My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2014 Jeonju Korea Victor badminton Championships

This tournament was kind of a last minute deal and something sort of spontaneous. I was fortunate enough to acquire a sponsor that gave me full support to attend the tournament and that made it a must attend. As well two of my friends were living/training in Korea so I would get to see them. In 2013 I competed in the Brazil international cup and made it to 2nd round there which gave me a lot of world ranking points. This year however they were testing the 11 point system at that tournament and I was not really wanting to enter because of that. Due to not entering this meant I would lose all those ranking points and my rank would drop, not something I needed to happen. So out of the blue this opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it, play a tournament and go back to Asia of course I was in. I had traveled a decent amount this year but the thing is that I booked a lot of flights on rewards points which meant that I didn’t acquire status miles on those flights. This meant that I might not even get status for 2015 and that’s a year that a lot of travel would be happening be it Olympic Qualifications starting in May. Because of this I booked my flight to Korea through Asiana airlines but that meant flying to LA first then to Seoul, Korea.

The day came it was time to leave and of course being Calgary there was snow on the ground, it was November after all. Arrived at the airport checked in and went to catch my flight but guess what it would be delayed. No big deal I thought I had a 2 and a half hour layover in LA before my flight to Korea how bad could it be right? Wrong turns out we were delayed almost 2 hours so I got into LA half an hour before my flight to Korea departed. Talk about stressful the next flight to Korea was the following morning and that would mess everything up, so I had to run (me and one other guy) through the terminals to get to the international terminal. Arriving at the gate just as the last few passengers were boarding the plane I had successfully made my flight but unfortunately my luggage didn't. 12 hours later I stepped off the plane in Incheon airport and had no luggage just my badminton bag and backpack. Now the fun part because the journey wasn't over I still had to take a bus roughly 4 hours south into Korea to make it to Jeonju. This was the killer part after flying for almost 15 hours already to sit down even more, I just slept the majority of the ride except when we had a pit stop.

4 hours of driving through the Korean countryside
So I arrived in Jeonju and got picked up by the tournament, dropped off at my hotel and told that my luggage would arrive the next day at 1pm. Thankfully I was in main draw and that meant that I did not have to go through qualification on the first day. This let me rest and wait for my luggage but not really explore or walk around. I got a little familiar with the immediate area but there wasn't much to see just places to eat and the odd store. There was a bunch of hotels grouped together where we were but they were almost like hostels or “other” kind of hotels judging by the area and all the gentlemen’s clubs that surrounded us. The interesting multicolored lighting in the rooms and the light up hot tub didn't help break the perception of the place either. Regardless it was still a nice hotel and perfectly fine for staying a week in the country. After having a hit in the main hall it wasn't looking to bad, the venue was big but because of the altitude and weather it felt similar to playing in Calgary which would be nice. The downside though was that the venue was cold and during the tournament you would see the umpire and service judge wearing actual winter jackets to stay warm.

The area around the hotel
Signs like this everywhere
My hot tub/Jacuzzi changed colors...
The following day rolled around and it was match time, I was scheduled to play one of the first matches in the morning while Grace and Henry (my 2 friends from Calgary who are living/training in Korea) were scheduled to play just after noon. I played a left handed player from Korea and at first appearances it was obvious just the physical differences between us. He was easily 6 feet and a bit as well was stockier in a good way compared to me. I appeared to be a small kid standing next to him, this also made him a beast on court easily covering the court and making moving him around a tough mission. Needless to say I got my ass handed to me on that faithful day, I just was not able to keep up to him in any way, shape, or form. There were some points where I played amazing and just by looking at that one would think I was on top but in reality they were rare strokes of pure luck mixed in with a bit of genius but my lack of experience or my uncertainty/over thinking was what ultimately lead to my downfall. After my match I stayed and watched Henry's and Graces mixed match, they had a close one with a Korean pair.

