2016 Mexico International Guadalajara, Mexico

Just like that my time in my own bed was over and it was back into the air to fly away again. Thankfully this time it wasn’t too far and was still on the same continent. Mexico was the destination this time, Guadalajara to be exact. Originally the tournament was scheduled to take place in Cancun but just 20 days before the tournament they changed the location, thankfully I didn’t book my flight yet at that point. Cancun would have been a fantastic place, beach and everything but the location change was beneficial as a bunch of players withdrew due to it. The singles draw was just a 32 size while the doubles draw ended up being a 16 size draw but there was less than 8 teams present which usually would not award any world ranking points. Due to the discretion of the tournament referee he choose to leave the withdrawn doubles pairs in the draw therefore having it more than 8 teams and awarding world ranking points.

Being in Mexico for so few days I didn't need much cash

But first before we even get to the tournament it was the matter of flying there. I would once again be going through Houston airport. Matt would have the same route but we would be arriving on different flights, I got in around 8pm and Matt arrived just after midnight. So I waited in the airport for him this way I wouldn’t have to taxi by myself, I did send in a transportation request though but when I landed there wasn’t anybody around to pick me up. So I was waiting for matt for sure. We made it to the hotel in one piece but it was super late already so being able to crash into bed was greatly appreciated. Not that it was super long flights I had to endure but just cumulative it was a lot of travel already and taking a toll on my body.

The tournament venue was set up really well

This is the unfortunate blog entry because I really didn’t see much in Mexico I was just in Guadalajara for a grand total of 3 days. But first things first the following day we were able to head to the hall and practice and the set up wasn’t bad. For an international series it was comparable to Brazil the week before, of course Brazil was better but Mexico was in the right direction. The venue itself was good no windows, there was a drift but not the end of the world like in other venues. We used the practice courts behind the main courts at first and then eventually we had our time on the main courts later. So feeling decent about playing there the draws were changed for singles due to the withdrawal of players. I had a bye then a local Mexican for my first round followed by Hock Lai Lee of USA, which was not the most ideal match. But I would worry about that the following day when the tournament started, Matt had a local Mexican first round too.


First day of competition kicked off and it went really well, I played against a junior and won my match fairly easily. It was the only match that I would have for the day and I was feeling good about playing Hock the following day as well as doubles. When the second day rolled around I played singles in the morning and boy was that quite the adventure it was a tough match against a good player. Hock use to play under the Malaysian flag and trained with current world #1 and 3 time Olympic silver medalist Lee Chong Wei. It was an uphill battle the whole way as he just had so much more experience than me and was able to read the game so well as to what I was going to play. We did have some good rallies and it was always when I was able to rally him I would win the point. It was not the match that I wanted, if I would have won that I would have made a semi-final and gotten a medal which would have been nice. But alas it was not meant to be that day and I lost, I would have to regroup fast though as we had doubles shortly afterwards.


Doubles came around and that was quite the matchup, we would play both the players we played in singles. It was quite the battle with both me and Matt making lots of mistakes and letting the youngsters score lots of points against us which isn’t what we would have liked. 3 games in and it wasn’t our day either, 3rd tournament for world championships qualifications and we had a disappointing loss in the semifinals. After that happened we were scheduled to leave the next day back to Canada and USA respectively but we decided to try and leave that same night. I had just acquired gold status with united which also gave me star alliance gold status to. This being said we were able to fly on standby and were successful getting through to our destinations a whole day early.

But aside from the tournament I didn’t see much at all in the city. There was a plaza not more than a few blocks away from us but I was so busy that I didn’t get time to go over and fully explore it. Just the quick stroll down the street as we went to find food to eat. There was a giant Guadalajara sign in the plaza though that I would have really liked to get a picture with but that didn’t happen. This just happened to be one of those times where I only saw the airport, hotel, and tournament venue. The real life of a professional athlete not always getting to see the city I’m in or explore. Some things that people always get jealous of me for getting to do or so they think that I get to do. But the truth is most of the time I’m in completion mode and my schedule can be quite packed with training and matches. Usually I will get one day though to at least go out into the city and try and see as much as I can.
I don't even have a cool shot of anything, just this random street in Mexico

3 tournaments in a row done for me and just one more left. A week back home in Calgary and then it would be off to Nevia, Columbia for the Columbia International. I was already starting to see negative effects of so much travelling. I had been living out of hotels for 3 weeks and not always able to eat the same quantity or quality of food that I am accustomed to at home. Not to mention all the flying back and forth from each destination. My body was starting to break down and muscle mass deteriorated. But to sleep in my own bed for a week is definitely something I was looking forward to at the time. Thankfully it was a quick flight home just to Houston with a short layover and then straight to Calgary. Something that doesn’t happen much having either a long flight 6+ hours or long layovers 5+ in the airport. At least now I could go into the star alliance airline lounges. But this trip to Guadalajara I didn’t see anything. Hopefully the next tournament in Columbia I would get to venture out and explore the city.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

