My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Sunday, April 23, 2017

2016 US Open Grand Prix Gold


 
The US open had been moved back to LA since its move to New York for 2 years. Despite the move back it was not given back to OCBC down in Anaheim so this was something new. It was awarded to a facility called the Los Angeles Badminton Club (LABC) which I actually played at once before.  This was good news as I would be staying at Yukos house and it wasn’t a terribly far drive, nothing compared to trying to go from Manhattan Beach to OCBC. This tournament I would be playing all 3 events. Singles, Doubles with Matt Fogarty, and mixed with Yoshi (Yukos daughter). So let’s discuss something first, let’s talk about this doubles partnership.

 

Earlier in the year the opportunity came up to play with Matt in the attempt to make a run at qualifying for the 2017 world championships in Glasgow, Scotland. This meant that we would be playing tournaments together in order to get the required points and the world ranking needed. The qualification for world championships is May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017 so a one year period. The best 10 tournaments in that time count and only 2 teams from the same country are able to qualify. Because we are a split partnership we would count as one team from Trinidad and one team from USA. The US Open would be our first tournament together and first set or ranking/qualification points.

 

At the time I wasn’t even thinking about qualifying or trying to qualify for singles but that would come into play later on. So that is the new partnership that was formed and that would also lead me to some more travels than I had intended for the year. Canada open passed and then a few days later I was on my flight to LA and to see Yuko again. We got to practice at the tournament hall with Dean and Dean’s partner, also with Tuck and Jenn Yee too. The tournament venue wasn’t terrible it was a darker hall and they had adjusted the lighting to make it more “professional” but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Yuko was the nurse on duty so she would be going up each day which was nice for me as it was at least an hour to an hour and a half drive each way.

 
2016 US Open GPG venue at LABC

Before the tournament started though it was time to celebrate 4th of July American style, aka go down to the beach and suntan. Of course everyone was out on the beach partying and drinking it up so it was definitely a great time and so relaxing as well. That evening we went out to the tournament hall to practice again and while driving back we could see the 4th of July fireworks being set off all over the place. It is about a 40 minute to 1 hour+ drive depending on traffic but with fireworks going off it was enjoyable. The next day would be the start of the tournament and I would need to get a good night’s rest for my singles match.

 
Manhattan Beach on 4th of July
 
Soaking up some sun


First day of play, singles. It started off just like that and I was playing Ruban of Guatemala, I have never played him before and he is about the 2nd best Guatemalan after Kevin Cordon. This match was something else, I did not play smart and did not have my focus where it should have been. Because of this it left me shell shocked and scrambling around to try and figure out what to do. Ultimately that did not end well and it was a loss in singles for me. So my day was over, we stuck around and watched some other matches that were happening before me and Yuko did the long drive back to Manhattan Beach.

 
During Mens Singles

Mixed doubles was up first with me and Yoshi playing against Nyl and Britney from Canada. That was a tough match from the start but we didn’t do badly actually and it was a lot of fun. We ended up being on the streaming court as well so that was a bonus. Afterwards I had to play doubles and that would be the debut of me and Matt playing together. We had a decent first round against Dean (his former partner of many years) and a younger university student Ali. This was a good warm up match and ultimately we ended up winning, it was a little bit of a bittersweet win though because I like Dean and we are great friends off the court but I know this one hurt him a little. Every match from there on out I play for Dean because it truly is because of him and Yuko that I am having this opportunity available to me and I don’t think I can ever repay them.

 
Not gonna lie, fanboyed a little and finally got my picture with Peter Gade

This is where things would get once again interesting. We had now progressed to round of 16 at a grand prix gold tournament. The first time I could say I have been that far, even if it is just winning one round. Now we were in for a real shock, we would play a pair from Japan. The match started and I have never felt this lost before ever. No matter what we did, no matter how good a shot, no matter what everything came back with interest. I could hit a net kill straight down at the service line and somehow they would get it back with a crosscourt tight winner. It was brutal, of course they are good and it would be easy but I have never felt that lost, even when I have played top 20 singles players in the world. But the simple fact of the matter was we got absolutely destroyed on the TV/betting court. This was the beginning of a partnership though which would take us too many countries and hopefully many more wins.

 

For the time being my experience at the US Open was done and I would spend a few more days in LA with Yuko and her family before heading back home. The next few days involved doing some simple things, badminton and checking out Venice beach of course. We ended up going kayaking in the marina with Dean and one of his friends which was super fun to do. Having some good food and great company is always the best way to spend time. First doubles win of the year under my belt and onto the next tournaments we had planned out. Aruba with Trinidad and Tobago for CAREBACO team and individual championships in August. Brazil Grand Prix in Iguassu Falls beginning of September. Mexico International series in Cancun, and Columbia International series in Nevia both in September. I would definitely be earning my elite status this year.
 