Tournament Venue

Well that was the tournament for me, nothing I wasn't accustomed to fly all that way play 1 match and then be done. For half of the draw that is the tournament, you fly all that way and lose 1st round, the other half wins and advances. But although the tournament was done I still had a day left in Jeonju to go out and explore. When we went back to the hotel Grace and Henry invited me out to eat and also invited the Egyptians out as well. So I would make 2 more friends as well as get some good Koran food that day. The following day would be my last in Korea before beginning the long journey back home, a quick turnaround just 5 days in the country which is normal for me traveling to tournaments. We all went out for some Korean hot pot and then later on in the day me Grace and the 2 Egyptians went to sight see in a place referred to as Hanok Village and it was a traditional looking area, lots of shopping as well as a fantastic church to see, Pungnammun Gate which was quite the sight located in the middle of a built up shopping area. Also went to Gyeonggijeon Hall which was a symbol of the Joseon Dynasty where the king had his royal palace. We spent a few hours browsing around and I was able to get some gifts for people as well as take lots of pictures to remember my trip down south in Jeonju, Korea. The day was not done yet though, there was still dinner plans for later.

Pungnammun Gate

Once we left the area and got back to the hotel, Grace told me that we would be meeting up with one of their friends for dinner and drinks later. The night started off with Korean BBQ and as always everything is so much better in its country of origin. The food was amazing, the various cuts of meat we got melted in one’s mouth and the flavor was both intense yet satisfying. The night was still young an after Korean BBQ and getting loaded up on both Soju and Korean beer we headed to get what else but fried chicken, something Korea is famous for and does damn well. Finding a location that was close to our hotel we hit it up and went crazy with the chicken and of course more drinking both Soju and beer. At this point we had had a lot to drink but at the same time I made sure to drink my fair share of water so I wouldn't have a nasty hangover to deal with the next day. I had already done the party all night and then fly super early in the morning the following/same day many times before and doing it without a hangover makes it substantially more bearable. We finished around 2/3 am and I had to catch the bus at 8am to take the 3 hour drive to Incheon Airport near Seoul in order to catch my 1pm flight back home to Canada. Needless to say I ended up getting a few hours of sleep followed by a hot shower to wake me up but ended up sleeping the entire bus ride up to the airport.

The aftermath
Friend Chicken in Korea

So that was that, the trip to Korea had come and I was on my way back home well to LA then to Calgary. The upside was that I would be flying in style on the Airbus A380, the double decked plane, but would be in for a surprise. I had only booked an economy class ticket on the 2nd floor but at the last minute I was able to upgrade it to a business class ticket on the 2nd floor. It might not be one of the private suites downstairs but it was still nice to fly a 12 hour flight in business and have a pod with a lay flat bed to relax on. The trip was complete I arrived back home Friday night and would sleep then go to work Saturday morning for 8:30am only to finish 9pm that same night. What about jet lag you ask well it was there and was it every a tough, long, and painful day…another that was repeated on Sunday as well. That was Korea, my 2nd last international of the year, I would play 1 more tournament to cap off 2014 and that would be Puerto Rico. 

My ride home

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2014 Pan Am Championships

After moving back from Vancouver I didn't have any immediate tournament plans other than potentially playing in the Pan Am Championships which is our yearly regional badminton championships. July to be correct with the US Open in New York was my last international, so come October 15, 2014 I headed out on tour again. This year Pan Am’s were in Markham, Ontario because in 2015 Markham will host the Pam Am Games which happens every 4 years and is a replication of the Olympics just on a regional level/scale. This time I would see myself competing in my 2nd Pan Am Championships but only in the individual event as there were no other Trinidad players attending to enter a team. My 1st Pan Am’s were in 2011 in Lima, Peru but this time it was a lot closer to home…it was in Canada just on the other side of the country. It would be stupid of me to pass up that opportunity with it so close to home and I would not have to spend much money to attend just fly over for the weekend play and come back home. One of my friends from Barbados also wanted to attend and she was the only player from her country going to so we ended up playing mixed together for the individual events to get in an extra match and make the most of the trip.

So I left Calgary and jumped on a plane to Toronto which isn't that long of a flight and because of how often I've flown that by now its next to nothing. Thankfully it wasn't a red eye flight so I arrived at a decent time and wasn't tired from it. Sabrina arrived a few hours before me but didn't get picked up so when I arrived we linked up and were driven to Markham in style. The hotel was fabulous a nice brand new Hilton suits built almost on the outskirts of the town. There was a shopping center and park across the street and then not much else aside from stuff a 10-15 minute walk away. The best part though was the room that we got it was a suite with a kitchenette in it and pretty much looked and felt like a condo. There was also a fitness club, that’s right an entire club built into the hotel as it was also for outside use but we got free access to it pool and all.

