My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Argentina International

So Trinidad nationals had passed and I was feeling pretty good about myself getting 2nd place. I had also gotten past the injury in my right hip that was hampering me and my training. Everything was getting back on track and I was planning to attend the 2014 Peru International Challenge in Lima. Got signed up and everything but then the main and qualifying report came out and because of my world ranking wasn't high enough I was in the qualification round. I was only 3rd in the qualification and needed 2 people to withdraw for me to make it in but that was still a big risk so I got Trinidad to withdraw me from the tournament as to not risk going down there and having to try and qualify.

Because of that I needed to replace or try and replace all the points that I was going to lose from New Zealand Grand Prix and Tahiti International Challenge from the previous year as they were going to fall off. That was around 2850 world ranking points because I made quarterfinals in Tahiti and that also meant that my world ranking would drop a lot. So I had to find some tournaments to attend and hopefully do relatively well in. Looking at the BWF calendar I saw that there was 3 tournaments back to back in south America; Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. I didn't want to take 3 weeks to go away as that would have cost a lot and I was living in Vancouver at this time so 3 weeks away would have been quite a bit. With that in mind I choose to attend both Argentina and Venezuela internationals. They were International Series level tournaments but had a decently strong entry with many players from Brazil and Peru playing along with some of the top players in the Pan Am region in attendance and some European representation. 

So the June 10th came and it was time for me to fly down to Buenos Aries, Argentina and then off to Tindal where the tournament would be taking place. The funny thing is the same day that I was leaving the country was my graduation convocation at the University of Calgary; something that I would be missing but walking the stage was not of a primary concern to me. The flight down to South America was quite the journey and I ended up having to spend the night in Lima, Peru at a hostel then flying out to Buenos Aries in the morning. Upon arrival in Argentina I was to be picked up and then we were to be driven around 3 hours to a small town named Tandil where the tournament was taking place. Upon clearing customs I walked out into the airport and what do I see but a lot of other badminton players, players from Chile, Peru, and Mexico. Among them were some of my friends and I was wondering why they were still there only to find out they were waiting for the bus to come for hours. The bus finally came only it wasn’t so much of a bus as it was a small van that only had room for 6 people plus their luggage. Anybody who had to play qualification the next day was priority to go on the transport. This means that I had to wait; me and Lino from Mexico, 2 coaches, as well as one of the representatives from Pan Am Badminton were forced to wait in the airport. I arrived at 5:05pm and didn’t get onto the bus until after midnight, this time they sent us an actual bus a huge one for just the 5 of us. We got on and I passed out the drive took around 3 and a half house give or take. Finally around 4am on June 12th I arrived at the hotel and got into my room and passed out not to wake up till noon the following day. Quite the experience travelling down to Argentina for the tournament but this would only prove to be for foreshadowing of things to come for this tournament and for this trip altogether.

Breathtaking sights flying across South America
Where I would spend 7 hours waiting
Me and Lino, found an outlet to use. Thankfully there was free WiFi
Got this whole bus to ourselves just the 5 of us

Waking up the next day I realized that winter in South America wasn’t as tame or warm as I thought it would be and as well I didn’t pack appropriate clothing for that. Thankfully I brought some track jackets and a few long sleeve shirts so I would be layering up while there for sure. There wasn’t any opportunity to hit in the tournament venue before matches and the fact that it had been raining a ton for the past few days would not be advantageous for the tournament. So the morning of my match came, we all got into the bus and drove off to the venue while it was pouring rain. We were able to hit on the courts to warm up and that’s when it became apparent that this would not be pleasant. The courts were incredibly slippery and very unsafe to play on. All the rain had left so much moisture in the air that it would settle on the court and simply wiping the court did absolutely nothing. They brought in industrial heaters/dryers to try and dry the courts while sending us back to the hotel only to return later in the day and see if the mats were dry and safe enough to play on. Upon returning in the evening it was apparent that the tournament was in serious trouble as the mats were still slippery and there was little hope. The tournament organizers said that they would try and dry the mats more or find an alternative venue for the tournament for matches the next day in order to avoid cancelling the tournament.

