My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Living in Richmond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Ill be on a boat =p

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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 US Open Grand Prix Gold

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

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

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

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

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

New York (Manhattan) in the background
With Lady Liberty 

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

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

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

Life on the bridge

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

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

With my fantastic cousins

Chillin with big old T-rex

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014 Canada Open Grand Prix

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

Panorama while courtside during practice times

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

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

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

Uh oh I almost went the wrong way

Getting ready to serve
*Photos courtesy of Oliver Shou

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2014 Venezuela International

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

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

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

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

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

Millennium Mall
Inside Millennium Mall

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

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

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

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

So yeah...