The room was a condo pretty much

The facility was the new Pan Am center which they built specifically for the Pan Am games happening in 2015 at the same location. The Games are a multisport event that happens once every 4 years so it is a big deal and there is a lot of infrastructure going into preparing for them. So the facility was brand spanking new you could smell the paint that was recently used as well as they were still building or completing parts of the building. When I arrived the team event was just finishing and the finals were going on so went to the facility to watch those as well as try to get a hit in the practice area to adapt to the conditions. The thing is that the practice area and the main hall felt like 2 different areas despite being in the same building and just separated by a wall. The following day was a break and then matches for the individual event would commence the following day but first there was the opening ceremonies for the individual event. This had all the athletes walk in together showing what country they were from and of course I was the only representative from mine. Following that were some speeches from the planning committee, city officials, etc and then a lion dance proceeded and concluded the opening ceremony. 

I and Sabrina had our mixed match in the morning followed by a nice break and then singles in the afternoon/evening. In mixed we played a pair from Peru and things got interesting as we were doing pretty well for never playing together before but the Peruvian got a lot angry when Sabrina flicked him a few times and got all giggly about it. He was pissed off and started to show his anger both verbally as well as in his shot selection. So that was my experience with the mixed doubles it was fun and I thank Sabrina for playing with me for it we had a good time out there. Evening came and that meant time for the main event, men’s singles to start. I was one of the first matches up and was on the TV court playing against Daniel Paiola from Brazil who was also the 4th seed for the tournament. It was going to be an interesting match and despite the scores the match was pretty good with decent quality rallies and some good points. Ultimately though the difference in skill level proved too great and Daniel had a relatively easy time closing out the match to win. That meant my time at Pan Am’s was over but I still had 2 days left in Markham to kill before heading back home.

One night I ended up going to play badminton with a friend from the area named Vincent, we ended up playing out of a club based in one of the local high schools. Armed with my badminton gear and google maps I made my way to the club and had some matches with him and his friends, it was a fun time to just relax and play some fun badminton for a change. Other than that I did not do much sightseeing as going to downtown Toronto or even out to Niagara Falls was a pretty far drive/transit ride as well the weather wasn't always nice. I did however venture around Markham or at least the area I was in when it was sunny enough to. Apart from all that I spent my free time sleeping or in the gym at the hotel because sleep is something I don’t get much of at home. More so the opportunity to sleep in till 11am or 1pm since I have training and stuff to do in the early mornings. Plus I have been to Toronto before and am sure that I will go back again, despite being a 4 and a half hour flight away for being in the same country.

Just like that Pan Am’s had come to an end and I would be flying back home, another tournament completed another trip taken be that not too far from home. I got to spend time with my friends, Kamasha and Sabrina. The 3 of us ended up going out for sushi that night before both me and Sabrina left the next day, I had an unfortunate 6am flight back to Calgary which meant leaving with the Brazil team at 4am in the morning. Returning to Calgary I would end up coaching that night what a life it is that of an athlete from training, competing, coaching, that leaves very little time to myself or to relax even. All was not over though I would have to start preparing for the next tournament which would be a bit further away, back to Asia again this time Korea for a tournament there. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Living in Richmond

So at the beginning of 2014, March 1st to be exact, I moved to Richmond, Vancouver to pursue my badminton career and dream. I knew the owner of clear 1 badminton center, Darryl Yung, because he opened a clear 1 in Calgary and I had been coaching there for almost 2 years at that point so he was my boss. He also being a former player and Olympian fully supported me in my decision to pack up and move out to Richmond to train under him at his club there. He was such an amazing help through the whole process and him and his wife allowed me to live at their house with the other players as well. The move started when me and my parents loaded up our van and started the drive out, this being the first of March that meant that there was already lots of snow on the ground and driving through the mountains to get there would prove to be quite the journey of its own. It took us 2 days to get there because of having to stop for the night being unable to drive through the snow conditions, we were also delayed due to an avalanche that covered the road and took about 2 hours to clear for traffic to pass.