What a beautiful a scene right out of silent hill
Main tournament venue, nice place but courts were to slippery
So much rain...
Everyone forced to wait for the bus back to the hotel after delay of play
Industrial heaters and paper to try and dry the courts, did nothing

The next day rolled around and at 6am we were ordered to get ready to depart for the new venue (I was one of the 1st matches to be played so had to go super early) we went to a new place which was simply not up to standards for where an international tournament should be held. It was an old place but the hardwood floors were not as slippery as the main venue. The downside it was 7am in the morning and you could see your breath inside the venue, it was freezing cold. So trying to warm up was a tough time. I played my match at 8am on taped out courts shivering between points trying to be warm and struggling to see and figure out the venue, its drafts, avoid lights, as there was no hitting just the 2 minutes that you got for your warm up before the match. Then the sun came out and there were wonderful windows which let the sun shine through and onto the courts below. The whole thing just seemed like a disaster beyond belief and I couldn't believe I traveled all this way and spent that money to play this tournament. I lost first round to one of the seeded players and friend from Mexico Lino.

6am in the morning at the new makeshift venue...
Tournament back underway in the new location...
So that was the entire tournament for me, playing my match 8am in the morning when the temperature was -1 degrees Celsius in the arena. I had a few more days in Argentina before I would fly out to Venezuela for the tournament there. That meant that I would do some sightseeing around the small town of Tandil. It was pretty much a countryside town not terribly large but had lots of parks and sights to see. One such sight was a peak with a lookout above the city that provided an amazing view of the whole town from atop the mountain so that was on my list to see. I waited until there was a relatively sunny day (mind you it was still very cold) and headed up the hill to check out the view from Castillo Morisco. It was amazing you could see the entire city and it was such a fantastic sight. Likewise right across from my hotel was independence square/plaza with a water fountain and giant statue with government buildings and a church on the opposite side. The last attraction that I went to see was a giant dam that was located a decent walk away on the outskirts of the town. The weather cooperated for the most part the last few days of the trip but it was still very cold in general and at night I would have the heater on in the room. On the flip side the world cup of football was on while I was in south America so every night there was a match all the players from the tournament would gather downstairs and we would all watch the match that was being played. Or if I was out eating dinner all the local restaurants would have the TVs tuned into the world cup especially when Argentina was playing a match.

Watching World Cup football at the hotel 
view from Castillo Morisco
view from Castillo Morisco
Castillo Morisco
Me up at Castillo Morisco
Independence Plaza at night, right across the street from my hotel

Overall the tournament was a learning experience and I was happy to be leaving the country soon and onto Venezuela where I would hope that the tournament would be organized better (in reality it wouldn't be any better at all, it would be worse). But first I had to leave the hotel and drive 3 hours back to Buenos Aries in order to catch my flight. Mostly everyone left the day before but I left a day later meaning that it was just 3 of us flying out so we had a private car with a driver that reminded me of Jason Statham’s character from the transporter movies. All went well with that and before you know it I was in the air flying back to Peru to catch my connecting flight to Caracas, Venezuela. The only hitch in the plan was that I would have about 12 hours between my flight landing in Lima and then leaving so I would have to spend the night in the airport. I ended up sleeping in the lounge as it was open 24 hours, it says that there is a 3 hour maximum stay in there but well I ended up eating dinner, sleeping waking up and eating breakfast then went to catch my flight. Onward to Caracas, Venezuela for the international there and something that hasn't happened much traveling with other Trinidad players. There were 3 others who were attending the tournament as well with me which would be fantastic. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships

All the winners, runners up, and semifinalists at nationals
So the time came for the Trinidad and Tobago national championships to take place, April 22-27th 2014. Of course I flew down to Trinidad to play in them. I had been in Richmond, Vancouver for almost 2 months at that point training hard so I was prepared to make a statement at nationals. This time I arrived in the country early so that I would have time to train and get use to the conditions as they are very very different that playing anywhere in Canada both shuttle speed and just facility wise too. The practice that we god before nationals was good and got to hit in the actual tournament venue a few times which was nice as it made me get more accustomed with things.

