My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Chinese Taipei Grand Prix and Taiwan

Mascot for the tournament

The time had come after a month of no traveling for September I was flying off again. This time back to Asia, 2nd time for the year for a tournament. I would be going to the 2015 Chinese Taipei Grand Prix tournament taking place in Taipei, Taiwan. I always love going to Asia, I really enjoy the region and the culture not to mention the food is amazing. My association entered me, main and qualifying reports came out and I was in the maindraw so that meant I booked my flight and would be in the country for 4 days. Leaving Saturday to get there and arriving back into Calgary the Friday morning, I had to coach Friday night. Then the draw came out…another lucky draw but not really as I had to play Darren Liew of Malaysia. Those who don’t know who he is well he was number 10 in the world at one point and also the Thomas cup silver medallist who lost the 5th and deciding match to Japan for the cold medal. At this point he hadn't played much and fell quite a bit in the rankings but still the opportunity to play a top player none the less. Well let's get this adventure off to a start.
The flights to Asia are always fun and while they are long (10+ hours at the least, depending where you leave from and fly to) they feel like nothing now because of how many times I have flown there. So I went from Calgary to San Francisco then SF to Tokyo and finally Tokyo to Taipei, Taiwan. The interesting part happened in San Francisco when we landed as we were taxiing down the runway I saw air force one parked on the tarmac. Little did I know this would effect me later on in the journey when flying out. As my layover in SF came to an end I boarded the 747 (I love big planes) and we started to push back from the gate then there was an announcement…that the flight would be delayed. The reason being because air force one was about to take off the entire airport was at a standstill, no planes could move or take off/land. So we had to wait, I don't know if the president was actually on air force one at that time since I know there are two of them. Regardless the standstill came to and end and the mayhem of airline traffic started but we were finally off. A quick stop in Tokyo and then it was off to Taiwan. Arriving at Taipei we were put into a holding pattern for a bit due to the excess of airline traffic arriving at the airport. Landing I was greeted by the welcome committee and we just had to pick up a few other players before boarding the van to the hotel. Arriving around 10pm at night I was unable to get a workout in as the gym closed so I made my way to my room and passed out on the gigantic bed, it made for some much needed rest.
My room was rather awesome
Morning broke and all that was planned was to have the team managers meeting and welcome dinner. As well I had a practice slot in the morning that I could attend. Made my way to the venue and of course it was just me so as always finding some players to hit with proved challenging. I was able to hit with the Chinese Taipei players but practice times were limited to half an hour only. Heading back go the hotel and after the managers meeting I met up with a friend who had just gotten in, Timothy Chui of Canada and we  arranged to have a hit Monday afternoon as it was just qualifications that day. Sunday night after the managers meeting there was a welcome dinner for all the players and of course I went to that. Welcome dinners for tournaments are done the best in Asia and Macau 2013 was one of the best to date that I have gone to. The tournament organizers approached me and wanted to make sure I was going as I was going to be presented with an award. The dinner was very well done and consisted of a 6 course meal. There was entertainment from the “sexy dancers”, a magician, some speeches, and then the award presentation where a bunch of us were presented with a trophy for attending the tournament. I left the dinner early around 8pm just 2 hours after it started but it didn't finish until around 10pm. Most players left as we all had to play maindraw matches the following day.
Tournament Venue