Finally we arrived into Richmond the 2nd day after leaving Calgary and made our way to Darryl’s place. It was late and night when we finished unpacking everything and my parents headed back to their hotel for the night as they were going to do their own thing the next day and head back home. First things first Darryl’s house was huge as well there was 4 other players/people living there along with me. I had a room at the top of the stairs, Jiwoo, a guy from Korea, was directly in front of me. Toby Ng was boarding my room from the back and Derrick Ng was across the hall. Terrence was downstairs in the suite. Along with all of us in the house there was also 3 dogs who would do their thing and let me tell you they were awesome. I really miss seeing those dogs in the morning when I went to eat breakfast and their faces when I would come home after a long day of training.

Toffee, she was my favorite 
Brandy, I didn't spend much time with her =/
Hero, He was super cool but felt he was always using me for attention/rubs

The room was pretty bare but I would settle into it just fine with a bed, dresser, and TV/stand. So just like that it was off to training and I played a local tournament that very weekend, getting 3rd place in men’s singles only losing to a good friend and former training partner who had himself made the move out to Richmond a year earlier. So it was getting to the middle of march and I had Trinidad nationals the end of April that meant that all my focus and time would be spent training towards that as I wanted to medal and do well so that I could get selected to participate in the commonwealth and CAC games, events that only happen once every 4 years. The time came I flew off and got 2nd in Trinidad (there is a whole blog entry about that) and when I came back there was only so much time till I would jet off again to Argentina and Venezuela (separate blog posts available on that). After that was Canada Open and US Open which I competed in. so overall out of the 6 months that I lived in Richmond for (May 2nd August 31st) I was actually away for 6 weeks total for tournaments and as well for visits to Calgary to visit my parents after returning from tournaments.

Got the pad all set up
Yay closet space
Enough about the training and tournaments though this should be about the experience that was Vancouver and how I enjoyed it there. So first and foremost I met a lot of people that became great friends, training partners, and mentors. It was sad to leave them all behind and have to say goodbye. Not only for the badminton friends that I had but also the other people that I met there too, from friends who were originally out there that I met up with to the new ones that I made and explored the city with. That is the only thing that I didn't do enough of while in Richmond/Vancouver I didn't explore enough and that was simply because of my schedule. I had so many tournaments coming up that all my time was spent training for them and when I wasn't training I was coaching. I did make it out to the science center (yes I am a huge nerd) as well as found my way to Lynn Canyon to see the waterfalls and suspension bridge. Those were some great outings, being in nature is always a fantastic time which I enjoy, as well anytime I can learn and be around science I am having a blast.

Nerding out at the science center
I'm on a rock...not a boat but close enough
Suspension bridge, not as long as it looks
Some waterfalls
One of my friends goes to school out in Victoria and needed some players to come over for an exhibition so he asked me and some other people; I was the only one from Richmond/Vancouver able to make it though. So I would end up having a day trip out to Victoria Island which was great to see. I took the ferry over and it wasn't too long of a trip, going I spent a lot of time upstairs on the top of the ship but coming back was night so I stayed inside. The view/trip was beautiful as well the island was a nice quaint little place. The university over there didn't seem like your typical university campus as it was quite spread out and low key in places but nice none the less. We did the exhibition and honored the players at the university who received a medal at the university badminton national championships and then I was on my way. It was a great little escape for the day out to the island. 

Now Ill be on a boat =p

Aside from those excursions I spend some time down in Stanley Park and on the seawall, in downtown proper, and of course a lot of time in Richmond. I would train at Clear 1 but sometimes would go to the Richmond Olympic Oval to work out when I needed more than the weights available at Clear 1. In August however I was given the opportunity to be the head coach of the Richmond Oval summer camps for badminton which was something similar to what I had done before in Calgary at the Talisman center camps. So naturally I was looking forward to it and it was a blast to work with the kids as well as the assistant staff and the rest of the summer camp supervisors to make it a fun and memorable experience for all those who participated. Other than that there wasn't much else that I did, had some memorable all you can eat sushi outings after training with the other players from practice as well as some other food eats too which made for a nice bonding experience with the players. The majority of the players that I trained with played international tournaments so this helped me get to know them even better for when I see them on tour.