Some fun out on the water

Can't go to Venice Beach and not see Muscle Beach
 

2016 Canada Open


 
Nationals had come and gone and I didn’t play another tournament after that, 2 months later Canada Open rolled around and once again it was in my hometown of Calgary. This is a tournament that I have played multiple times since its inaugural showing in Vancouver back in 2010 at the Richmond Olympic oval. It has a soft spot being in Canada but at the same time being in Calgary where everyone that I know can come watch. Last year I played a player from China and unfortunately didn’t have a great match but this year was up against a Canadian who I knew. I would play against Andy Ko from Edmonton, Alberta which was set to be a good match. Even though we were from the same province and had both been playing for a while in the Provincial circuit we never did play each other in singles until now. I would lie if I said that I wasn’t nervous for the match, I wanted to win and knew that it would be a tough one.

 
Practice time at the Venue

Match day rolled around and we once again went up to the Winsport facility at Canada Olympic Park (COP) where the arena was set up to host the tournament. I had friends from the USA come to participate this year as well. Yuko and Tuck, Tuck and I would be playing doubles together and he would play mixed with Yuko. We were able to get a good amount of practice in at the venue and as always the place looked great but to play there was sort of a nightmare due to all the distractions visually. None the less it was game day and do or die moment.

 

I stepped onto the court to play Andy and right away I was feeling nerves come over me, I haven’t experienced this feeling before. Not even when playing in my national championships or the Pan Am Games which was such a huge tournament. But I knew I had to conquer them else it would work against me. The match got under way and I had Ardy as well as Bryan sitting behind my chair, it was reassuring but at the same time nerve racking too. The match unfolded and it was a battle, point by point went by and we were close then Andy took the first game. I fought back and won the second, that meant that it would go to 3. I was feeling confident and playing well and had to lead when we switched sides and all went to hell. Something happened and for whatever reason I didn’t have an answer for his shots I stopped controlling and started reacting which ultimately in the end cost me the match.

 



I was disappointed, I was devastated, I was done I just didn’t know how to react. Loosing isn’t something that I want to do, it’s something that nobody wants to do. A loss in 3 games that close is just heart wrenching, especially in front of all the kids I coach, all my friends, etc it just broke my heart. I didn’t know how to feel, I felt like a failure like I shouldn’t even be competing. But that was an emotion that I would have to get over and I didn’t let it affect me for long. It is still one of those moments I look back on and have an uneasy feeling about. Andy played great and is a great player, which I would never deny him that. I usually don’t discuss my emotions and the emotional side of badminton but this is one that just got to me, coming of a national championships win to this just hit hard.

 


That was that though and it was time to move on to doubles. Tuck and I had just played the Manhattan Beach international together back in January and decided to give Canada Open a go. We were up against a Canadian pair of B.R. Sankeeth and Adam Dong which was an incredibly strong pair to play. Despite our best efforts we were beat relatively easy. So Canada open was done for another year, not the best performance or performance that I would have liked.

 

The following week would be US Open but before that it was time to show Tuck and Yuko around Canada as it was their first come coming to their friendly northern neighbour. On the agenda was showing them around downtown Calgary followed by a day trip out to Banff and Lake Louise. Which despite rainy weather ended up being quite a beautiful and fun time. Dean joined us as well and we headed up to Lake Louise to take a picture with the picturesque backdrop. Despite the rain and overcast the lake came out brilliantly green and just perfect. We walked around there for a bit but it started to rain so we darted into the hotel and hung out for a little whole the downpour passed. As we were driving back to Banff the weather of course cleared up (Calgary/Banff can have all 4 seasons in 1 day) and we headed into the city to walk around. We hung out in Banff for a little while and ate lunch there then it was time to head back to Calgary.
 
