My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog
Me during a match

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014 Canada Open Grand Prix

So I had only about 2 weeks until the Canada Open from when I returned from Venezuela. That was not much time considering at that point it had been 2 weeks since I really trained or did any sort of fitness and weights (aside from some stuff in the hotel room). That being said I was signed up to play only men’s singles for the tournament. It was originally to be held out easy but due to some stuff the tournament stayed in Vancouver for this year. Unfortunately due to the short notice of the change it would be at a new venue, no longer the Richmond Olympic Oval but rather the UBC thunder dome. As far as venues goes the Olympic Oval was a good location and drew in many people to watch but as for the quality of the venue the Oval was a shitty place to play in for many reasons. The simplest being the vast size of the venue, it is huge and high, there are windows and lights all over not to mention some major drafts (yes that is the issue with a lot of venues all over the world). Badminton Canada didn’t have much time to get everything together and although players did complain about the conditions, court mats right over the concrete so hard floors, the set up was very well done and looked quite professional. It is actually one of the few big venues that I felt very comfortable playing in.

Panorama while courtside during practice times

The full set up, practice courts on the left and main courts on the right

Like always I was the only Trinidad and Tobago player playing the tournament but I had many friends playing both from other countries as well as many Canadians that I knew too. This allowed me to get in a lot of practice time at the main venue. The best part was the practice courts were right beside the main courts (separated by a divider) but that meant that the conditions were exactly the same and made adapting a lot quicker. Something that is not the norm at all tournaments with them having different areas for the practice courts and the main courts sometimes with drastically different conditions.

Since I was living in Richmond this meant that I didn’t really have to fly anywhere or spend money on hotel which was very nice for a change so that I could save some cash. I just had to take the bus to UBC and that’s all which was easy to do. The draw came out and I would play the winner of a qualification draw, in the end that ended up being a Canadian junior player. I was feeling a little nervous but in the end I prevailed after a scare, I won the 1st game very close and then lost the 2nd game in extra points. The third game came around and that’s when I found my game, that’s when I wasn’t nervous anymore and just went for everything, the score wasn’t close in the 3rd I won 21-7. I feel like the match shouldn’t have gone to 3 but what can you do in the end a win is a win regardless. So now that I survived the 1st round I would get a nice boost of points which would be great and then I would play the winner between the 2nd seed and a Korean qualifier. That night was an upset as the Korean qualifier won against Eric Pang of the Netherlands. So the following evening I would be up against Ju Hyung Shon of Korea and that was a fun match, there was no expectations on me and I could play freely, but that didn’t stop me from making poor strategically choices which cost me the match after having good rallies with him. It was fun to play against a player like him and he was very nice after the match too. All is all though the experience was a good one, winning a round at a grand prix level tournament felt nice and after the crappy tournaments that occurred in South America it was a confidence booster that I dearly need.
Damn dat ads, HaHa yes I do have a squat ass

Uh oh I almost went the wrong way

Getting ready to serve
*Photos courtesy of Oliver Shou

After that it meant that my time at the Canada open had come to an end, I was knocked out of the tournament but was happy with the final result of making it to the 2nd round. I would only have a few days left to prepare for US Open which this year had been moved to Long Island in New York. That meant that I would be flying out again this time to NYC, I have family there but would only get to spend 2 days with them after which it was off to Calgary yet again this time to get my bottom 2 wisdom teeth out. Something which I had been putting off for a while and was not looking forward to.
My match against the Korean Ju Hyung Shown with my good friend Oliver Shou doing the cheering:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014 Venezuela International

Me and Kerwin
The nightmare that was Argentina had come to an end and now I was on my way to Venezuela for the tournament there. But first I had to head back to Peru to catch my flight and unfortunately I had another overnight wait but this time I just stayed in the lounge for the night. After the 12 hour layover I was back in the air this time flying to the opposite side of South America from where Argentina was. Towards the Caribbean meaning there would be warm weather. Not to mention I would only be a few miles off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago, so close to home yet so far away. The rest of the Trinidad team had arrived the night before and one more was coming in that same night that I was arriving. On my flight was 3 Peruvian players as well as the umpire for the tournament who was from Cuba. We got to the airport and guess what for the 2nd time this trip there was no transportation but unlike Argentina where the bus was just super late this time there was actually no transport organized for us. We had to take a taxi from the airport all the way into the heart of Caracas, a trip that took us almost 2 hours after leaving the airport with the traffic.

