My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Thursday, September 3, 2015

2015 Canada Open Grand Prix

So because I choose to go to Mauritius I decided to skip the US Open this year which is a tournament I have attended for the past 5 consecutive years. This meant that after coming back from Mauritius I had just a week to prepare for the 2015 Canada Open which would be in my home city of Calgary, Alberta. That was a nice change meaning that I wouldn’t have to fly anywhere, or stay in a hotel, I would be at home. The venue for the tournament would be up at Canada Olympic Park in the Markin MacPhail center where the hockey arenas are located. Over the past few years the tournament was held in Vancouver notably at the Richmond Olympic Oval (home of the 2010 winter Olympics) and then moved over to the UBC Thunderbird arena for one year before getting moved to Calgary. This time Jeff Bell, Badminton Alberta’s director and my boss would be in charge of setting up and he did a fantastic job on the arena turning it into a world class venue for badminton. Another major perk was that Lee Chong Wei would be coming to participate due to his ban for 8 months and being in need of points.

Canada Olympic Park
Tournament Venue
The draws were released and I had a tough one right off the bat. The previous edition of the tournament in 2014 I made it to the 2nd round and lost to a player from Korea. This year I would play a player from China named Huang Yuxiang first round. I wasn’t afraid and was excited to go out there and give it my all, especially with having everybody there to watch me. This meant getting some practice time at the facility first though. So I was able to get some court time with a Lithuanian player and a Jamaican player who would both end up becoming great friends. So we got to practice 2 days in a row at the facility which helped and I felt really solid playing there.

Practicing with Lithuania and Jamaica
Japan and Chinese Taipei practicing 
The facility was is located on the opposite side of the city from where I am but my dad decided to come watch me play which was really nice. My mom had the opportunity back in March to watch me win my first national title at the Trinidad and Tobago National Championships so maybe having my dad come watch me for the first time would be good luck. The tournament got underway and my match was one of the first one up unfortunately. The reason to that was because it meant not a lot of people would be off work in time to come watch but there was a decent amount of people in the arena. My match was called and as a first I had Kamasha Robertson umpire my match, she is a player/umpire from Trinidad and Tobago so that was different having her umpire my game at Canada Open. The match started and I had my coach Ardy Wiranata sitting behind my court, my dad in the stands as well as kids that I coach and their parents all watching me. That match was one of the toughest I have ever played. The caliber of this Chinese player was miles above me, I wasn’t able to move him as easily and winning at the net proved to be a lot tougher than I previously anticipated it to be. In the end the score was low a mean 3-21, 7-21 but the quality of the game was different.

Ardy talked with me quickly and then I saw my dad before he left, I was going to stay and watch some more matches because a lot of my friends still had to play and so did Lee Chong Wei. There were some good matches on for the rest of the night and a few upsets happened through the tournament. Canada Open was the last tournament I would play before heading off to Pan Am Games beginning of July. That being said I was incredibly busy coaching and would not have much time to watch the rest of the tournament. I went to see the semifinals on the Saturday evening after coaching which turned out to be pretty good but ultimately that was the Canada open for me. A quick match against China and early exit in front of a home crowd, no second round like at the 2014 edition of Canada Open where I beat a Canadian player and then lost to a Korean.

So that was a very quick entry not much else to say, I didn’t have to travel to an international for once in my life, I got to stay at home in my own bed, eat my own food and be in my own city. It was quite the different experience but I did enjoy it. Well it was back to the grind come the Monday morning, only a week until I would leave again and I had to coach an all-day badminton camp as well which would cut into training times. Next stop though, Pan Am Games…the biggest tournament I would play to date. 

Always focused on the task at hand...and damn those quads

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015 Mauritius International

Off to Africa I was going, well an island off the coast of the African continent but it still counts and falls under being in Africa. The 2015 Mauritius International was taking place June 11-14th (those dates would slightly change later). This would count as an Olympic qualifying event, any international tournament between May 1, 2015 and May 1, 2016 would count towards the 2016 Olympic qualifications. This was my second tournament I’d be playing of Olympic qualifications and I had to play 2nd seed Kevin Cordon of Guatemala first round. Not the best draw for flying all the way across the world for a tournament but anything is possible. So the flight to Mauritius wasn’t anything that I haven’t done before, 12 hours from Paris was about the same as going to Hong Kong from Vancouver or Korea from LA. The flight was smooth and landing in Mauritius was a nice sight, seeing the tropical island appear out of the otherwise desolate ocean. Upon arrival went through customs and then began the journey of being picked up and heading to the hotel.