Picture Perfect at Lake Louise. Left to Right; Tuck, Dean, Yuko, Me
 
 
The following day we went back to COP and Yuko, Tuck, and Dean wanted to do the bobsled run. In the summer they put the bobsled on tires and will launch it from a little under half way up the track so you get a somewhat experience of what it’s actually like. I have already done it before so I let them go ahead and do it. After that they wanted to do the luge which is essentially a soapbox racer with breaks that you ride down a hill steering around corners and obstacles. Pretty much some of the best fun that you can have and it is awesome going fast. Yuko did it once and was happy enough so I took the rest of her 2 runs down the hill with Dean. Dean likes speed and dam he was ahead of me the whole way aside from one point where I passed him but he overtook me on a turn with only 1 of the 3 wheels touching the ground. That night we played some badminton and then before you know it the week was done and it was time to head to LA. Yuko left first in the night of July 1 and then Tuck the next day. I would leave July 3 in the morning and meet them in LA or well meet Yuko in LA as I would be staying at her place. Just enough time for some Canada Day celebrations and when I arrived in LA it would be 4th of July, something I have seemed to be celebrating more and more over the years.
We were gonna leave tuck behind

Luge at Canada Olympic Park
 
 
 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Trinidad and Tobago Nationals

The biggest tournament of the year and it wasn’t an international one, it was the Trinidad and Tobago national championships. This would be the 4th time that I had played them and so far I had reached the final 2 of the past 3 times as well as won once the previous year 2015. This year would be slightly more pressure since I won the previous year, not to mention I was in all 3 finals, I would be expected to retain my title and capture another in another event. The last tournament that I played was Manhattan Beach International a few months back in February but it was now April and a while since I had been in that sort of environment. Regardless of that I had been training hard and preparing for this because I knew the second half of 2016 would be when I played the majority of my tournaments.

 
The photographer really liked to get pictures of me drinking water

Flying down to Trinidad is always straight forward and something that I have been doing for years. I fly united and go through Houston so it’s a full day affair leaving in the morning and arriving in the evening. Usually when traveling to an international I arrive 1-2 days before the tournament but when I play nationals I always try and arrive 4-5 days before so I can adapt and feel really comfortable on court. Although the tournament is held at my home club in Trinidad I don’t get to play on the courts other than the 1 week a year that I play nationals so it is nice to get that extra court time to readjust to the conditions down there. I am spoiled in Canada since we play and train in the perfect conditions which in reality you rarely every find outside at competitions. The previous year in 2015 I wasn’t seeded at all and that had been an issue to people as I was in the finals in 2014 and not seeded in 2015. This year I was 3rd seed despite winning nationals the year before. That definitely raised questions to everybody down there, but in reality it’s whatever to me I don’t really care that much about seeding.




I left Calgary and arrived In Trinidad but that would not be the only trip I was taking this time. After playing nationals in Trinidad I would head out to Atlanta for a little relaxation and mini vacation. I would be spending about 12 days in Trinidad and then another 10 days in Atlanta being gone for almost a month. But back to Trinidad first and it was nice to have the heat hit me when I arrived. Calgary had an abnormally warm winter though without a lot of snow falling but nothing beats a tropical island in the Caribbean. Arriving was nothing new, get to the airport, grab something to eat, wait for my aunt to pick me up and then home we went. The first few days was nothing special I pretty much just played badminton at the CRISA arena in Chaguanas to familiarize myself to the courts and shuttle speed again. I was playing singles, doubles with Jason Ramjass, and mixed doubles with Kerian Quan Chee. My old mixed partner had gotten banned for a year and was unable to play nationals or play period at the time. Practice was done and the tournament was set to start, just 4 nights this year Wednesday through to Saturday night.

Funny faces are what I do best and frequently on court

Singles was up first and I played a slightly older recreational players who played for one of the oil companies, followed by the 2nd round of singles that night where I played fellow club mate Alverio in which we had a fun match. That was the first night of action and there would be many more, not to mention newspaper articles as well. The second night consisted of another round of singles as well as a round of doubles and mixed. I played Sheraz another club mate in singles and then in doubles we had a fairly straightforward match and mixed was a lot closer as all of us on court were pretty similar skill. Day 2 done and was in all 3 semifinals.

 
More water bottle drinking pictures

So when the 2nd last night rolled around I have to play a player named Will Lee who I had never played before but he traveled with us to CAREBACO last year and we sort of talked then. It was a match that went to 3 as I was actually nervous and played emotional badminton opposed to actual badminton. I was able to pull it off in the 3rd thanks to Kerian and Naim for coaching me through it. That means that I was in the men’s singles final again. Men’s doubles didn’t go our way though and we ended up losing to Anil and Milind a German who married a Trinidadian girl and lives in Trinidad. He also won the other semi-final for men’s singles so I would play him in the finals, also he’s who Kerian and I beat first round in mixed. Mixed doubles saw us make the final as well when we beat Leanna and Jewel to advance. I was only in 2 finals this year, which was alright with me as can’t always get everything that I want.

During singles

Finals night, the night of all nights came around and I would be playing in the singles and mixed. Singles was up first and it would be against Milind Ogale a German citizen who is a resident of Trinidad and Tobago because he married a Trinidad woman. So you can imagine the newspaper headlines on that one, German Vs Canadian comes to mind. The match was pretty straight forward and there were no nerves this time to take it all the way and win my second national title in men’s singles.