Watching world cup in the airport
So in Venezuela when dealing with money there is something interesting that happens. There is the legal exchange rate at which the banks and money exchange places offer you a 1 to 10 with US currency. Then there is the “illegal” exchange rate at which various people will exchange the money for a 1 to 70 exchange with US currency. That is a huge discrepancy for sure with regards to the money and if one was to actually exchange legally then shopping for anything (food included) all of a sudden becomes absurdly and ridiculously expensive. There was a Wendy’s across from our hotel and at the legal exchange rate a burger combo worked out to be around $15 US but at the illegal exchange it was only $2.24 US so quite a huge difference. This was good news to me as I only had a couple of bucks American left on me from traveling the past week so that made life good since the hotel came out super cheap when the conversion was done. I still wasn't able to make it through the week for food and had to borrow a few dollars from Solange which I am grateful for.

Nice wad of cash
So the tournament was scheduled to start the following day and we went to the courts to see if we could get a hit and check out the facility. When I walked into the arena I just felt it hit me a giant “are you serious right now” came over my face and in my head. The venue was horrible compared to the place in Argentina the week before even with all the incidents that happened down there. The building was nice but the ceiling was a glass roof. Worst of all it was an open air arena, there was slits and openings all around the arena, they tried to cover some of it but that did not help as the wind would just blow through and cause the shuttle to go whichever way the wind was blowing. That coupled with the glass ceiling that the sun traveled directly over and the duct tape, yes you head right duct tape courts, this was just shaping up to be a horrible tournament and I hadn't even hit a shuttle yet. So qualification was that day and we were able to get a hit in, it just felt impossible to play in that place. If you hit a normal clear or lift it would go rocketing out the back of the court. Yes where I train in Canada the clubs are ideal conditions which can be detrimental at times when you play and practice in these ideal places but have to play in the most random locations with random and ever-changing conditions.

Kerwin (the current men’s singles champion from nationals who beat me in the finals) had to play a qualification match and he won that so made it to the main draw. The rest of us played the next day so we got to hit more that evening and I realized that it didn't matter how good your skills were what mattered more was how well you could adapt to the conditions and play in them. Along with me and Kerwin was Solangel (current WS national champion) and Nekisha Blake (semi-finals in WS) so the 4 of us were representing Trinidad and Tobago at the tournament.

Now before talking about the tournament there are some things that one show know about Venezuela. It can be a very dangerous place for sure there is a lot of crime that happens and regardless of the time of day it is wise to be in a group and not wear to much flashy jewelry or items if you look like a foreigner. So this also meant that when it was late at night we wouldn't be able to go out to get food because there wasn't much around us aside from a Wendy’s and it closed relatively early. So the following day rolled around and main draw matches were to start I was just playing men’s singles that day. I ended up having to eat at the venue, they had some sandwiches available for cheap and that would have to suffice. Near the tournament hall though was one of the largest malls in Venezuela, Millennium Mall, which while gigantic was very modern and had tons of stores as well as a good food court where we could eat. Not to mention that we could also go there to kill time and browse around since there wasn't much else to do.

Millennium Mall
Inside Millennium Mall

Just me getting ready to eat lunch
The opening ceremonies took place and I was the 2nd match up playing against a local Venezuelan player. Unfortunately I wasn't able to adapt to the conditions and the match went horrible. I would either hit it out or simply make an error due to the irregular flight trajectory of the shuttle with the wind interference and the sun shining down from above. I was not happy with my match at all and felt like I let down my entire team and country. That was the end of singles for me, losing a match that I felt like I should have won or was capable of winning and would have gained some valuable points if I did. But the tournament was not over yet. I would be playing men’s doubles with Kerwin against a pair from Brazil and then mixed with Solangel against another Brazilian pair. Unfortunately neither of those matches went extremely well. In doubles things went well against the Brazilians and we didn't get completely destroyed, we were able to hold our own but the conditions proved to be our downfall. Mixed was another story and we had never played together before so it was a good experience for first time playing together.