Quite the sight to see
There turned out to be a small complication when we arrived in the city of the tournament, only 40 minutes away from the airport on the other side of the island. The tournament hotel that the tournament organizers had booked players in was full. I arrived with a few other people for the tournament, a girl from Finland, and 3 Turkish players plus their coach. None of us had a room in the hotel we were promised so the association gave us the run around and brought us to another hotel which would house players at the same tournament rate and provide the same services (meals included). This place wasn’t any resort looking area and was smack dab in the middle of a residential (neighbourhood) surrounded by houses for blocks around. There was nothing available for the tournament at that time, no practice times or bus schedule to the hall so the day I arrived was a write off and I was more than happy to relax and fight off any jet lag.

My wonderful hotel
And its slightly sketchy looking pool
The next day rolled around and we were told that there were practice times available for early that afternoon. At that time some other players had come into the hotel, a guy from Hungary and a team from South Africa. Not to mention at the same time as our badminton tournament there was a football tournament so there was a lot of teams staying at almost every hotel in the city at that time. So I went to the hall and was able to have a hit with the Hungarian player for about an hour on the courts. The hall in Mauritius was nice as it was the national badminton center. 14 courts but only about half of them had mats on them the others were simply a sort of rubber hard floor that while provided grip was very hard on the knees. After the session I was able to have another quick hit with a player from India and then called it a day heading back to the hotel.

Tournament Hall
The nice part about the hotel was the meals were included in the price so upon arrival we got lunch and then had a few hours to kill before the managers meeting that very evening. The team managers meeting is something that I attend every tournament I go to usually because I am the only Trinidad athlete present so I have to go. This one was no different only that it was single handed the longest managers meeting I have ever been to…and I didn’t even stay for the whole thing. This is where an interesting predicament arose. The tournament was originally June 11-14 with qualification events being on the 10th. The 14th was Sunday and there was a government election taking place that same day. By law on the day of elections it is illegal to have a public gathering of people so that meant that it would be against the law to have the finals for the tournament on that day. The tournament organizers had only found that out about 2 weeks before the tournament, long after everyone had booked their flights and everything to come so they couldn’t cancel the tournament. This meant that the tournament would now happen over June 11-13th… only 3 days. There was 1 round of singles the first day, 2 rounds the following day and then on the Saturday semi-finals in the morning and finals in the evening. 

So the tournament started that night with qualification events, 3 rounds of it. The following day around noon I played my match against 2nd seed Kevin Cordon of Guatemala. I set up my gopro to record it but the modes got switched and it just ended up taking a picture every 10 seconds for the entire duration of the match. So that was my unfortunate mishap and I was kind of disappointed at that fact. The match on the other hand went well, a lot better than expected. I was able to win points, the major reason that I lost points were primarily unforced errors. Don’t get me wrong Kevin is a beast on court and he is able to change the pace as well as has a cannon of a smash. All in all it was a long way to fly to play another Pan Am player but I and Kevin finally had our match 2 years later than it was scheduled. In 2013 I was to play Kevin 2nd round at the 2013 Tahiti International Challenge but that is when he blew out his knee the week before in Peru and I played another played 2nd round making it to quarterfinals of an International Challenge.