Welcome dinner for the players and the dancers

The award/trophy I was given for participating
Match day rolled around and I was scheduled to play in the afternoon. I got up ate a solid breakfast and relaxed a bit before getting ready and walking over to the venue. Upon arrival there was some good matches and I started to browse around and watch. Coming closer I warmed up and wanted to record my match but I didn't know what court I'd be on or know anybody who would be able to set up my camera for me. So I set it up to get all the courts in one shot. Darren Liew  and I walked onto the court and I was pumped for the match. I never get scared or worried when playing these high ranked or famous players. Quite the opposite actually it's really cool and an awesome opportunity to see how I stack up to them. The match started and I knew it was an uphill battle, we had some good rallies but in the end he was the superior player and took the match quite comfortably despite injuring his ankle in the 2nd game. I remember in the beginning of the 2nd game he kept me at the back of the court essentially playing isolation against me. I walked off the court disappointed in my performance that I couldn't get more posts but satisfied with some rallies and pegging him with the shuttle a few times.
Just like that my tournament was over, another first round loss. I had a day and a half left in Taiwan at that point the rest of the day from my match and then the full next day. This meant time to explore. I met up with a few friends over the course of my next day and a half. First stop was a night walk with my friend and we visited some interesting stuff including a popular shopping area which had a Times Square feel to it. The president’s place and a monument to the first president of the country were up next as well as some of the national music and preforming centers. It was night for all of this so it made the views all the more spectacular and memorable. After that I headed back to the hotel and got a workout in but making sure to go to bed early as I would have a huge day tomorrow with a lot of sightseeing to do.
Is it just me or does the presidents place look like a cake...

Mini times square

The sun was out and I was up bright an early at 7am, very rarely do I get up that early while traveling even for the free breakfast at the hotel. But this time I had a good reason I was leaving the hotel soon with my friend to see Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world (4th tallest at my time of viewing it). So we got on the train from the hotel and took the trek down to the tower, the ride was simple and the train system there is reliable and quick. Walking out of the station I was greeted by the colossus that was Taipei 101, its design stood out against the bare skyline. Nothing else even begun to come close to being noticeable against this towering giant. We made our way into the mall that is attached to the tower and then onto the lobby. The elevator at Taipei 101 is world famous and holds a Guinness world record in 2004 for the fastest passenger elevator in the world at 60.6 Km/h and takes you from the 5th floor to the observatory on the 89th floor in 37 seconds. Arriving at the observation floor you could see everything for miles in each direction, the view was stunning. The sheer height of the building was amazing. Up there they had lots of stuff talking about the construction of the building and what went into the design. There was also the option to go to the roof and get a better look at the antenna on top of the building but you couldn’t see too much scenery wise. Then there was the chance to view the damper, a 660 ton pendulum which helps the building to survive against intense winds and earthquakes so it doesn’t sway. That concluded the time in Taipei 101 a quick walk through the gift shop to get to the elevator to go back downstairs and it was off to get some food, half the day was done already.
First thing I saw when I got out of the underground station

With one of the mascots and there 660 ton damper

Its made out of coral
Next stop on the list was a museum all about Taiwan’s history, it was located up in the mountains and was quite the nice scenic route to get to. Bu before that we walked around Taipei 101 area and saw some of the pubic art that was there. Lots of cool statues and interesting instalments to take pictures with. There were tons of exhibits and artifacts to see in the museum but we didn’t have time to see them all. It would have taken an entire day on its own to cover all the floors and walk through every hall that was there. After spending a few hours there and learning about the history of Taiwan it was time to go back to the hotel and get some food. I had some time to kill so did a workout and started to pack. I was going to meet up with my last friend in the night to go out and party a little bit to enjoy my last night in Taiwan.

The museum is huge despite looking rather small
The night had come and my bags were packed, minus last minute things that would be packed in the morning. I would need to leave the hotel around 8am to go to the airport and catch my flight back to Calgary. But first we went to get some noodle soup followed by a walk to another shopping center for some browsing and where there were some bars. We met up with some more people and spent a few hours there hanging out, playing games (darts and pool) before finally calling it a night. We were close enough to Taipei 101 that I was able to see it lit up at night, it is a different color each night of the week. After the adventure which was wandering around Taipei and playing a tournament I was now time to head back home. Just 2 flights to take and I would be back in Calgary Friday afternoon. The flight back was relatively smooth and once I was back I needed to rush off to coaching that night. Finally after coaching I was able to go home and sleep but would need to wake up early Saturday morning to coach again and followed by Sunday morning too. So fighting jet lag would have to wait a little bit.