So that was the tournament in a nutshell, horrible conditions and some unfortunate losses. The tour of South America that I thought would be easier turned out to be quite the shit show if I had to put it honestly. I was not happy with my performance in the least and just wasn't feeling great after suffering those losses. My first two international tournaments of the year and I was already loosing matches. But I still had to stay in Venezuela for another 3 days before I could fly back home to Vancouver, those were the longest 3 days of my life. There was nowhere to train even if I wanted to, the hotel didn’t have a weight room (neither did the one in Argentina) so I couldn't even workout or let alone go for a run. The only advantage to Venezuela was that it was warm and sunny out so I worked on my tan and got to wear shorts and t-shirts all the time. In the hotel there was no internet in the hotel room, there was only the free Wi-Fi in the lobby so that meant that all the players would come down and spend their time in the lobby surfing the net until the early hours of the morning. So time was passing and we would pretty much go watch matches in the day, spend time in the mall then go back to the hotel to sleep. One night when we were finished at the tournament Solangel’s friend somehow was able to get the ambulance that was there to drop us back to the hotel, so we got to ride in the back of an ambulance and yes they did turn on the siren for us. That was among one of the highlights of the trip, but not being able to walk around the streets limited the sightseeing to pretty much the hotel, tournament venue, and the mall. Not the most exciting time spent at a tournament that’s for sure, especially with the conditions of the hotel but for the priced that was paid I cannot complain.

Everyone using the WiFi late at night
Night view from the hotel
So the day came where it was finally time to go home, the Trinidad players left the night before and I would leave the following day. I was ready to head home after so much had gone wrong during the trip, but there was still one more thing to go wrong. A lot of us were on the same flight or leaving close enough together that we would all take the bus to the airport. Only thing is they never told us what time the bus would come. So I got up in the morning and went to get some food, came back to the hotel and people were in the lobby but didn't have luggage with them they were just using the internet. I asked what time the bus would come and the tournament referee told me around/after 2pm, that was quite a few hours so I said that I would go upstairs and take a nap then come back down and if something changed to reach me at my room. So time passed I napped and 1pm rolled around I packed up and decided to head downstairs as I didn't really have anything else to do in the room. I come into the lobby and there is nobody there, everybody already left an hour earlier than the time they had told me and nobody came to get me. I was mad but at the same time not surprised that something would happen yet again for the trip. After panic set in the tournament director (the same one who made us pay for a taxi from the airport) stepped in reluctantly and decided to pay for a taxi for me to the airport but demanded a refund be sent to him. He had left me and my teammates as well as countless others at the airport waiting to get driven to the city, failed to inform me of an hour change in the departure time and now was hesitant in helping me find a way to get to the airport and catch my flight.

So eventually I got to the airport, caught my flight and was off to Lima, Peru for the 3rd time this trip. I would have just a 4 hour layover and then catch my flight back home to Vancouver with a quick stop in Toronto. I was so happy to be going home and just so disappointed at the whole experience that I had in South America. It just made me realize that I didn't want to play those tournaments anymore based on the conditions and all the organizational issues that arose. I know that not all the tournaments are like that but that’s simply the risk that one takes when signing up and traveling to them. It ends up becoming more about who can adapt and play better in the crappy conditions rather than playing actual badminton. But now that I was about to be back home in Vancouver I would have just a few weeks until the Canada Open would be happening so I had to start preparing for that as well as the US Open the week right after. 

So yeah...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Argentina International

So Trinidad nationals had passed and I was feeling pretty good about myself getting 2nd place. I had also gotten past the injury in my right hip that was hampering me and my training. Everything was getting back on track and I was planning to attend the 2014 Peru International Challenge in Lima. Got signed up and everything but then the main and qualifying report came out and because of my world ranking wasn't high enough I was in the qualification round. I was only 3rd in the qualification and needed 2 people to withdraw for me to make it in but that was still a big risk so I got Trinidad to withdraw me from the tournament as to not risk going down there and having to try and qualify.