I was out of the tournament just like that, meaning I had another 4 days left in the country to enjoy and relax as well as celebrate my birthday. Friday rolled around and what did I do but sleep in till 4pm, my body was destroyed by jet lag and I didn’t want to do anything that day at all other than sleep. Essentially Friday was a write off. Saturday rolled around and I slept in again but this time I got up and went into the town to explore and see what was what. I was planning to take a boat trip to a remote island and enjoy the beach, etc on Sunday since it was my birthday but then after looking through everything I realized that it wouldn’t be as much fun to go alone. Instead when Sunday rolled around I got up nice and early and went to a place called Flic-en-Flac beach which is a famous destination in Mauritius and a very beautiful beach. I spent a solid 5 hours at the beach doing a multitude of things from swimming, reading, running, and sun tanning (yes even I can tan and look better with a tan). Spending my birthday on the beach of a tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa turned out to be pretty sweet after all. The day came to an end, the hotel provided all the meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) so they knew it was my birthday and cooked me a special birthday meal even with a dessert surprise. The next day I would catch my flight back home in the night, the long journey to France and then to Calgary.

The wonderful beach where I spent my day
Everyone needs a shirtless beach picture

I woke up the following morning and finished packing, ate some food and then went to check out the big shopping mall that was across the highway from the hotel. There wasn’t really much present in terms of shops just random places and no souvenir shops, which was quite a surprise because even in town itself I had a hard time trying to find souvenirs. After that had my last dinner at the hotel and it was a kind of bittersweet ending to the tournament. The van came and picked me up, there was other player from an African Country who was also leaving that night. We drove to the airport and then the long trip home would begin with a 12 hour flight from Mauritius to Paris, a layover and then another long haul flight home to Calgary. Overall I felt good playing in Mauritius, the big moment was when I was sitting in the airport in Paris and got the final confirmation that I was attending the 2015 Pan Am games to represent Trinidad and Tobago in badminton. That made the trip all the more sweet but meant I would only have 3 weeks to finish my preparations for that. Knocking 2 continents off the list, getting to see 3 countries and some amazing sights/architecture as well as got a tournament in I’d say that the trip was well worth it and quite a success. But first up would be the 2015 Canada Open which would be in my home city of Calgary, Alberta just a week after my arrival back from Mauritius. 

My plane back to Paris, France

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Life of an Average Athlete: In my Shoes

Life of an Average Athlete: In my Shoes

By no means am I the best in the world, nor am I the worst. I fall somewhere into the middle, don’t get me wrong I am not putting myself down by saying that at all. I’m simply just stating what it is and where I stand. Regardless of my skill level every day I strive to be the best that I can be on court and make it to the top. To improve my skills and not let anything stand in my way, the determination of wanting to succeed drives me forward. Being an athlete is one of the unique experiences in life, the ability to perform in a sport and be able travel the world while at it. This is something that I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do and would not trade it for anything.

The Beginning

I was granted a late start at badminton, starting training at 18 years old with the Alberta Elite program that ran 2 times a week. Through my friends and also under the guidance of my coaches I fell in love with the sport and at that point decided that I wanted to see how far I could get. I knew that I had started very late and that it might be impossible to even compete at a high level but that didn’t discourage me. I actually never even thought about competing at the international level at all until much later on. At first it was all just about enjoying the game and playing the local junior tournaments. That soon turned into playing the senior tournaments and nationals. Not too long after that all I did was eat, sleep, and breathe badminton. It was my life and that would not change for the foreseeable future no matter what came my way.

2015 Canada Open, Men's Singles against China. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Yeung)
My mom was the one who first planted the idea in my head, it started with her asking if Trinidad had a badminton team. That was all it took and before long I was in contact with the former national coach and then with the current coach and other players. Just like that I found myself on a flight down to my other home to play some badminton against the countries players. I arrived and met one of the most influential people in my career, Anil Seepaul. Anil was a 5 time national singles champion as well as having many other doubles and mixed titles to his name. His club was called CRISTARS and little did I know that it would so become my club to. I spent almost 6 months in Trinidad at that time, taking a semester off of school. I got my passport which would allow me to compete internationally representing Trinidad on the world stage, then it happened. I played my first international tournament of my life. October 2008 Anil and I flew off to Puerto Rico for the Puerto Rico International. That was the start of my career as a professional athlete. I had the pleasure of playing Anil in the finals and winning my first national singles title in the 2015 Trinidad nationals. I still have and will always have a great amount of respect for him as well as am extremely thankful for all he has done.