Taipei 101 all lit up at night
Overall the trip was great and I was happy I went despite having such a tough first round. The year would be drawing to a close and I would try and play a few more tournaments to get some world ranking points but as well Olympic qualifying points too. Suriname, Orlando, and LA were 3 more tournaments I had planned for and would take me through November and December.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 CAREBACO Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Not more than a month had passed since the surrealistic experience of the Pan Am Games and I was flying out again to another tournament. This time it was the regional Caribbean championships called CAREBACO and was being held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Trinidad was sending a team of us to represent the country and compete in the senior and junior events. The senior team consisted of Jason Ramjass (my doubles partner from nationals), Alistar Espinoza, Solangel Guzman, Avril Marcelle, and Leanna Castanada, and myself. We were the senior team that would represent Trinidad and Tobago at the championships. Along with us was a large junior contingent which had entries in all age categories for the individual events as well as a junior team for the junior team event. There was also a Junior International that happened right before the Junior CAREBACO so in a way the juniors got 2 tournaments out of it.

First things first was getting to Santo Domingo and I needed to find a decently cheap flight there and that proved to make things very interesting on the route that I would take. Logic does not always dictate that flight routes make sense and believe me when I say that mine wasn’t the most logical both going and returning. Let’s start with the journey there which had me go for the milk run. From Calgary to LA, LA to New York, and finally New York to Santo Domingo. This proved to take a full 24 hours of traveling including an overnight flight from LA to New York and arriving into Santo Domingo around 1am in the morning. The rest of the Trinidad team arrived just an hour before me so they waited at the airport to collect me and head to the resort. The host hotel was at an all-inclusive resort by the beach so there was no complaints there as it was pretty much food and drinks included and a beach with picturesque clear water. The accommodation though wasn’t as ideal, there was 3 of us sharing the room during the team tournament phase (Jason, Alistair, and me) but then during the individual tournament Jason and I were to have a room to ourselves but we got stuck with one of the juniors in the room with us.

Aside from all that the resort wasn’t anything special, it wasn’t a 5 star resort right on the beach there was a little walk to the hotels private beach. The food was sub-par at best and most of the time it appeared to be under cooked but it was free so I guess I’m not allowed to complain. There was also drinks involved but they were watered down for sure which is expected from an all-inclusive resort. Didn’t matter because we wouldn’t be spending much time there other than sleeping anyways as the tournament hall was at least an hour drive away with no traffic. That journey easily jumped to 2 hours when there was traffic. It also meant that all the players had to go down at the same time and stay there the whole day as there were not multiple shuttles do and from the hotel. Over cramming the bus going followed by being sweaty, tired, and hungry on the ride back was not a fun combination or fun way to spend a week.

The original tournament venue was to be close to the hotel but some last minute complications happened which required it to be changed to the further one. This new venue was just like most other tournament halls I have experienced in my travels to South America and the Caribbean…crap. There were multiple openings in the wall which allowed a lot of wind to come in. funny story and spoiler alert, here was a hurricane coming towards the island which would hit later in the week when we were there. So the tournament started with the team championships, there was 4 teams present. Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, and of course Dominican Republic. It was a format of a men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and a mixed doubles. The order of play could vary and usually always started with a men’s doubles. We played Barbados first and the following day we played Dominican Republic and the next day Jamaica. At the end of the team championships when all was said and done we came in 3rd place so a bronze medal for the Trinidad and Tobago senior badminton team. After that started the CAREBACO International which was a BWF event and counted towards world ranking as well as Olympic qualifications.  

Individual events started and I was the 4th seed for men’s singles. That was the first time in a really long time that I have been seeded for an international tournament. I played a local player first round and then after played Gareth henry from Jamaica. However the day that I played Gareth there was a hurricane that blew through and they only played a few matches that morning because the winds and rain were coming in, unfortunately I was one who played and that was a hard time with the shuttle blowing every which way. Unfortunately I lost 2nd round singles and then 1st round men’s doubles and 2nd round mixed doubles. My tournament was over but first we had to make it through the hurricane. That hit us but not as hard as it could have been, there was some minor damage and to my knowledge no causalities.