CRISTAR - Nationals venue and my clubs home

I have lots of supporters back home from fellow club mates, training partners, friends, relatives, and fans that were all excited to see me play in nationals. The previous year due to some unfortunate luck in the making of the draw I was put up against the winner of the tournament first round. This time he (Kerwin Pantin) was seeded 2nd in the tournament and I was on the top half with the 1st seed, he would be my 2nd round match. So with all the practice done the time came around for matches to start on Tuesday April 22nd in the night. They played 2 rounds that night and I was lucky enough to get the 1st round to warm up it was a fairly easy game but I took the time to get accustomed with things. The 1st seed didn’t have a first round as he had a bye, so I would be his first round match. So the time came that I would play Allister the first seed and everybody was paying attention to that match it seemed. It was a 3 game match and he played very well but in the end I came out on top and acquired a lot of new supporters because of it.

Giving a TV interview before the awards ceremony
I don’t live in Trinidad, I was born and raised Canadian but my mom was born and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago before moving to Canada. So through her I got my Trinidadian citizenship which allows me to compete for them internationally. Because of this I am not in the country much and just come home for nationals or the odd vacation. This means that the badminton players down there that are not from my club never really get to see me and my abilities until the championships roll around each year. This lead to quite the interesting newspaper headlines for me during the tournament, with each round that I progressed the titles got more and more interesting. I made it all the way to the singles final with some interesting matches on the way there. I went 3 games with the rest of my opponents as well not being able to adjust as quickly to the conditions. Overall things were good though and the players were quite fun to play against. In the semi-final match I played against my fellow club mate who was 2 points away from match point but I came back and won 5 points in a row to close out the game and take the match securing my spot in the finals.

Links to some of the online articles about me (they were also published in the local papers):

I got a day to rest in-between the semifinals and the finals which would take place the Sunday night. I rested up as playing on the courts down there had taken a toll on my body and various parts of me were starting to hurt and be beyond sore. The day of rest did some good though I was able to go out to the zoo with one of my best friends and we had a great day together. That was something that I really needed to keep me grounded and not stressed/anxious. So finals came around and it was in classic finals style. One court, line judges, the full package. The news was there and some VIP’s were also in attendance from sponsors to past players, etc all there to watch the finals. This was not the first tournament final I have been in but this wasn’t just another provincial tournament in Alberta this was my countries nationals. Something that I wanted to win badly but also left me feeling nervous. I was up against the 2nd seed Kerwin Pantin who had 6 national titles in singles behind him already. Last year the scores were decently close and this year things started off with a bang 1st game I lost 19-21 and then it all went downhill from there. My body didn’t like me anymore didn’t want to cooperate with me at all, my mental fall apart and with it so did my game plan. fast forward I actually ended up messing up my inner hip and required about 3 weeks of recovery and rehab to fix it upon returning home. The 2nd set wasn’t a pretty sight and it was pretty much just self-destruction that occurred and got the better of me. Kerwin played fantastic and did what he does, that’s the reason he is the national champion. So once again I had lost to him and would be the runner up at the 2014 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships.

Receiving my prize money and medal 
Mens singles (left to right): Semifinalists, Runner up (Me), Winner
My medal and winnings

That would mark the end of the nationals, I did play doubles and mixed but those unfortunately didn’t turn out as well. I made quarterfinals for both of those events eventually losing to the 1st seeds. The experience was a great one and I am happy that I flew down to Trinidad and played in the championships. I had a great performance and would hope that it would have been enough to warrant my selection onto the commonwealth games team. The event would be happening the end of August in Glasgow, Scotland and was one of the things that I had been training hard for the past 4 years. Commonwealth is a mini Olympics for the Commonwealth countries and therefore something amazing to be able to attend. Flash forward a few months Trinidad unfortunately much to our demise did not send a badminton team to the Commonwealth games. I was heartbroken and most of the other players from Trinidad were also feeling the pain of not getting to go either.

Farewell and victory dinner with my club mates

That was the end of my trip to Trinidad though, short and sweet I really didn’t get to do much else other than see the zoo and hang out a lot with Shannon. Because I made it so far in the tournament I was unable to make a trip to the beach which I am so sad about. The last time I was on the beach and swam in the ocean was May 2013 in Tahiti, French Polynesia while I was there for a tournament. I packed things up and got ready to head back home, but first I would be making a quick stop (3 days) in Calgary before going back to Vancouver and back to training to prepare for upcoming international tournaments; Argentina International and Venezuela International. 

Zoo with Shannon
Shannon, me, and the giraffes