Up next were the other matches and then the final match of the night, mixed doubles. Rahul had already won the men’s doubles final and now was going for title #2. Rahul and Stephanie had played together for years and this was the first time me and Kerian have played together despite being from the same club. The match went to 3 and unfortunately I would only be getting one national title this time in the singles.
So a 1st place in singles, 2nd place in mixed doubles, and 3rd place in men’s doubles would be the medal haul for the 2016 nationals.

 
1st place mens singles, retained my title and 2 time national champion
 
2nd place in mixed for the 2nd year in a row

3rd place mens doubles


The previous year I flew out the morning right after I won nationals but this time I stayed an extra day. That extra day I celebrated in style a little winning another title we went out for dinner and then afterwards went to a club and lived it up, downside I flew out that next morning so the night was a little short lived. It would not be back home this time though, I would be making a stop over to Atlanta and spend just over a week there. A nice and well deserved vacation after winning nationals.


Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Beijing, China – Part 2

Day 4 – Making dumplings and badminton in China

 
CCTV building, I love architecture so seeing this was great

Morning on the other side of the world and I was ready for the day to start. It was the fourth day of the trip and today I would be playing some badminton. I hadn’t played since my last match at Manhattan Beach International just a few short days prior but that was fine, I was itching to get back on court. Before that though Belinda and I went to the grocery store to get some fruits for her parents as a gift when I went to their house later for lunch before badminton. Chinese supermarkets are always my favorite as they have everything that I would and could ever want. After picking up a variety of fruits (Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc) we proceeded to go to her condo/house.

 

When we got there her parents had already started to make lunch, dumplings. Of course I wasn’t going to stand by and not get in on this. So on that day I helped and learned to make dumplings from scratch. It was quite the process but they had already finished making the stuffing and the dough. All that was left was the cut the dough into pieces that would be used for each dumpling and then fill it. So I picked up the role of dumpling filler and it was good. In the end couldn’t easily tell which ones were mine compared to the pros (her parents). They tasted great and after we had eaten it was now time to go to play badminton. This would be a different place than her parents usually play at because it was during the week and they mostly play on the weekends. But that was alright and they found a place, a pretty significant place actually. The stadium that we ended up playing at was the stadium that they built and used for the 1990 Asia Games and I would later find that out when Ardy was telling me a story about being in Beijing.

 
1990 Asia games stadium where I played badminton



The stadium now has long since been repurposed into a multisport facility with lots of different uses but primarily it had tennis courts and lots…lots of badminton courts. There was also an indoor rock wall which was cool to see families coming out to use that and not your everyday common sight in China compared to North America. The courts were alright and it wasn’t like I was playing a tournament or anything, just trying to make sure I impressed her parent’s haha so they would do. We played a few games of 3 vs 1 and then Belinda and I played some doubles games against them. After a while her parents left to get some stuff done but said they would be back later if we needed them. When they left I ended up doing some drills, I didn’t get stared at as much as I thought I would while playing badminton there. Some guys rented the court behind us and when they saw me doing drills they ended up stopping to watch for a while. We finished our session and the lights above the court went dark, time was up. Belinda’s parents came back because it was pouring outside so they didn’t want us to walk in the rain and ended up dropping us back to the hotel. That night we had dinner plans with some of Belinda’s school friends from when she lived in China.

 
The subway stations in china sometimes have awesome designs

Night time and the lights came on, but there was rain on this night not to light but not too hard either. Thankfully we were just walking across to the Golden Resources Mall to meet them there. With so many restaurants it makes sense as the place to go for variety and what did we end up having but Chinese hot pot. Her friends were incredibly entertaining and actually spoke a decent amount of English, a well-rounded group and funny to be around. We may have also bonded over the common ground of making fun of Belinda but that’s normal when there’s somebody new in the group haha. The dinner went well and we sat in the restaurant for a while, afterwards the night was still young and it was a dilemma to figure out the next place to hit up for some fun. A bar and club were out of the question, nobody was feeling in the mood to drink or party that hard. But then somebody said it and we went to karaoke, now anybody who knows me knows that I don’t actually sing…like at all. I would swear that I am tone deaf and just have no singing capabilities at all. But I still went along to have fun and just spectate what was happening there. They sung some Chinese songs, mostly love songs but then it happened and the cheesy English songs came on. But by that time my eyes were closing on me and sleep had taken me for the night, I ended up falling asleep in the room and not to long after we went back to the hotel.