Because of that I needed to replace or try and replace all the points that I was going to lose from New Zealand Grand Prix and Tahiti International Challenge from the previous year as they were going to fall off. That was around 2850 world ranking points because I made quarterfinals in Tahiti and that also meant that my world ranking would drop a lot. So I had to find some tournaments to attend and hopefully do relatively well in. Looking at the BWF calendar I saw that there was 3 tournaments back to back in south America; Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. I didn't want to take 3 weeks to go away as that would have cost a lot and I was living in Vancouver at this time so 3 weeks away would have been quite a bit. With that in mind I choose to attend both Argentina and Venezuela internationals. They were International Series level tournaments but had a decently strong entry with many players from Brazil and Peru playing along with some of the top players in the Pan Am region in attendance and some European representation. 

So the June 10th came and it was time for me to fly down to Buenos Aries, Argentina and then off to Tindal where the tournament would be taking place. The funny thing is the same day that I was leaving the country was my graduation convocation at the University of Calgary; something that I would be missing but walking the stage was not of a primary concern to me. The flight down to South America was quite the journey and I ended up having to spend the night in Lima, Peru at a hostel then flying out to Buenos Aries in the morning. Upon arrival in Argentina I was to be picked up and then we were to be driven around 3 hours to a small town named Tandil where the tournament was taking place. Upon clearing customs I walked out into the airport and what do I see but a lot of other badminton players, players from Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Among them were some of my friends and I was wondering why they were still there only to find out they were waiting for the bus to come for hours. The bus finally came only it wasn’t so much of a bus as it was a small van that only had room for 6 people plus their luggage. Anybody who had to play qualification the next day was priority to go on the transport. This means that I had to wait; me and Lino from Mexico, 2 coaches, as well as one of the representatives from Pan Am Badminton were forced to wait in the airport. I arrived at 5:05pm and didn’t get onto the bus until after midnight, this time they sent us an actual bus a huge one for just the 5 of us. We got on and I passed out the drive took around 3 and a half house give or take. Finally around 4am on June 12th I arrived at the hotel and got into my room and passed out not to wake up till noon the following day. Quite the experience travelling down to Argentina for the tournament but this would only prove to be for foreshadowing of things to come for this tournament and for this trip altogether.

Breathtaking sights flying across South America
Where I would spend 7 hours waiting
Me and Lino, found an outlet to use. Thankfully there was free WiFi
Got this whole bus to ourselves just the 5 of us

Waking up the next day I realized that winter in South America wasn’t as tame or warm as I thought it would be and as well I didn’t pack appropriate clothing for that. Thankfully I brought some track jackets and a few long sleeve shirts so I would be layering up while there for sure. There wasn’t any opportunity to hit in the tournament venue before matches and the fact that it had been raining a ton for the past few days would not be advantageous for the tournament. So the morning of my match came, we all got into the bus and drove off to the venue while it was pouring rain. We were able to hit on the courts to warm up and that’s when it became apparent that this would not be pleasant. The courts were incredibly slippery and very unsafe to play on. All the rain had left so much moisture in the air that it would settle on the court and simply wiping the court did absolutely nothing. They brought in industrial heaters/dryers to try and dry the courts while sending us back to the hotel only to return later in the day and see if the mats were dry and safe enough to play on. Upon returning in the evening it was apparent that the tournament was in serious trouble as the mats were still slippery and there was little hope. The tournament organizers said that they would try and dry the mats more or find an alternative venue for the tournament for matches the next day in order to avoid cancelling the tournament.