Winning my 1st men's singles national title, and 2nd place in both doubles and mixed
Over the years my passion and dedication for the sport grew, going to training camps in China multiple times and competing more and more around the world. Soon enough I discovered the big games, the type of tournaments/events that happen once every 4 years. Most notable on that list is the Olympics but also there are The Commonwealth Games, Pan Am Games, and CAC (Central America and Caribbean games) all of which are once every 4 years multisport mini Olympic style events. For any athlete the opportunity to represent ones country at one of those events is a defining moment in their life. At that moment I knew what I wanted to do and what my goals were, maybe not so much the Olympics but something much more easily attainable, to represent Trinidad and Tobago at one of those 4 year major events.

Daily life

Now one knows that as an athlete you need to practice constantly to get to the high level as well as maintain ones skill. It started off with me just training 2 days a week on court for 2 hours each time but that quickly grew into what it is today at 6-7 days a week anywhere from 2-5 hours a day on court (the odd time more than that). On top of that there is fitness and weight training that also takes place so tack on another 1-2 hours a day. Upon that realization one quickly comes to the understanding that the majority of the day is dedicated to training and does not leave much time for other pleasures in life. Couple that with the 6 years of university I did to hammer out 3 degrees and the nightly coaching that I also do, my days pretty much are done before they start.

Who doesn't like doing multi shuttle
The love and passion was there and still is that I will gladly spend my days doing what I need to do in order to try my best to improve my game. That being said there is a lot of sacrifice to be made, this all coming from somebody who isn’t even top 200 in the world yet. I will always make time for those who are important for me and I hate to go months without seeing my closest friends. Usually that’s what ends up happening however, with all the traveling and jam packed schedules it makes planning and seeing people hard.  It’s a double edge sword because sometimes when I do finally have free time I simply don’t want to go out and do things or see people, I just want to enjoy those few hours to myself and do nothing. So I do apologize to all my friends that I see once in a while, but at the same time I thank them so much for all the support and motivation they constantly provide me to keep pushing forward.

Moving back to Calgary from Vancouver, saying goodbye to my training partners and great coach Darryl (Left)
There are many days that I wake up and just don’t want to go train, I don’t want to step on court and hit a shuttle, don’t want to do footwork or weights. But in the end my passion for it gets me up and down to the courts. No matter how sore my body is, no matter how much my legs don’t want to move. Regardless if its -30 outside, pouring rain, or a perfectly sunny day best spent outside I will be at training doing what I do. “Where there’s a will there’s a way” those are the words/saying I live by. This is also why I have it tattooed on my body because it is my motto, my burning desire that keeps me going every day.

有志者事竟成, "Where there's a will, there's a way" direct translation is a person with determination will succeed 

Am I really Traveling?

Sometimes I get to experience some amazing moments and see beautiful things around the world, spending a few days in a country and actually seeing sights as well as experiencing the culture. Other times all I see is the airport, tournament venue, and the hotel. From spending a full week in places such as Vietnam, Japan, New Zealand, French Polynesia (Tahiti) and others to the complete flip side. In some instances I’ve spent less than 72 hours in a country from the time I landed to time I took off. On average I spend 4-5 days in a place I go, however most of those days are usually taken up by practice and the tournament.

In Tahiti, French Polynesia for a tournament

The last time that I actually traveled on a plane without my badminton racquets for a vacation was pre 2008. Since 2008 (7 years to date of writing) I haven’t actually taken a vacation or traveled for “pleasure”, every time I travel it is for badminton and I carry my racquets with me. At this present moment in life it is a foreign feeling to travel for a vacation, I have a hard time justifying it when I could be spending that money and attending a tournament. That being said I have been to places like Peru 4 times and yet to see Machu Pichuu, one day I’m sure I will make that trip as well as many others to see things I want to. A lot of the time I travel alone which while can be nice it is well rather lonely, not always having people there to share in the experiences and witness some amazing sights can be a downer (I have had the opportunity to travel with some amazing people too though). Don’t get me wrong I love traveling and am happy to experience all that I have and see all I have seen.