 

Day 5 – Interrogation at dinner

 

After a good night’s rest and feeling very refreshed there was another task to complete today. Find a gift for Belinda’s grandmother, not just any gift though a gift that she would like and approve of. So we set out and went to mall after mall, it was settled upon that we would get a necklace for her. The nice thing about china you can find anything so we got the chain and pendant separate to find the perfect combination for her. This however was not as easy as it sounded, we needed to find the right combination and that was hard enough already without spending an arm and a leg. But we did it, ultimately it took a while but we found the perfect pieces and together it was the one so we picked it up and then picked up some lunch to refuel our famished bodies.

 

Things took a golden twist afterwards when we headed to see the Olympic stadiums from the 2008 Olympic Games that took place in Beijing. The weather however could have cooperated better with us on that day. It was very cold and got to be pretty windy which didn’t help at all when combined with the fact the area was essentially a large flat area with just a few large buildings greatly spread out. I got up close and personal to the birds nest and at first it didn’t look huge but I soon realized that I was staring at it from a weird side angle of the curve of it causing it to look incredibly small, when I saw it from the side then its true massive nature hit me and the gravity of the Olympics happened right here was a cool feeling. I had just gone to Pan Am Games the year before which are a way smaller version of the Olympics but the same concept so to see the scale of this area just blew me away. The water cube was across from the Birds Nest and although it wasn’t night I could remember how cool it looked all lit up. Snapped some pictures and then we were done and happy to be getting out of the cold. Now the task of getting to Belinda’s grandmothers place happened but eventually we got there runny noses and all.

 
2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, aka the Birds Nest



Her grandmother has such an amazing view of the Olympic Village and as soon as it turned dark she got excited to show me, it truly was a beautiful sight to see the water cube lit up and the national stadium lit again.  After some tea and quick talking we ended up getting dressed up again to brave the weather and headed to dinner. I would be meeting her family or well those that came back from their recent trip to Hinain province for Chinese New Year a few days prior. I did not know what I was walking into that is for sure. We arrived at the restaurant and found ourselves ushered into a back room which had a gigantic table with lots of chairs set up in it. There was already about 5 or 6 people in the room and then add them to the group of 7 or 8 of us that just walked in and a few more people who came a few minutes later there was a lot of people. We all sat and got acquainted with one another, mostly it was people asking questions about me and Mengran translating it for them to understand. A few of her aunts and her mom understood English so they could verify that what she was translating was in fact what I was saying. All during this amazing food dishes were coming out and we were eating, as well as drinking (some super strong famous alcohol that her uncle brought, how I did not get wasted I don’t know) and discussing anything and everything you could think of about me.

 

The Q&A of who is Nick came to an end finally and then we moved in a different direction, towards a slide show presentation about the family’s New Year’s trip and celebration. That was a pleasant slideshow and a familiar place that I have gone before so was cool to see other people enjoying it and to share that connection with them. This whole time we were eating dinner and some amazing Chinese dishes not to mention having some rice wine that was brought for the occasion. Just like that 3 hours had passed and the night was over as people had to head home for the night. Overall it was a fantastic dinner and great time even if I did get interrogated by quite a few people. It was time to call it a night and then get ready for the final day in Beijing.

 
Small portion of all the people that were at dinner



Day 6 – Time to Say Goodbye

 

It was time to leave Beijing, seems like it was just yesterday that I arrived but time had definitely flown by. Both Belinda and I were flying out on the same day but to 2 different places for different reasons. I was heading back to Calgary, to training and coaching as well as life as I knew it. Belinda on the other hand was heading to Atlanta as she was now on her last rotation for the GE program that she was in. So she would spend 6 months working in Atlanta. It was February 14th, valentine’s day, and we were flying to different cities from the same airport and just so happens that our planes were next to each other at their respective gates. We boarded our flights and headed out for new journeys that lay in front of us. 

 

The first tournament of the year had been completed as well first trip to Asia for the year was completed. I wouldn’t have another tournament for a while, the next one would actually be Trinidad and Tobago national championships in April. I would be defending my national title there but first a 12 hour flight back to Calgary and a lot of movies to catch up on.
 
Being on the Olympic grounds, maybe one day ill be able to be there as an athlete
 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2016 Beijing, China – Part 1

*Warning this is my longest blog post to date…its long and has lots of pictures hence why it’s in 2 parts*

 

Manhattan Beach International had just finished and I found myself at LAX but not on a flight home to Calgary, rather on a flight to San Francisco where I would catch my connection to Beijing, China. Belinda had invited me to go to China with her and meet her parents/family and I said that I would. I would also try and get in some training as well while there, it is China after all and home to badminton. I was already planning the trip when I thought I would be in Thailand the week before and it would be easy to fly over from there but when that got cancelled I still decided to go to China anyways. I would be there during Chinese New Year which is something that I haven’t experienced in Asia as of yet.