What a beautiful a scene right out of silent hill
Main tournament venue, nice place but courts were to slippery
So much rain...
Everyone forced to wait for the bus back to the hotel after delay of play
Industrial heaters and paper to try and dry the courts, did nothing

The next day rolled around and at 6am we were ordered to get ready to depart for the new venue (I was one of the 1st matches to be played so had to go super early) we went to a new place which was simply not up to standards for where an international tournament should be held. It was an old place but the hardwood floors were not as slippery as the main venue. The downside it was 7am in the morning and you could see your breath inside the venue, it was freezing cold. So trying to warm up was a tough time. I played my match at 8am on taped out courts shivering between points trying to be warm and struggling to see and figure out the venue, its drafts, avoid lights, as there was no hitting just the 2 minutes that you got for your warm up before the match. Then the sun came out and there were wonderful windows which let the sun shine through and onto the courts below. The whole thing just seemed like a disaster beyond belief and I couldn't believe I traveled all this way and spent that money to play this tournament. I lost first round to one of the seeded players and friend from Mexico Lino.

6am in the morning at the new makeshift venue...
Tournament back underway in the new location...
So that was the entire tournament for me, playing my match 8am in the morning when the temperature was -1 degrees Celsius in the arena. I had a few more days in Argentina before I would fly out to Venezuela for the tournament there. That meant that I would do some sightseeing around the small town of Tandil. It was pretty much a countryside town not terribly large but had lots of parks and sights to see. One such sight was a peak with a lookout above the city that provided an amazing view of the whole town from atop the mountain so that was on my list to see. I waited until there was a relatively sunny day (mind you it was still very cold) and headed up the hill to check out the view from Castillo Morisco. It was amazing you could see the entire city and it was such a fantastic sight. Likewise right across from my hotel was independence square/plaza with a water fountain and giant statue with government buildings and a church on the opposite side. The last attraction that I went to see was a giant dam that was located a decent walk away on the outskirts of the town. The weather cooperated for the most part the last few days of the trip but it was still very cold in general and at night I would have the heater on in the room. On the flip side the world cup of football was on while I was in south America so every night there was a match all the players from the tournament would gather downstairs and we would all watch the match that was being played. Or if I was out eating dinner all the local restaurants would have the TVs tuned into the world cup especially when Argentina was playing a match.

Watching World Cup football at the hotel 
view from Castillo Morisco
view from Castillo Morisco
Castillo Morisco
Me up at Castillo Morisco
Independence Plaza at night, right across the street from my hotel

Overall the tournament was a learning experience and I was happy to be leaving the country soon and onto Venezuela where I would hope that the tournament would be organized better (in reality it wouldn't be any better at all, it would be worse). But first I had to leave the hotel and drive 3 hours back to Buenos Aries in order to catch my flight. Mostly everyone left the day before but I left a day later meaning that it was just 3 of us flying out so we had a private car with a driver that reminded me of Jason Statham’s character from the transporter movies. All went well with that and before you know it I was in the air flying back to Peru to catch my connecting flight to Caracas, Venezuela. The only hitch in the plan was that I would have about 12 hours between my flight landing in Lima and then leaving so I would have to spend the night in the airport. I ended up sleeping in the lounge as it was open 24 hours, it says that there is a 3 hour maximum stay in there but well I ended up eating dinner, sleeping waking up and eating breakfast then went to catch my flight. Onward to Caracas, Venezuela for the international there and something that hasn't happened much traveling with other Trinidad players. There were 3 others who were attending the tournament as well with me which would be fantastic. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships

All the winners, runners up, and semifinalists at nationals
So the time came for the Trinidad and Tobago national championships to take place, April 22-27th 2014. Of course I flew down to Trinidad to play in them. I had been in Richmond, Vancouver for almost 2 months at that point training hard so I was prepared to make a statement at nationals. This time I arrived in the country early so that I would have time to train and get use to the conditions as they are very very different that playing anywhere in Canada both shuttle speed and just facility wise too. The practice that we god before nationals was good and got to hit in the actual tournament venue a few times which was nice as it made me get more accustomed with things.

CRISTAR - Nationals venue and my clubs home

I have lots of supporters back home from fellow club mates, training partners, friends, relatives, and fans that were all excited to see me play in nationals. The previous year due to some unfortunate luck in the making of the draw I was put up against the winner of the tournament first round. This time he (Kerwin Pantin) was seeded 2nd in the tournament and I was on the top half with the 1st seed, he would be my 2nd round match. So with all the practice done the time came around for matches to start on Tuesday April 22nd in the night. They played 2 rounds that night and I was lucky enough to get the 1st round to warm up it was a fairly easy game but I took the time to get accustomed with things. The 1st seed didn’t have a first round as he had a bye, so I would be his first round match. So the time came that I would play Allister the first seed and everybody was paying attention to that match it seemed. It was a 3 game match and he played very well but in the end I came out on top and acquired a lot of new supporters because of it.