2016 Brazil Grand Prix Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil


So Aruba was last week and now after a quick layover in Calgary, just enough time to do laundry and repack, I was off to Brazil. This was an exciting trip because although I have been to Brazil before this time it would be to a city that I haven’t gone and there was a major tourist attraction there, Iguacu Falls. The city is borders both Paraguay and Argentina but this waterfall is located on the Brazil/Argentina boarder and is massive so that would definitely be something that I would have to check out while there can’t pass up that opportunity.  But before any of that could happen I had to get there which required a flight to Chicago and then onwards the long flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil and finally a domestic flight to Foz Do Iguacu. The flights themselves weren’t bad, the flight from Chicago to Sao Paulo was a long one but nothing I haven’t encountered before.  Matt had arrived a day before me so he rented a car and when I arrived into the small airport he was there to meet me and we went off to our hotel for the night.

Matt booked us a hotel very close to the venue, it was about 2 blocks away so perfect to walk to the venue and not have to worry about catching transportation. This was my first time playing in this city but Matt had played this tournament before in the past and was very familiar with the city. The tournament was a very small one especially for a grand prix level event, the men’s singles was a 32 size draw and doubles was a 16 size at that. There were quite a few Europeans that came over but not many people from the Pan Am zone. It is true that it was right after the Olympics and most countries/players really didn’t have the money to spend on travel. This made it the perfect time to try and qualify for worlds and even better time to get a head start at the tournaments where people were not attending. At this point I was just thinking about qualifying for doubles with Matt, the idea of trying to qualify for singles hadn’t even crossed my mind yet and wouldn’t for a little while.

Our hotel 2 blocks from the venue

So we had a day before the tournament started to practice and adjust, the venue itself was actually set up very nice. For the location and the rest of the building they did wonders. The courts were great, no blinding light, no terribly drafts, and good lines of sight all around. There were 3 match courts and 2 practice courts, given the size of the tournament it would be more than adequate to run all the matches with no delays. We were able to get in a good amount of practice before the matches commenced the following day with singles in the evening. Matt signed up for singles as well and had drawn a local Brazilian player first round as did I. My player however did not show up for the match so I was granted a walkover, a walkover into round or 16 at a Grand prix level tournament was a lot of singles points to be awarded 2110 to be exact and more if I won the next match. I would have to play Milin Ludik of the Czech Republic the following morning for my shot at a quarterfinal appearance. That did not happen though and I lost to him, it was a fun match and aside from Aruba and Canada Open one of the few times I had a coach behind my court with me.


Singles was done and now it was doubles time, the real reason I had travelled all the way down to South America. We were up against a mixed country pair, how appropriate since we too were a mixed country pair, of Brazil and Paraguay. The player from Brazil was an accomplished player as well the guy from Paraguay was a former Japanese national level (not national team) player and had since moved to work and live in Paraguay but was now playing under their flag.  This was a harder first round than some of the other teams had, a local junior Brazilian pair would have been nice but that’s alright we were up for the challenge. The match started and it wasn’t as shell shocking as the US Open against the other Japanese pair, we were able to have rallies and actually win points. Matt is known for being able to control the net and serve exceptionally well and of course he demonstrated it here but he can also play from the back. Being this was only our second tournament together there was for sure some times of uncertainty with shots and rotation as well as sequences but that was something that we would learn as we went along. We lost the match but weren’t blown out so although a crappy feeling for losing it wasn’t as terrible a feeling as it could have been.

Tournament venue was set up very nice for a South American Grand Prix

So the tournament was over and we had a day left in Brazil before heading home. Me and matt were on the same flight from Rio to Houston but we had a different departure time leaving Foz Do Iguacu. The weather wasn’t the best during the week and had limited moments of sunshine with mostly rain both heavy and light. This did not make the most ideal weather to go see the Iguazu waterfalls and the Itaipu dam (largest hydroelectric dam in the world in power generation). But we caught a break, the Friday it was sunny and the forecast said that the rest of the day would be more of the same. This was the time we took the opportunity and drove out to the falls, it wasn’t that far from the city actually which was surprising. It was located in a sort of national park as you would call it and when we paid to go in we boarded a bus which drove us off to the various stopping points. We were interested in the falls but wanted to do the little trek to them in order to get a better appreciation for them as well as see the scenery. The hike started off with a nice open area before retreating to the side of the cliffs for a more intimate view of all the various waterfalls on route to the large main falls. Because we were on the Brazil side we were seeing the waterfalls located on the Argentina side. Likewise the people on the Argentina side would be seeing the waterfalls on the brail side.