 

Day 1 – Arrival

 

The flight to China is nothing new to me, I have gone there and to Asia many times before so the 10-12 hour flights isn’t something I dislike or stay away from. The flight over was standard as usual in terms of my routine, sleep half of it and watch movies for the rest according to the time in China. Once I arrived I was greeted by a driver that Belinda’s family had hired to pick me up and take me to the hotel. The family and she would arrive the next day as they were in Lingshui, Hinan province for Chinese New Year. I had just gone to Lingshui January 2015 for the China international challenge. So I had a day and a half to kill before they arrived back to Beijing and I was in luck with the location I was at.

 

Across the street from the hotel was the second largest mall in the world called the Golden Resources Mall, funny enough the first largest mall was also located in China just in another city. It was true this thing was huge and it barely fit into a panorama, nothing compared to any mall in Canada or anywhere else in the world. So I spent quite a few hours exploring that as well as getting my food and groceries too. After all that walking it was time to call it a night and prepare for the following days activities. Located a little walk from the hotel was a park or rather palace park. It was the emperor’s summer palace and highly recommended by Belinda to check out so I planned to spend the following day there. I would be greatly surprised by the sheer size of the area when I got there.

 
GR Mall... huge thing just barely fits in the whole panorama

Day 2 – Self tour of the Summer Palace

 

Day broke and the weather wasn’t terrible, despite all the fireworks going off the night before the air was pretty clear and the sky wasn’t overcast. Being February it was still winter in China and I thankfully brought my winter jacket which I definitely needed that day as well as one more layer underneath. So I started the walk down the canal towards the Summer Palace and it was just a few kilometers away nothing to bad and I love to walk so it’s always a pleasure for me. Boy was I in for a full day of walking, climbing up and down stairs and walking through ancient buildings/temples. The river was still partially frozen but getting closer to the park there were people swimming in it. I paid my entry which allowed me to see everything in the park and then walked in, at first I didn’t grasp the size of the area. Walking in and seeing the emperor’s palace all the way at the other end of the lake I was just thinking wow the royal family was incredibly lucky to have all this to run away to. I could just think how lucky the kids of the royal family would be to have all this space and so many cool things to explore and play around.

 
The river while walking to the summer palace
 
The place had amazing buildings and all the details mind blowing


I had a lot of ground to cover, thankfully I had almost the whole day as the park or well access to the buildings closed at 5pm and it was only 11am in the morning. Start walking I did and did I ever walk, I ended up taking the “shortcut” which cut through the lake and that a lone was filled with many little buildings and bridges along the way. Some of which were turned into restaurants for people to eat at. Despite it being Chinese New Year and lots of people left Beijing to go back to their home provinces the park was still packed and there was lots of tourists…Chinese tourists not so much foreign ones (I saw less than 10 foreign tourists the whole 6 hours I spent in the park). I brought my DSLR with me and started taking pictures of everything, there was just so many intricate details on everything and such beauty in the architecture. I always liked Chinese history and Japanese history as they are so rich in cultural experiences, events that took place and the physical sites still around, we don’t have the same kind of history or historical sites in North America.

 
 


I decided to save the palace for last or well almost last instead of just going straight to the main attraction. So I walked around back where there was a sort of shopping area set up down on the water, it was cool to walk around the narrow edge and see all that was there. Following that I went up the back way of the palace and saw some of the beauty in the artistic detail on the buildings, each roof piece had the same carving in it. All the artwork on every beam of the ceiling it was amazing and must have taken a long time to do all of that. I came to the palace from behind and made my way down the hill seeing all the auxiliary structures and temples/statues. Now time for the main attraction, walking up there was a lot of stairs that needed to be climbed but these didn’t feel like normal stairs they were steep. Making the way to the top was a statue of Guanyin and in all its glory in front of us. Of course it said no photographs but every single person was taking pictures so I snapped a few as well. Making my way back down I visited all the various other rooms seeing how they were set up and the history behind what they were used for. The view from the top was amazing you could see over the entire lake all the way to the entrance and that’s when I truly appreciated the size of the park and the palace itself.

 
 
 


The weather had warmed up a bit and the sun was shining in an almost cloudless sky. I began walking back towards the entrance on the opposite side of the lake this time when it happened. I turned to see the palace looking at me across the lake with some boats in the water. I thought it would be a cool shot and I snapped a few pictures not thinking too much of it. Later when I was sorting through all the pictures there it was the picture that I had taken and I just couldn’t stop staring at it. Instantly it was my favorite picture of the trip and just the way that I captured the scene blew my own mind.