Alas all good things must come to an end and it was my time to leave Richmond a mere 6 months after I had come there. Two other Alberta players would be coming out to train and go to university as they had just finished high school so it was time for me to head back home and return to my routine. I was sad to go but I knew that it was what was best, I learned a lot training out there and am happy for the opportunity that I had to train with the players and coaches. Upon returning to Calgary I would continue to train at the Glencoe club while working for Badminton Alberta and Clear 1. My parents drove out the end of August and on August 31st we began the drive back having to overnight just once and made it home September 1st. the drive back was a lot easier because it was technically still summer so the road conditions we substantially better than driving in the dead of winter. I was happy to be home, have my own room back and be able to see all my friends again. Part of me will always be long and live in Richmond though, I have had and continue to have many homes around the world. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 US Open Grand Prix Gold

Canada open passed and I had a great result making 2nd round at a grand prix level tournament. With that came a good chunk of world ranking points which would help due to tournaments falling off. Now it was time to fly off for the US Open only this year it wasn't down in Orange County at OCBC anymore it had moved to New York. More specifically Long Island so that would mean a completely different environment and venue than what I had become accustomed to. The day came to fly out and I was at the Vancouver airport with a bunch of other Canadian players, surprisingly we all ended up taking different flights yet got to LaGuardia around the same time. Mine and Derricks went through Toronto, others went through Montreal, and some others went through Ottawa. Upon arrival it happened again that nobody was there to pick us up from the airport so we had to take a taxi or well super shuttle in this case and did it take forever to get to the tournament hotel. Since we had an overnight flight I was feeling dead same with all the other players so for the majority of the hour+ drive from LaGuardia to Long Island I slept in the shuttle.

Upon arrival to the tournament hotel we realized that there honestly wasn't much around other than an Applebee’s across the street and some gas station convenience stores. That was going to prove to be a lot of fun…the hotel however was nice and thankfully had a weight room and pool. The tournament venue was the Suffolk County Community College and wasn't too far away that you could walk there if you had to but there was a shuttle service from the hotel to the venue. We made our way over after not eating lunch because we needed to have a hit in the venue, main draw singles matches were the next day so I wanted to be ready. The venue was nice and they did a great job of setting up minus the lights those were going to be quite the problem as they were placed in such a way they effected the view of the shuttle in certain areas. Aside from that there was little else wrong with the venue, not much draft and everything else was blacked out with the help of curtains. So we had our hit and then got some food, I would have to return later and attend the team managers meeting.

The next day rolled around and I went to play my match, I was up against Chia-Hsin Wan of Chinese Taipei first round. Coming off of winning a round at Canada open I was feeling amazing and great but that would all change when I came up against the Chinese Taipei shuttler. He would put me back into my place. The match stated off decent with us exchanging points but then it quickly became one sided and the Chinese Taipei player was relentless, forcing me to place his game no matter how much I fought back trying to play mine. His speed, precision, and strategy were easily levels above mine and I went down quickly but fought as hard as I could. And just like that my match was done and I was out of the tournament, another first round loss at the US Open, not as close as the year before when I lost in 3 close games. So I was in New York, well rather Long Island for another day before my cousins that lived closer to Manhattan would pick me up and I would spend 2 days with them. I watched some matches and kind of just bummed around the hotel for the extra day watching what was left of world cup and catching up on some rest.

The following day I packed up my things and my cousin picked me up from the hotel around 1, we drove all the way to their place where I settled in and met the rest of the family. It was already late afternoon at that point so too late to go into the city and do something. Instead we had a family and friend BBQ dinner out in the backyard which was fantastic and got to relax in great company. The following day though would be an early and long one as it was the last full day I had in New York so that meant that I would have to do and see as much of Manhattan as I possibly could.