The beginning of the trail
It was simply amazing
Nothing short of breath taking

We snaked our way along the trails, stopping at the various viewing points to catch more glimpses at the power each waterfall held. Finally after some time passed we were at the mouth of the beast, the devils mouth as it was called. There was a catwalk of a bridge leading out over the raging water and up to the edge of one of the falls. We were right in the middle of the beast, getting soaked by all the water blowing in the wind. The people on the Argentina side did not get the same experience as their catwalk was at the very top of the falls, allowing them to see a magnificent top down view but not an inside the area experience. From the Brazil side we were also able to go up to above the falls on a tower to get the same sort of top down view but we would do that after. Standing there and seeing all that water was an eye opener to the true power of Mother Nature and sheer force the water had. For those of you who can conceptualize it, Iguazu falls has a flow of 1,756 meters cubed per second of water flow. Once off the catwalk there was a landing area literally right next to the waterfall where you could stand, the area was a soak zone and oh did I ever get soaked. But you could see just how fast and how much water was coming down, not to mention the sound as well. Standing there it really made you think where is all this water coming from that this much flows through every second of every day every year.

Those are the waterfalls on the Argentina side
Getting closer to the main falls, time to bring out the rain jacket
In the soak zone, it was crazy to see so much water falling down

Upon completing my time in the soak zone we preceded up to the top of the observation tower and got a nice top down view. You could see the whole area from the river before the falls to where it all ended up, truly a breathtaking and amazing sight to see. We then walked a little further up river and viewed how calm the water was, you would never think there was that monstrosity lurking just a few hundred meters downstream. There was some gift shops and food places but that was about it so we took a quick look and then boarded the bus back down to where we had parked. It was still pretty early in the day though and we had one more stop. It was a dam, but not just any dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in South America and let me tell you it is definitely worthy of that title.

View from up top, Argentina is on the other side in the back
River up atop the falls, you would never guess what lies beneath and ahead

We arrived later in the evening but were fortunate as there was 1 more tour bus going out to the dam for the day, of course we jumped on to it and got ready to see what all the fuss was about. Matt had already been there before so he knew what was what but to me it was all brand new. The drive up was interesting, everything was so artificial and the dam actually served as a border between Brazil and Paraguay so on the far side there was border control for those driving the route but we wouldn’t have to worry about that. We stopped at 2 different viewpoints of the dam, the first was a ways away to grasp the size of it from a distance which was actually quite hard to do. You could see busses and trucks driving on the road that up the dam but they looked so tiny in comparison. The second view point was closer and offered a little more context to the scale of this man made giant. Ironic just earlier we viewed the waterfalls which was raw and uncontrolled nature but now we were viewing a manmade structure all about the control of nature. Finally the bus took us along the dam, driving the full distance and that’s when I truly got an appreciation for the size of this thing. To see the pipes and sheer size of everything running up and down let alone the distance that it covered was mind blowing. We then proceeded to drive along the top having a view of both the lake behind and then drop off to the waterway below.

Itaipu Dam, this thing was damn big... ha ha couldn't resist the pun
Driving on the lower level of the dam
Looking up from the lower level

The final stop was towards the back on the lake, there was a restaurant and a whole area purely based and run on tourism as nobody lived back there. There was also a cruise around the lake where a large ferry would take you for a soothing sail around the lake to enjoy the view but it had ended for the evening as we were the last tour. So we walked the little dock and took in the view of a setting sun in South America over a manmade lake teeming with the beauty of nature. Boarding the bus the ride down was peaceful and left one with an overwhelming sense of the sheer size of things. You think you can conceptualize distances, sizes, etc but until you are standing right in front of it and seeing it yourself then your mind doesn’t know what it thinks it actually knows.

Pristine lake that was created when they built the dam and an amazing sunset

So that was the end of Brazil, I would fly out to Rio the next morning on an early flight and then Matt would join me later in the day for the flight from Rio to Houston. Following that I had my final flight onwards to Calgary which at that point I was super happy to get home and sleep in my own bed for the first time in over 2 weeks. But it would not be for long as I would just be home for a few days and then heading back out to Guadalajara, Mexico for the Mexico international series. I was happy with this tournament, some big results in both singles and doubles getting major world ranking points and this was my first thought of hey my singles ranking is going to go up. I still wasn’t thinking about qualifying or trying to qualify for world championships in singles yet though.

Rio 2016 Olympic touch at the dam