 
My favorite picture that I have taken to date

I still had one more little island to visit before heading out and it was a peaceful little place, sitting in the lake you could have a view of everything in the park. I was just thinking about taking a swim in the water come summer haha it looked like it would be such a nice thing to do. Alas the time in the park had come to an end, I spent roughly 6 hours in there walking around and seeing everything that I could. Time flew by and I couldn’t believe how long I spent let alone how many kilometres I must have walked within the park that day. Time to walk the canal back to my hotel, it was still light out but getting slightly colder again so I put some gloves on and started the trek back to my temporary home…with a stop at the mall for some food first. Belinda and her family flew back in that night and of course I was able to see her that night, it was so nice and she also told me about the plan for the following day what we would go do and see.

 


Day 3 – Tea in Beijing

 

We awoke that morning and got ready to head out bright and early, there were more fireworks the previous night as it seems people were still celebrating. First on the agenda was to go to see the Forbidden City so we figured its best to go early as there was only a limited number of tickets available for the day. We jumped on the subway and headed towards the center of Beijing, switching lines a few times in order to arrive. Once getting there and stepping outside there was a lot of smog and fog in the air, it was really hazy and limited visibility. There was also a ton of people with the same idea of going in to view the city. Again it is one of those things that you can’t fully comprehend the size until you are standing there and can see the size of things with your own eyes. There was a lot of walking and once you are past the iconic front wall of the Forbidden City you get into the bowels of the area, unfortunately for us the tickets were all sold out for the day so we would be unable to go inside the city. That was alright at least I got close enough to it and gives me another reason to come back to China in the future.

 
 


We left the Forbidden City and walked out past Tienamin Square as well as one of the national museum’s which had a line wrapped around it of people waiting to get in. We kept walking towards a small little area that was filled with shops and more importantly places to eat food, I had worked up quite the appetite at this point. So we walked around the area and saw lots of goodies for dessert afterwards but food first. There were a few places but the lines were crazy long so we eventually found a quiet little spot which had amazing food. It was at that moment the reality sunk in that I was in China after being in North America. But this time it was different, I have always traveled for tournaments and although I just played a tournament this was kind of like a vacation and a nice time away from badminton for a few days. After we had late lunch we walked around some more and got dessert and headed to see some shopping before meeting up with Belinda’s parents later that night for dinner and a show at a famous tea house.

 
Tienamin square, famous for many things
 
 
Nom nom nom all the desserts


The darkness crept over the city and with it came some rain but the bright lights of Beijing and amount of people out would have you think otherwise that it wasn’t nighttime. We met Belinda’s parents at a little restaurant and had some nice traditional Chinese dishes. After dinner we walked over to a famous tea house where they display a bunch of different performances from Chinese culture for foreigners. Many famous people have passed through those doors from former USA presidents to actors/celebrities from all over the world. The show started and they of course gave us some tea and various snacks to munch on throughout the show. We sat and watched the variety of performances and what would be somewhat spectacles. They were very impressive but all did tell a part of Chinese history which has happened for generations and generations, some of which still are practiced today. Upon the end of the show we got some pictures and looked around the little museum like house which was the theatre. There were lots of historical items present as well as many kinds of tea for purchase. The rain had more or less passed at this point and we went for a little drive before Belinda’s parents dropped us off at the hotel.

 
Inside the tea house
 
Performances at the tea house
 


Three days had passed just like that, I had done so much already and see so many things. Not to mention eat a lot of delicious authentic Chinese food, yum. It was time to call it a night and then the adventure would continue the next day…or well in the next blog post for you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016 Manhattan Beach International



The time had come and it was the first tournament of the year, the 2016 Manhattan Beach International in Manhattan Beach, LA. I had been to LA many times before, to many to count on ones hands but never to Manhattan Beach. My good friend Yuko Kawasaki lives there and invited me to stay with her for the tournament so I wouldn’t pass up the offer to hang out with a good friend. I boarded the all familiar flight to LA and before you know it had landed in LAX the only difference was that I had a late night flight and arrived some 1am in the morning. After arriving I was picked up and whisked away to Yukos house to get some sleep for the night. I had never seen her house before and when I arrived I was amazed at how tightly packed all the houses were packed into their lots and next to each other. But it was nice to be in their mansion for the week and hang out with and meet the family. The tournament wasn’t to start for a few days I went down early to adjust to the place and get a decent hit in at the venue and of course check out the beach.