India, Trinidad and Tobago, France
Trinidad and Tobago team in Venezuela
I swear that I sometimes spend more time outside of Calgary traveling than I do in the city some years. But the sad truth is that the 12+ hour flights now feel like nothing and all the shorter ones are just as easy as getting up and heading to training at this point. The long haul flights give me time to myself and to relax for a change while jetting across the globe. Its funny cause to me anything under 5 hours of flying doesn’t feel like traveling anymore as I’m so use to going transatlantic or transpacific at this point. While the excitement might not be as profound and hit me hard anymore I still do get excited to fly and travel the world. I love jumping on a large plane and setting off on a new adventure. Flying and being on a giant plane will always have me excited at heart, I love flying on the A380’s now and who can resist business/executive class upgrades.

Just some of the airline tickets for my travel in 2014 alone
The Battles in my Head

It goes without being said that my head can be a battleground at times constant conflicting points of view and opinions flying around. “Should I stop badminton?”, “You haven’t won an international match in a while”, “How could you blow that, it was your match to win”, “I want to train hard for this”, “I love badminton and this feeling of progressing”, “I’m happy with how I played”, etc. The stuff that goes through my mind can make a complete 180 degree turn depending on what’s happening. So many things influence it and make me think about the path I am on as I grow older.

Getting into the zone during warm up before a match. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Yeung) 
I fully understand that this can’t go on forever and there will be a time to stop and get on with life, join the real world as I so often joke about it with everybody. I will try and prolong it as long as I can, only having won a handful of international matches around the world one would think it is crazy that I still continue to play. I enjoy it too much to just stop though and even if I was at the very bottom of the world rankings I would still enjoy it all the same. The war with continue on for a few more years at least, there’s much more that I have to learn as well as want to learn.

The Hard Truth

I have been given so many opportunities through badminton, first and foremost I have traveled the world. How many people can say they have seen at least 50 countries before they were 25 years old? And I still have a few more years before I’m 30 to increase that number and to keep going to try and see as much of the world as I can in my lifetime. That aside I know I am not the top in the world and chances are I never will be, that is not me giving up from trying (I will always train to be the best) that is just a realistic look at things. The facts are there and I can see the facts, if I stated earlier maybe things would have been different or maybe they wouldn’t, maybe I would be worse or would have given it up already. I fall somewhere in the middle of it all, I love the sport too much to quit despite my win/loss ratio.

The collection of accreditation badges grows every year
In reality I will continue with it and eventually will fade out of competing professionally, there are still a few more goals I have to accomplish first. Attending one of those every 4 years games (maybe not the Olympics but hey I will try to say at least I tried to qualify). Playing in a super series event, even if just in the qualification draw although I’d like to make it into the maindraw. To qualify for a world championship would be an amazing opportunity but we will see what happens with that. For now I have my list and will work towards it over the few years I have left. I have been able to check off a few, a national title, win an international match, reach top 250 in the world, now I just need to keep setting the bar higher and setting new goals to go for.

Pan Am Championships, the yearly badminton championships

My body and mind are good for now but I know they will only hold out for so much longer. In that time I will experience as much of this part of my life as I can. It’s not every day you get to say you are a professional athlete who travels the world for a living. I thank all my coaches that I have had as well as all my sparing partners locally and around the world for their contributions to my game and career. Also everybody (friends, family, fans, etc) who support me through the highs and lows of my career, thank you for sticking around when I’m happy from a win or depressed from a loss. That’s my life, in my shoes and through my eyes at least, so I thank you for reading and getting this small glimpse into my life and thoughts as an athlete. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Paris 2015

Had to get a shot with the Eiffel Tower
This is a different sort of entry because it is not about a tournament but not about a vacation. It is about a layover on the way to a tournament, a lucky event to say the least. So I was traveling to Mauritius (a country next to Madagascar off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean) for a Tournament and was just so lucky to have an 11 hour layover in Paris, France. As soon as I saw that when booking my eyes lit up, I have never set foot on the European continent before and this was my chance. I would get to see Paris of all places the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and so many other notable and famous monuments. So the time came and I left Calgary heading to Amsterdam first then towards Paris where I would have my time to see the amazing city. I landed in Paris, France around 12:20pm on Tuesday June 9, 2015 and that’s when the adventure and race against time started.