Giving a TV interview before the awards ceremony
I don’t live in Trinidad, I was born and raised Canadian but my mom was born and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago before moving to Canada. So through her I got my Trinidadian citizenship which allows me to compete for them internationally. Because of this I am not in the country much and just come home for nationals or the odd vacation. This means that the badminton players down there that are not from my club never really get to see me and my abilities until the championships roll around each year. This lead to quite the interesting newspaper headlines for me during the tournament, with each round that I progressed the titles got more and more interesting. I made it all the way to the singles final with some interesting matches on the way there. I went 3 games with the rest of my opponents as well not being able to adjust as quickly to the conditions. Overall things were good though and the players were quite fun to play against. In the semi-final match I played against my fellow club mate who was 2 points away from match point but I came back and won 5 points in a row to close out the game and take the match securing my spot in the finals.

Links to some of the online articles about me (they were also published in the local papers):

I got a day to rest in-between the semifinals and the finals which would take place the Sunday night. I rested up as playing on the courts down there had taken a toll on my body and various parts of me were starting to hurt and be beyond sore. The day of rest did some good though I was able to go out to the zoo with one of my best friends and we had a great day together. That was something that I really needed to keep me grounded and not stressed/anxious. So finals came around and it was in classic finals style. One court, line judges, the full package. The news was there and some VIP’s were also in attendance from sponsors to past players, etc all there to watch the finals. This was not the first tournament final I have been in but this wasn’t just another provincial tournament in Alberta this was my countries nationals. Something that I wanted to win badly but also left me feeling nervous. I was up against the 2nd seed Kerwin Pantin who had 6 national titles in singles behind him already. Last year the scores were decently close and this year things started off with a bang 1st game I lost 19-21 and then it all went downhill from there. My body didn’t like me anymore didn’t want to cooperate with me at all, my mental fall apart and with it so did my game plan. fast forward I actually ended up messing up my inner hip and required about 3 weeks of recovery and rehab to fix it upon returning home. The 2nd set wasn’t a pretty sight and it was pretty much just self-destruction that occurred and got the better of me. Kerwin played fantastic and did what he does, that’s the reason he is the national champion. So once again I had lost to him and would be the runner up at the 2014 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships.

Receiving my prize money and medal 
Mens singles (left to right): Semifinalists, Runner up (Me), Winner
My medal and winnings

That would mark the end of the nationals, I did play doubles and mixed but those unfortunately didn’t turn out as well. I made quarterfinals for both of those events eventually losing to the 1st seeds. The experience was a great one and I am happy that I flew down to Trinidad and played in the championships. I had a great performance and would hope that it would have been enough to warrant my selection onto the commonwealth games team. The event would be happening the end of August in Glasgow, Scotland and was one of the things that I had been training hard for the past 4 years. Commonwealth is a mini Olympics for the Commonwealth countries and therefore something amazing to be able to attend. Flash forward a few months Trinidad unfortunately much to our demise did not send a badminton team to the Commonwealth games. I was heartbroken and most of the other players from Trinidad were also feeling the pain of not getting to go either.

Farewell and victory dinner with my club mates

That was the end of my trip to Trinidad though, short and sweet I really didn’t get to do much else other than see the zoo and hang out a lot with Shannon. Because I made it so far in the tournament I was unable to make a trip to the beach which I am so sad about. The last time I was on the beach and swam in the ocean was May 2013 in Tahiti, French Polynesia while I was there for a tournament. I packed things up and got ready to head back home, but first I would be making a quick stop (3 days) in Calgary before going back to Vancouver and back to training to prepare for upcoming international tournaments; Argentina International and Venezuela International. 

Zoo with Shannon
Shannon, me, and the giraffes