The tournament was done for me on Friday and I was leaving Santo Domingo Sunday morning at 4am with a ridiculous flight path to New York, then to LA and finally to Calgary. That meant that I would actually have Saturday to relax/enjoy the place. But first it meant going out on Friday night to the resorts club on the beach, that was a lot of fun and with free drinks it turned into quite the night of partying island style. Waking up the next morning I didn’t have a hangover or anything though so I was grateful for that. Thankfully the hurricane didn’t mess up the beach and Jason and I were able to enjoy the water, it was incredibly salty but warm none the less. At this point it had been a long time since I made it to the beach let alone went into the water. So to relax in the ocean was such a peaceful and calming thing to do. At this point half the day was done and that meant I needed to pack and get ready for my early departure. 


Once night hit we ventured into the streets and wandered around because one of our friends wanted a real drink and no more of the watered down alcohol at the resort. Our walking took us straight to the red light district of Santo Domingo and we ended up getting bombarded by prostitutes and their pimps. It was quite the interesting experience to see how many foreigners were actually there enjoying themselves and taking in the sights. After finally getting our friend his drink we left and headed back to the club on the beach for a little and I said my goodbyes to everyone from the Trinidad and Tobago delegation that was there. The driver who was talking me to the airport was also at the club so I didn’t have to worry about missing my ride, 1am rolled around and we made our way to the airport. Early morning flights/red eye flights are the bane of my existence and when I retire from competing and am traveling I will avoid them at all costs.

The trip back to Calgary would take me all day and I would arrive at 9pm that night as I had a few layovers in New York and LA. The flight to NYC from Santo Domingo started off smooth but then only 45 minutes there was a medical emergency and we were not sure if we would have to turn around or divert to another country/airport. In the end we continued forward and made it on schedule to NYC. The rest of the flights I ended up sleeping and watching movies on my tablet but was grateful when I finally arrived home and could sleep in my own bed, and not have to share a bed. That would be the end of the trip not the worst but not the best. I ended up coming home with one medal at least and that’s something big a medal from an international tournament. I would get a bit of world ranking points for Olympic qualifications and got to go to the beach and into the ocean. I wasn’t planning any tournament’s for September but that meant that I had to figure out what to play next as tournaments/points from the previous year would start to fall off.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 Pan Am Games

July 2015 came and Pan Am Games were upon us, the largest sporting event held in Canada even bigger than any of the 3 Olympic Games Canada has hosted. Trinidad and Tobago was sending a decent size team but we would all be arriving at different times, mainly based around when our events took place. The rule was 5 days before and then 2 days after said event. This meant that I would be in Toronto for the opening ceremonies but would not be present for the closing ones. I would be gone July 6th - 17th getting to walk in the opening ceremony on the 10th and then having my competition start on the 11th. The Pan Am Games are huge, they are essentially a mini Olympics for our region (North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean). They happen every 4 years and like the Olympics are a very prestigious event to attend, not to mention for most sports can be a direct Olympic qualifying event or provide points towards Olympic qualification, the latter is for badminton.

Countries showing some national pride at the dorms

July 6th rolled around and it was time for me to fly out, Trinidad booked my flight and I was off to Toronto thankfully just a 4 hour flight away. I arrived at Toronto Pearson’s Airport and was greeted with signs advertising the Pan Am Games and when I walked out was greeted by the assistant chef de masons and the camera of the official Trinidad Olympic Committee photographer. I got a snapshot and then made my way to the athlete transport to take me down to the village. At this point I had no accreditation and no Trinidad clothing. Adidas is the national sponsor for big games like this which meant that I was going to get a bag full of Adidas gear for the games. I jumped on the bus and behold who else is there but the Guatemalan badminton team and 2 of the Argentina badminton coaches.  Upon arrival to the village they had to print out my credentials and then I was off to find the building that Trinidad was calling home. I met the chief du mason, Dion, and then afterwards was shown to my room. The only thing is that for games like this we get gear from the national sponsors which in our case is Adidas, only problem they had my bag in a car that wasn’t at the village. So I had no actual team gear and didn’t really bring much of my own stuff since I don’t have Adidas gear already and knew I wouldn’t be able to wear Yonex gear in the village.