Before landing I had done my research the days prior to flying out as I knew that there was a lot that could go wrong. I could be delayed, transportation times, as well as when I had to be back at the airport to catch my connecting flight to Mauritius. So I planned everything out and ended up taking the bus into the city which would drop me off right in front of the Arc du Triomphe. It only took about 45-50 minutes as there was a bit of midday traffic and one other stop first but that was fine, well within my budgeted time limit. The first thing I saw was the Arc du Triomphe, this has some significance as I am a huge history buff and enjoyed learning all about world war I and II back in high school. So to see the Arc was amazing, just to be in Paris alone didn’t even sink in at all yet. After bumming around there checking out the area and taking pictures of course I made my way to the next landmark. This one was a lot more famous and world renowned when you think of France.

The Eiffel Tower in the flesh…alright in the metal. It was a truly amazing sight to see this tower not because of its height or anything, it’s actually rather small, but because of the fame of it. The tower did not disappoint at all and captivated my gaze the whole time the entire atmosphere of the area. It was so surreal of an experience to be standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, when 12 hours prior I was in Calgary in North America. I took it in but the gravity of where I was never set in even through the whole time and all the sights I saw. I walked right up to the tower and got a close up look. I was doing great for time. So that was 2 big sights down but still a handful more to go. Now came the trek, I had done some walking already but there was more to head over to Notre Dame but see everything else along the way. I walked along the river, La Seine, towards the famous cathedral.

Up close and personal

The river took me past some museums as well as Plaza de la Concorde which connected to the Champs-Elysees and back to the Arc du Triomphe. There was quire the fancy fountain and Egyptian looking structure in the plaza. This was also where the entrance to the Louvre Tuileries started. Walking in it was a huge giant space, an almost garden like area leading up to a palace or in this case museum. I walked across this vast area taking in the statues as well as nature and the sun. Thankfully it was a sunny and warm day as all my plans could have easily been foiled if there was rain. After quite the walk I came up to the Louvre and its famous glass pyramid. The scale of the building caught me off guard and I was enveloped within its walls. I stood and took it in before walking on the outside and back alongside the river. I continued to knock sights off the list and was winding down to the last one. I was doing great for time and not worried as from Notre Dame I could take the train straight to terminal 2 at Charles de la gull airport where I needed to catch my flight.  

The scale of this place blew my mind
Still blowing my mind

Notre Dame Cathedral popped up as I walked to the back of the little island it resides on, I have to say I was a little disappointed from the outside appearance. I don’t really know what I was expecting but I felt a bit of a lackluster experience. Maybe because I had already seen the Eiffel Tower and pretty much everything else is downhill from there. That marked the end of the sightseeing, I had been walking around for a few hours but only walked about 10km in total. I spent time in places to fully take in the atmosphere and gravity of where I was. Not to mention the hour I spent at the Eiffel Tower sitting and watching it as well as having a snack. That meant that all I had left to do was take the train back to the airport and catch my flight to Mauritius for the tournament.

Didn't see Quasimodo though =(

Overall the time spent in Paris was amazing, it was surreal and through the whole time I was there it didn’t hit me where I was. I unfortunately didn’t get to go into any of the monuments, museums, or sights that I went to. The lines were simply too long and would have eaten up all my time. I also just had my cell phone to take pictures with as I opted out of carrying my DSLR with me this trip. One day I know I will return to Paris and France for a lot longer time not just an 11 hour layover. That is when I will do Paris properly and take proper pictures, go into the museums and see them as well as up the Eiffel tower, onto the Arc du Triomphe, and into Notre Dame not to mention visit countless other sites. As I arrived back at the airport and sat at the gate I had a sense of accomplishment, seeing so much in such a short amount of time. I also got to cross Europe off the list of continents that I have been to. That would just leave Africa and Antarctica, one of which I would be visiting after a quick 12 hour flight, but that’s another entry. 

I love flying on big planes, especially business/executive class

Sunday, May 31, 2015

2015 Trinidad and Tobago International

All the participating country flags at the venue
So it has been a while since I have played an international tournament, January 2015 to be exact when I went to China for the China International Challenge. In March I played Trinidad National Championships and won those. The thing is that next year (2016) are the Olympics in Rio which means that there will be Olympic qualifications. For badminton it is a yearlong process running from May 1, 2015 to May 1, 2016. This meant that the 2015 Trinidad and Tobago international would be my first event of the Olympic qualification process.