My fridge was a win
Morning rolled around and I and my cousin’s wife Natalie left the house a little late, around 8am which we were hoping to get an earlier start around 7 or so. The trip began with a drive to the train station in order to catch the subway into lower Manhattan and start sightseeing. We got off the train and the first stop was Ellis Island and the statue of liberty, one of the famous and iconic landmarks in New York that cannot be missed so we wanted to hit that up first. The weather was very cooperative with us as it was sunny, hot and not many clouds in the sky. It was pretty cool to finally see the statue of liberty in person and up close, there were no more crown tickets available so we didn't get to go up there on that visit I’ll have to save that for another time. The boat ride over was packed but worth it we stared on the island for maybe an hour total and took quite a few pictures with lady liberty herself. Afterwards we headed back to Manhattan to continue with the rest of my 1 day rush tour of New York.

New York (Manhattan) in the background
With Lady Liberty 

Next on the list was to hit up the world trade center memorial area as well as one world trade center the new building that they built. I spend the time at the reflecting pool and it was a powerful place just to be there and understand what happened there and how that pretty much changed the world in so many ways. After that we moved onto the financial district, had to see Wall Street couldn't pass that up and was able to get some pictures with the famous statues that are all over the streets. 

With the OP himself, George Washington
Running with the bulls...ok standing with the charging bull

Moving on we went over to the waterfront then proceeded to yet another famous landmark the Brooklyn Bridge, walked about halfway over it and got some pictures. By this time it was afternoon and we hadn't stopped to eat yet let alone really stop to take a break so some rest and recharging was in need. We made our way over to Chinatown and walked through there then walked through little Italy and decided to have a bite to eat in a quiet little restaurant that turned out to be bigger and more grand that I thought. The pasta was amazing and the interior was fantastic as well.

Life on the bridge

Great restaurant, some mafia business happening in the back
Lunch left us feeling recharged and quite full so that meant a little walk around again and off to the empire state building. We made it there and then headed up for the grand experience, it was an amazing view. You could see for miles in every direction and get picturesque views of the Manhattan skyline both uptown and downtown. We spent some time there and thankfully it was still pretty bright out so the view was spectacular, I can also imagine that at sunset the view would look simply amazing to see. After the stop we were going to meet up with my cousins to have dinner because the last time I saw them was 3 years for one and 10 or so years for the other. Before that though there was some time to kill as they were just finishing up work, so we headed to central park to take a look around. I had made Natalie walk around the whole day pretty much non-stop and she was a trooper about it so when we got to the park she found a quiet nice little area and hunkered down to relax and sit. Me on the other hand I decided to go for a run through central park because at this rate that is the only way that I would get to see the whole area. So I started and I ran, I broke it up and would run for 1-2 miles at a time seeing what was along the way then take a nice little walking break almost a 1 to 1 ratio and then back to running until I had made a full lap around the entire park. I did get to see the entire thing which was really nice, but I will have to go back and actually walk through it properly not to mention check out the museum’s that are there too.

The sun was setting, Crystal and Carolyn (my cousins) were off work and on their way so we meet up with them both and headed down to Times Square. I think it would be cool to see Times Square in the day but seeing it at night was even better, all lit up and with so many people on the streets. We found a place to eat but there was quite the wait so we put our place in and Natalie waited at the restaurant while me and my cousins went out to see some of the area, they took me to toys r us which the store is gigantic and has a Ferris wheel in it at that along with a giant animatronic t-rex. Dinner was nice and great to catch up with everyone after so long but unfortunately it was so late that we didn't get to go to the wax museum but that will be a destination for the next time as well. That meant the last stop in Manhattan, grand central station where we would catch the express train back to the outskirts of the city where my cousins live.

With my fantastic cousins

Chillin with big old T-rex

Overall the trip to New York was fantastic, I got to play a tournament but also got to meet some new relatives as well as see my cousins too. Got to actually do touristy things as saw a lot of Manhattan in 1 day so that was pretty impressive in its own regard. If I decide to play the US Open next year, it will be Olympic qualification year, then I will take a few days longer and spend some more time out there. That was my experience in New York though, a little disappointment from the tournament but an overall fun time. Next up id be heading back to Calgary for a week to get my wisdom teeth removed and believe me I was not looking forward to that and have been putting it off for a long long time at this point. Time to look like a chipmunk for a week.