The beach at Manhattan Beach

So first things first I went down to the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club (MBBC) which is where the tournament was going to take place. A small private club located about a 10-15 minute walk from the beach. The club is a simplified version of the Glencoe Club in Calgary as it is just badminton courts and an outdoor pool area as well as a sort of sitting area too. Nice little club located within Manhattan Beach though and very popular not just for its badminton but just as a space for people to go and hang out by the pool. The tournament wasn’t meant to start for a few days so I was able to get in some hitting with friends who were there as well as some of Yuko’s friends who were playing the tournament (Dean and Jen) as well as Yuko’s daughter who I was playing mixed doubles with. I was however unable to practice with my doubles partner before the tournament happened.

 
Manhattan Beach Badminton Club (MBBC)

One nice thing that you don’t always see at the lower level of tournaments is that they had a welcome dinner for us. The city of Manhattan Beach hosted an athlete’s welcome dinner at the local fire station for the event. The firefighters cooked some pasta dishes for us and salad as well they honoured some of the top badminton players to come out of Manhattan Beach and the MBBC be those nationally, internationally, and Olympians.

Gift bag from the tournament
 
Dinner at the local fire station


The time passed and eventually the day arrived for the tournament to start. In singles I would play Job Castillo from Mexico, in doubles Tuck and I would play Bjorn and Matthew Fogarty both from USA, and in Mixed Yoshi and I would play Bjorn (USA) and his girlfriend Marina from Mexico. Side note I was going to play Manhattan Beach international and then after play Thailand Grand Prix Gold but the flights didn’t work out to leave and get to Thailand in a good time for my first match so I had to cancel that trip and withdrew from the tournament before the draw was published even though I was in the main draw. Match day came and singles was up first, I played Job and this was the first time we had ever played despite attending so many of the same tournaments. It was a tough game from the start but I was able to rally with him and make him move, in the end though he prevailed and beat me so that ended singles. Doubles came next and it was the first time me and Tuck had played together period. We had such a close game with Matt and Bjorn losing 19-21, 19-21 to them, the winner of that match automatically went to semifinals and got a medal. Matt and Bjorn would however make it to the finals and lose in 3 games to a pair from Indonesia so the fact we almost beat them was very promising for us and a great result. Mixed was last and likewise it was Yoshi and my first time playing together so it was a learning experience and a fun time none the less. We were able to string some rallies together but I would need to improve my mixed for sure after playing.


The tournament had come to an end, a phrase I say all too often these days it seems. No medals here but was very close in the doubles to getting one yet at the same time I was satisfied with the results. It was the first tournament of the year and definitely not the last to come. But in the meantime I would be off to China to spend time with Belinda and her family so I had that to look forward to. Anybody who knows me knows that I have a huge soft spot for China, I just love it there and now I would get to go back first trip for the year so of course I was excited. Plus it’s a long flight on a big plane and just as well anybody who knows me knows that I love flying on big planes and that I don’t consider anything under 5 hours of flying traveling. I did however have a few days left to kill in LA so I did spend most of my time at the tournament and the beach of course as well at one local attraction.


Sand Dune Hill is the name of the massive sand dune in Manhattan Beach that is famous for anybody into fitness and working out. Back in the day everyone use to run it from the football and basketball teams that call LA home to the various other athletes and just anybody who wants a killer workout in general. So me being me the lover of fitness I had to try it and run up and I was not disappointed at all. Firstly off it is all sand, secondly the angle of it is rather ridiculous, and thirdly it’s pretty high. Starting out strong I soon felt the effects of running and having your feet just sink into the sand, at one point I was almost on my hands and knees to crawl up the hill but in the end I made it. Dean recorded the whole thing and added a pretty fun commentary to it as well. I got a picture at the top cause Yuko took the stairs up to meet me there and then headed back down. After that we went for a nice and a lot easier walk along the beach. That was my last activity in Manhattan Beach before flying out to Beijing the following day.
 
Sand Dune Hill


All in all I am satisfied with the tournament and learned more about what I needed to do and work on. The next tournament would be Trinidad and Tobago nationals which I would try to defend my title at. That would be taking place in April so still a few months to prepare for it but no travel or tournaments prior unfortunately. Until then another trip to LA was completed and added to the books for the travel stats of 2016. Not to mention I had now switched from Air Canadas reward program over to United’s program because Air Canadas was getting harder and harder to achieve status and the past few years I would always be one tier lower status each year. United’s program was so much easier and I always fly United to Trinidad so it is a no brainer, I also am pretty happy with their service.

Victory on top of sand dune hill after conquering it