Me arriving in Toronto
My dorm room for the games

Player credentials, I wouldn't be able to walk around the village without this

Finally later that day I got my Adidas bag and opened it up to reveal all the goodies that were inside. I got a bunch of shirts, tracksuit, shoes, bags, and lots of other stuff. Toronto also put together a welcome bag for us it was a nice little duffle bag that contained some souvenirs from our time at the games. Upon getting all this I felt an awesome sense of what I was attending and the games hadn’t even started yet at that point. I still had a few days until the opening ceremonies where I would get to walk into Rogers Stadium with all the other Trinidad and Tobago athletes as well as all the other athletes from the rest of the Pan American countries participating. The parade of athletes was something that I was really looking forward to and Trinidad had given me a nice red blazer to wear, albeit one size to large but still an honour none the less.

Adidas gear from Trinidad and Tobago

Gifts from Toronto

The next few days would serve as practice before the games kicked off on July 10th with the opening ceremonies and then I was set to compete on the following day the 11th in the afternoon. Before that there was a few things that needed to be done such as the flag raising ceremony but since not many trinidad athletes had arrived yet there was only 4 of us present and unfortunately it was pouring rain while all that was happening. Still great to be present to put forth a great face for the country as well I was able to meet our wonderful volunteers who would be helping us through the games.


During the flag raising ceremony

So another day passed and we came closer to the start of the games. We were staying in the athlete’s village which was located in downtown Toronto near the waterfront. Badminton took place out in Markham at the Markham Pan Am Center. On a normal day it was only about a 40 minute drive, thankfully we had bus transportation daily and a special lane for the games vehicles so we could mostly avoid traffic but it still took a while going and coming, we also got lost one night while going back the driver took a wrong turn and we were driving the opposite direction out to Brampton. The village itself was quite the amazing experience, you had the athlete’s living quarters, dining hall, gym, entertainment, as well as many other services. 

View of the athletes village from my dorm balcony

The dining hall was where I spent the majority of my free time, it was open 24 hours a day and there was always lots of food and tons of athlete’s present eating. The selection was pretty good but when you are eating 7 meals a day there’s only so much variety that you can have and only so many chicken breasts you can enjoy (I use to eat at least 6-10 chicken breasts a day). The good thing was that after my competition was over I could eat whatever I wanted and the nice thing was the gym was also open 24 hours a day. It was the best combination due to the fact I could work out and then eat, rest, go workout again and then eat, having everything within walking distance. I am guilty of doing some late night (1am or later) workouts. There was also a games room that was in the village but it closed early and was always packed, it had a few pool tables, arcade machines, and various other games for the athletes to play. There were many other cool amenities for the athletes that were provided.

Dining hall where I spent a lot of my time

Gym that was open 24 hours where I spent the rest of my time

The games room, it was always packed with athletes

Then the day came, the biggest day of my life to date…the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Pan Am Games. July 10th marked the night the games would officially open for competition and we would have the opening ceremony at the Rogers Center with the parade of athletes and a show put on by cirque du soile. It was a long affair and started with us having to get ready early in the afternoon to line up and wait for the busses that would take us down, we took some team pictures and then after a lot of waiting loaded onto the busses. I brought my gopro with be to capture the actual event of walking into the venue. It was quite the feeling going to the Rogers center because the streets were blocked off for just the busses caring the athletes and there were tons of people lining the streets to catch a glimpse of us as we passed on the busses and even when we exited them. Things really started to sink in at that moment for me of how significant and huge a moment this was. I have never attended something of this scale and I felt honoured and amazed to represent my country at such a high level.

