A month had passed since my last international (Chinese Taipei Grand Prix) and now it was time to travel to another. This time I would be flying back to South America to the country where I played my first international tournament representing Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname. Getting to Suriname is no easy task and there aren’t many ways to do it. One way that I saw from Calgary was to fly to Amsterdam and then back down to Suriname (because Suriname is a Dutch colony) the other was to go to Trinidad and then fly from there. I would choose the latter because Trinidad was able to secure a flight for me from Toronto to Suriname and return, which meant I just needed to book a flight from Calgary to Toronto. Now if you live in Canada you can understand how much it can be to fly to Toronto, if you don’t here’s an example; it is often cheaper to fly to Asia from Calgary than it is to fly to Toronto from Calgary. I’ll let that sink in for a moment for you, but anyways I was able to book a flight the downside is I would have a 10 hour layover in Toronto starting at 11pm at night. After that it was straight to Trinidad followed by another 6 hour layover and then finally arriving into Suriname at 1am in the morning. Follow that with an hour drive into the city from the airport and finally getting into the hotel room and bed at roughly 2:30am.
|Our hotel... the one on the right not the nice one on the left|
|At night behind our hotel is a biker bar and they would rev all night|
|All lit up at night... still a dive but the casino was good|
Now that the hard part was over it was time to go get in some practice at the tournament hall. South America is usually known for its crappy venues and horrible conditions for badminton. This time I was slightly surprised with the venue and it was slightly better than what I expected. The courts themselves were actual court matts which doesn’t always occur at these tournaments. The ceiling was high and didn’t have to bad of lighting once you got used to it. There was a few drafts but the thing was they were relatively consistent in the direction they were blowing the only issue was the strength of it would change with the force of the wind blowing. You see the building they used one entire side of the building didn’t have a wall on it and they did all they could to cover it up (they actually did an amazing job) with tarps and such so that the wind wouldn’t come through. Shuttles flew decently and I actually felt good playing at the venue. I would be playing all 3 events so that would give me lots of time to adapt, of course singles is the event that I care about the most and focus on the most.
So we got to practice in the tournament hall and then had the managers meeting. The first events would commence the following day with qualification for men’s singles in the morning and then singles and doubles in the evening. I didn’t have to qualify thankfully but would play somebody who won their qualification match first round in the main draw. This ended up being a fairly straight forward match and allowed me to adapt and feel better on the court. The doubles later that night was also straight forward and overall the first day of competition was a success. The following day would prove to be a little more tiresome with all 3 matches, singles, doubles, and mixed. I had singles in the morning against a Venezuelan player and that went the full 9 yards. The score was incredibly close with me coming out in the end 22-20, 20-22, 21-18. It definitely tested my mental and put my skills to the test but this meant that I was now in the quarterfinals for singles. I would play an Italian player the following morning for a spot in the semifinals, so singles was a success. Doubles went as planned and we won that match as well fairly easy which put us into the semifinals and would play an Italian pair the following day at night. Mixed came along and that was another long one, took 3 games but in the end we didn’t come out on top there and that was the first loss of the tournament for me. A long day spent at the tournament hall and some much needed food later it was time to sleep after a successful day.
Semifinals day rolled around, well quarterfinals in the morning for singles was up first. Because it was the morning the tournament hall was empty and there really were not many people around watching at all. This would be the first time I would play a player from Europe, in all the years of traveling and all the tournaments I have played it was either Asian players or players from our region (Pan Am: North, Central, South Americas, and the Caribbean) but this would not be the last time I’d play a European player for the year. The first game was death I was not ready at all for what came my way but come the second I put up an amazing fight and felt great if only I made a few less unforced errors I would have been able to force a 3rd and deciding set. Although I was knocked out to the Italian I was happy with my performance and with how far I had made it in singles, it had been a while since I advanced far in the singles draw and won some matches. Doubles was up next that night and we played the Italian pair who surprise surprise consisted of the same player who beat me in singles. Unfortunately that didn’t go our way either but overall was a great experience and an unexpected result in an event that I don’t train for a usually just play for fun.
So that was that the run came to an end and I was knocked out of the tournament, I was really happy though and it had definitely been worth it to go down to Suriname to compete. Some much needed world ranking and Olympic qualification points came out of it. Up until this point I really hadn’t ventured around the city at all since I was so busy competing and didn’t get time to go out in the day to see Paramaribo. This would change and the day before we left I would take the time to go out and explore. Walking around our hotel there was actually a lot to see, the presidents house, a plantation park, of course the river that runs through the city, and some various other sights that caught my eye. A quick lunch with my friends Jan (Czech Republic), Matej (Slovakia), Melinda (Australia), and one of their friends was a great way to finish off the exploration and prepare to go watch finals. There wasn’t much to see around the city, well within walking distance from the hotel anyways but what I saw would definitely suffice.
Finals took place but that’s where things got interesting. The finals were set for Saturday night the only downside was that people had booked their flights out hoping the finals would be in the morning as with most tournaments. As well it being Suriname that didn’t leave many options to leave the country especially with many players flying to Africa, South America, or Europe for other tournaments starting just a day or 2 later. That left just 2 finals to be played, mixed doubles and men’s singles. Both matches were an unfortunate one sided affair but they still had to do the medal presentation. That is where I would get onto the podium for my men’s doubles medal which turned out to be a trophy. My second international medal/trophy of the year, felt great to win that and made the whole trip even more worthwhile. But that also meant that the tournament was done as was my time in Suriname, the long trip back to Canada would begin soon.
|My trophy from doubles|
|Walking out to the plane to leave Suriname|
As with my flight to Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago had secured a round trip flight from Toronto to Suriname in Caribbean Airlines for me for no charge. This also meant that I would be flying back to Trinidad for yet another layover (7 Hours to be exact) and then a slight layover in Toronto finally arriving into Calgary Monday morning just after midnight. Some friends and my aunt visited me at the airport which was nice, I didn’t decide to go home for the few hours it would have just been too much of a hassle so I decided to stay at the airport. Finally I was getting closer to home just 2 more flights and a couple more hours. Overall though the trip was definitely worth it after getting to quarterfinals in singles and a semifinals result in doubles which was completely unexpected. Yet another trip had come to an end and another tournament under my belt. Although I didn’t go to a new country it was fun to revisit one that I hadn’t seen in 8 years and the site of the first international tournament that I ever played. So to get such a great result like that proved a lot to me that I have come quite some way in my career and journey of being a professional athlete. Next up would be 2 tournaments a lot closer to home, the 2 international tournaments in the USA on opposite coasts Florida and California.
|I love Suriname, I had a great tournament and fantastic weather|