I have played tournaments before during Olympic qualification in 2011-2012 for London but at that time I was not looking to qualify. This time is different and I am trying to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, as impossible of a task as that may be. This meant that starting now every tournament would count towards my world ranking for Olympic qualification. Trinidad started off looking hard with the M&Q report coming out and me being in qualification due to a large amount of high ranked players playing. Luckily for me by the time the draws came out some people had withdrawn and I was in the main draw against Turkey. Fortunately for me all the Turkish players withdrew and that meant that I would play a promoted player from qualifications. For doubles me and Jason would play a pair from Chile and then in mixed me and Solangel would play the 3/4 seeds from Chile.

I arrived in Trinidad may 17th at night due to it taking an entire day to get down there and didn’t get to practice that night. On the Tuesday however I was able to hit at the main venue in the night and oh boy was it a surprise. Of course like all other South American tournaments the venue was a piece of work, drafts galore and they kept changing. Now we all know the deal with me, it takes me longer than I like to adapt to those external conditions. Fast/slow shuttles that’s no problem cause it’s just the speed but once you throw in the drafts that cause the shuttle to wobble in mid-air or drift a few feet here, slow down there, etc then I have a real love hate relationship. I am not using that as an excuse, because we all have to play in the same conditions and are essentially all in the same boat. Some people are just more use to it and others adapt quicker and change their game faster to suit the conditions. Me on the other hand I was unable to do that on the faithful day of my singles match.

Tournament venue
Opening ceremonies some steel pan
Thursday rolled around and I stepped on court to play against my opponent from Suriname. I had a nice draw and it could honestly go either way. I was greeted with wind just blowing at me on court, I could feel it and it had some force. I quickly got 20-16 up and that’s when everything fell apart I don’t know how or what happened but I couldn’t win that one point and I fumbled the first set losing 21-23. That was a real mental bust but one that I wouldn’t let affect me going into the second. We switched sides and I was with the draft meaning that I couldn’t lift or push as everything would go out, so that meant I needed to control the net, something that my opponent had been doing since the start. It was a hard battle and I was unfortunate to lose 18-21 in the 2nd. I was devastated and destroyed, after my match I spent a good 10 minutes outside alone reliving the events, trying to understand what I had done wrong and to comprehend it. It happens and on that day I was outplayed.

That was not the end to the story though, I had mixed that same night which was going to be a good match. We could have a chance me and Solangel against the Chile pair. We ended up playing doubles against them and that really didn’t work at all in our favor but we didn’t switch it. We lost the match 16-21, 16-21. What a solid start I was off to in Olympic qualifications. Thursday ended and I headed home to recoup and refocus for doubles with Jason the next day that would be the last event I was still in and once again playing against Chile. That started off not bad and we were neck in neck but a few mistakes and we lost the first game, no big deal we would however switch to the harder side going with the draft. I honestly didn’t hit a single solid smash that entire tournament, anytime I played and the shuttle was lifted it would catch the draft and wobble. I have yet to play in a situation like that and didn’t know how to account for the wobble when hitting. We lost the match 18-21, 18-21 which wasn’t too bad but it was so close. The tournament stung something fierce, coming off of nationals a month before being the national champion in singles and loosing first round. Making the finals in doubles and mixed then also loosing first round. I couldn’t help but feel like I let down the entire country, on home soil none the less. The feeling ate me alive and for the first time in my career for a brief moment what others thought of me snuck in, I quickly squashed those uncertain and negative thoughts though.

So just like that the tournament was over for me and so was my first even of Olympic qualification, anybody on the outside looking in would think that trying for the Olympics after that performance would be a death sentence and futile attempt. This is me we are talking about though and you all know that I don’t give up that easily, while I may not be at the high level that isn’t going to stop me from chasing my dreams. It was Friday morning when I got knocked out so I would have till Wednesday morning before I flew back home. I would get a little bit of a vacation and some time with friends, something that I haven’t had or done in a while.