The outfit we wore for the opening cermonies

We went up to the country holding area and from this point on there was a lot of waiting to happen. Since we are Trinidad and Tobago, alphabetically we are near the end of the parade. Finally they started to call the countries and lines began to form, we moved and behind us was Uruguay and Venezuela followed lastly by the host nation Canada. When we were walking there wasn’t too many of us but we did our chant, Uruguay and Venezuela kind of beat us out there with how loud they were. Because badminton started the following morning I would not get to stay for the whole opening ceremony and would have to leave early. This meant that I would be at the back of the line unfortunately and not right up front to be seen on TV. Once we were in the tunnels you could hear the chanting from the other teams then we slowly made our way through it all and finally it was our turn. You could hear the crowd, just see slightly into the stadium through the opening. Trinidad and Tobago was heard over the loud speaker and we were off walking in following the flag bearer. Go pro recording I was not ready for what would happen next. Although I was there and physically walked around the half circle of the stadium it was such a surreal experience. All the people there cheering for us, for all the athletes it was amazing to be in that atmosphere and if I didn’t record it all would never have fully comprehended what happened. By the time I walked out the other side to go catch the bus back to the village I couldn’t believe that it actually happened. Later on I had to re watch the video and it gave me the same feeling of excitement and surrealistic experience.

In the tunnels waiting to walk out into the stadium

Walking around the stadium

Because I played early the next day it meant that I wasn’t able to stay and watch the whole opening ceremonies but I was able to see the fireworks coming off of the CN Tower from the athlete’s village. Not to mention I was able to re watch it all on TV with the ability to take bathroom breaks or do other things as opposed to just sitting in those hard chairs for the entire performance. That night I was still excited from the opening ceremonies but needed to get focused for my match the following morning. I would be the first Trinidad athlete to compete for the games. Because of this it meant that a lot of the executives and representatives for Trinidad would come watch me play. The chief du mason was there, the physiotherapy and team doctor were there, the RP for team Trinidad was there and tweeting about the entire event. This didn’t make me feel added pressure or anything though, which was a good thing. I was going up against the sixth seed from the USA Sattawat Pomagranitte. I had played him once before in 2013 second round at the Sao Paulo Brazil International Cup. This time it was an uphill battle from the start but I had the crowd support they knew I was the underdog and were cheering for me as I tried to slay the goliath which stood before me.


The match wasn’t as bad as the scores make it out to be, there were quality rallies and some good points by both of us. In the end I lost but learned a lot and gained some new fans. I was the first Trinidad and Tobago athlete to compete and unfortunately the first one to be eliminated from the games. Because there was nobody else sent that meant that I didn’t play mixed doubles or any other event. My Pan Am Games had come to an end. I stayed and watched the rest of my friends compete in their matches and then headed back to the village. It was a bittersweet moment knowing that I trained so hard for 4 years and it was all over in half an hour. At the same time it motivated me even harder to improve for the next Pan Am Games in 2019. I was to stay in the village until a few days after the last day of my event so that was a nice thing as it gave me time to explore and see Toronto as well as take in the games.  


The agony of defeat but the joy of being at the games

Each county was given volunteers to help the team run errands and take care of business, Trinidad was no different as was assigned a crew to help them out. There was one girl named Aziza she was such an amazing person and actually took her own time to take me around and show me the sights and sounds of Toronto when she wasn’t busy with her actual work or working as a volunteer at the games. I got to see a lot of cool places and check out some unique sights in the city, for that I am forever grateful. Not only did I get to see those places but I also made a new friend. When I wasn’t exploring the city or watching matches, when I wasn’t eating in the dining hall or working out at the gym, when not enjoying all the amenities set out for the athletes I would simply be relaxing in my room. At this point Pan Am Games was tournament number 6 for the year and well into the 2016 Olympic qualification period that started May 1, 2015.

I would head back home after Pan Am Games and in about a months’ time fly out again to fly Trinidad’s flag this time at CAREBACO in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. CAREBACO is the regional championships for the Caribbean region. It is hosted yearly and consists of a team event and an individual international event. That meant that I would have some time to train but first would have to leave the athletes village. The day came when my flight back home was scheduled, I packed up all my stuff and swag from the games into 2 suitcases and boarded the bus at the entrance to head to Toronto’s international airport. Thankfully I was just flying back to Calgary so nothing terribly long. With boarding pass in hand and athlete’s accreditation badge still hanging around my neck I boarded my flight back home. I got lots of questions as to my event and how the games went, lots of looks from people as well as lots of requests from people for pictures. My first, and hopefully not my last, Pan Am Games had come to an end and it was time to head back to reality and prepare for the rest of the year. Halfway done already and 5 months into the Olympic Qualification process there as still a lot of work to be done.