Saturday rolled around and Tishelle picked me up to cheer me up and take me out, something that was greatly needed. We went for a little drive up a Trinidad mountain (kind of a hill compared to what we are used to in Canada) but it had a great view of the city. After spending some time up there we went down to a place called Macqueripe beach, it was a private beach in a secluded cove which was pretty picturesque to be honest. We spent some time there and then headed onto the next location, the boardwalk. It is located in Chaguaramas and is essentially exactly what it sounds like….a boardwalk around the beach/ocean. A peaceful way to spend the evening so we got some food and hung out there, watching the sunset before heading home. That was a great day and something that was dearly needed but that wouldn’t be the end. That night we made spur of the moment plans to head to the beach Sunday with some of the other players. So Sunday we headed to Maracas beach (one of my favorite beach’s in Trinidad). We spent the day there, some of the foreign players joined us they were from Mauritius, Slovakia, and Czech Republic as well as the local Trinidad players. It was a fantastic day, I took a run on the beach and then we spent a few hours in the ocean. I got to play around with my new toy the GoPro and got some fun video in the ocean. Afterwards we went to watch the finals of the tournament which were spectacular. My friend from Canada who trains at the same club as me, Martin Giuffre of Glencoe Club, won the men’s singles event. The other events were great and match of the night goes to men’s doubles of Mexico vs Mexico.

Macqueripe beach
Macqueripe beach
Sunday finished and that meant Monday rolled around, Monday we were scheduled to go down the islands. It was going to be quite a few of us but some things fell through and in the end it was just 7 people that went. Some of the Trinidad players, 2 Barbados players, and the one guy from Czech Republic. We took a boat out into the bay and onto Gasparee Island where we would spend the day. The island wasn’t huge or anything drop dead gorgeous as I was expecting it to be. I thought that we were going to a private beach somewhere remote on one of the many small islands off the coast but I was wrong. Overall the day wasn’t too bad and I did opt out of going for a swim in favor of cozening up in the hammock and catching up on some reading. To me that was time well spent, it was peaceful with a marvelous view and most importantly was relaxing. The trip came to an end and with it meant that Tuesday would be my last full day in Trinidad. Time had flown by and I actually hadn’t done much physical activity let alone any badminton since getting knocked out, something that is unfamiliar to me as I am always active.

The crew going down the island
The whole crew on the boat

Relaxing in the hammock reading a book
Tuesday morning saw me get to train at our club in Chaguanas but it was horrible the sun was out meaning there was so much light coming through the open windows. We only had 1 set of badminton posts as they didn’t bring back the posts they took for the tournament. So we got creative and use the netball posts to create a court which surprisingly worked. That’s not the end of it though oh no, there were no good shuttles so we only had a handful to use for drills. Under the circumstances it was quite the gong show for a lack of better description. Not only that we were told we had just from 6am-8am because netball had the facility after us but come 8:30am we were still going. They came in and told us to clean up but netball never came, we could have continued to train but oh well. After the morning Tishelle collected me and brought me home so I could shower and eat something. We were able to spend the rest of the day together until the night. I was able to actually go see a movie in the theaters, we saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron. After that I headed home and packed everything up, getting ready to leave Trinidad on a 7:20am flight the following morning. My 9 days in Trinidad had flown by and I was heartbroken from the tournament but glad that I got a little vacation for once.

Me and Tishelle

Heading back to Calgary I would get 12 days before I fly out again to my second tournament of Olympic Qualifications the Mauritius International. The draws came out the day before I left Trinidad and boy was there a shocker, I was fortunate enough to get the last spot in the main draw that also resulted in me playing Kevin Cordon of Guatemala first round. So I have all but 12 days before taking the 2 days to fly over to the African continent for the tournament. The flip side is I will get time in Paris, France meaning I’ll cross Europe of the list as well as Africa off the continental list. So I will have set foot on all the continents minus Antarctica (for the time being at least). Let’s see how the second tournament of Olympic qualification goes, the consolation is that I will be spending my birthday away from Canada again this year. This time in Mauritius, can’t really complain being able to spend ones birthday in tropical paradise.