My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2014 Jeonju Korea Victor badminton Championships

This tournament was kind of a last minute deal and something sort of spontaneous. I was fortunate enough to acquire a sponsor that gave me full support to attend the tournament and that made it a must attend. As well two of my friends were living/training in Korea so I would get to see them. In 2013 I competed in the Brazil international cup and made it to 2nd round there which gave me a lot of world ranking points. This year however they were testing the 11 point system at that tournament and I was not really wanting to enter because of that. Due to not entering this meant I would lose all those ranking points and my rank would drop, not something I needed to happen. So out of the blue this opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it, play a tournament and go back to Asia of course I was in. I had traveled a decent amount this year but the thing is that I booked a lot of flights on rewards points which meant that I didn’t acquire status miles on those flights. This meant that I might not even get status for 2015 and that’s a year that a lot of travel would be happening be it Olympic Qualifications starting in May. Because of this I booked my flight to Korea through Asiana airlines but that meant flying to LA first then to Seoul, Korea.

The day came it was time to leave and of course being Calgary there was snow on the ground, it was November after all. Arrived at the airport checked in and went to catch my flight but guess what it would be delayed. No big deal I thought I had a 2 and a half hour layover in LA before my flight to Korea how bad could it be right? Wrong turns out we were delayed almost 2 hours so I got into LA half an hour before my flight to Korea departed. Talk about stressful the next flight to Korea was the following morning and that would mess everything up, so I had to run (me and one other guy) through the terminals to get to the international terminal. Arriving at the gate just as the last few passengers were boarding the plane I had successfully made my flight but unfortunately my luggage didn't. 12 hours later I stepped off the plane in Incheon airport and had no luggage just my badminton bag and backpack. Now the fun part because the journey wasn't over I still had to take a bus roughly 4 hours south into Korea to make it to Jeonju. This was the killer part after flying for almost 15 hours already to sit down even more, I just slept the majority of the ride except when we had a pit stop.

4 hours of driving through the Korean countryside
So I arrived in Jeonju and got picked up by the tournament, dropped off at my hotel and told that my luggage would arrive the next day at 1pm. Thankfully I was in main draw and that meant that I did not have to go through qualification on the first day. This let me rest and wait for my luggage but not really explore or walk around. I got a little familiar with the immediate area but there wasn't much to see just places to eat and the odd store. There was a bunch of hotels grouped together where we were but they were almost like hostels or “other” kind of hotels judging by the area and all the gentlemen’s clubs that surrounded us. The interesting multicolored lighting in the rooms and the light up hot tub didn't help break the perception of the place either. Regardless it was still a nice hotel and perfectly fine for staying a week in the country. After having a hit in the main hall it wasn't looking to bad, the venue was big but because of the altitude and weather it felt similar to playing in Calgary which would be nice. The downside though was that the venue was cold and during the tournament you would see the umpire and service judge wearing actual winter jackets to stay warm.

The area around the hotel
Signs like this everywhere
My hot tub/Jacuzzi changed colors...
The following day rolled around and it was match time, I was scheduled to play one of the first matches in the morning while Grace and Henry (my 2 friends from Calgary who are living/training in Korea) were scheduled to play just after noon. I played a left handed player from Korea and at first appearances it was obvious just the physical differences between us. He was easily 6 feet and a bit as well was stockier in a good way compared to me. I appeared to be a small kid standing next to him, this also made him a beast on court easily covering the court and making moving him around a tough mission. Needless to say I got my ass handed to me on that faithful day, I just was not able to keep up to him in any way, shape, or form. There were some points where I played amazing and just by looking at that one would think I was on top but in reality they were rare strokes of pure luck mixed in with a bit of genius but my lack of experience or my uncertainty/over thinking was what ultimately lead to my downfall. After my match I stayed and watched Henry's and Graces mixed match, they had a close one with a Korean pair.

Tournament Venue

Well that was the tournament for me, nothing I wasn't accustomed to fly all that way play 1 match and then be done. For half of the draw that is the tournament, you fly all that way and lose 1st round, the other half wins and advances. But although the tournament was done I still had a day left in Jeonju to go out and explore. When we went back to the hotel Grace and Henry invited me out to eat and also invited the Egyptians out as well. So I would make 2 more friends as well as get some good Koran food that day. The following day would be my last in Korea before beginning the long journey back home, a quick turnaround just 5 days in the country which is normal for me traveling to tournaments. We all went out for some Korean hot pot and then later on in the day me Grace and the 2 Egyptians went to sight see in a place referred to as Hanok Village and it was a traditional looking area, lots of shopping as well as a fantastic church to see, Pungnammun Gate which was quite the sight located in the middle of a built up shopping area. Also went to Gyeonggijeon Hall which was a symbol of the Joseon Dynasty where the king had his royal palace. We spent a few hours browsing around and I was able to get some gifts for people as well as take lots of pictures to remember my trip down south in Jeonju, Korea. The day was not done yet though, there was still dinner plans for later.

Pungnammun Gate

Once we left the area and got back to the hotel, Grace told me that we would be meeting up with one of their friends for dinner and drinks later. The night started off with Korean BBQ and as always everything is so much better in its country of origin. The food was amazing, the various cuts of meat we got melted in one’s mouth and the flavor was both intense yet satisfying. The night was still young an after Korean BBQ and getting loaded up on both Soju and Korean beer we headed to get what else but fried chicken, something Korea is famous for and does damn well. Finding a location that was close to our hotel we hit it up and went crazy with the chicken and of course more drinking both Soju and beer. At this point we had had a lot to drink but at the same time I made sure to drink my fair share of water so I wouldn't have a nasty hangover to deal with the next day. I had already done the party all night and then fly super early in the morning the following/same day many times before and doing it without a hangover makes it substantially more bearable. We finished around 2/3 am and I had to catch the bus at 8am to take the 3 hour drive to Incheon Airport near Seoul in order to catch my 1pm flight back home to Canada. Needless to say I ended up getting a few hours of sleep followed by a hot shower to wake me up but ended up sleeping the entire bus ride up to the airport.

The aftermath
Friend Chicken in Korea

So that was that, the trip to Korea had come and I was on my way back home well to LA then to Calgary. The upside was that I would be flying in style on the Airbus A380, the double decked plane, but would be in for a surprise. I had only booked an economy class ticket on the 2nd floor but at the last minute I was able to upgrade it to a business class ticket on the 2nd floor. It might not be one of the private suites downstairs but it was still nice to fly a 12 hour flight in business and have a pod with a lay flat bed to relax on. The trip was complete I arrived back home Friday night and would sleep then go to work Saturday morning for 8:30am only to finish 9pm that same night. What about jet lag you ask well it was there and was it every a tough, long, and painful day…another that was repeated on Sunday as well. That was Korea, my 2nd last international of the year, I would play 1 more tournament to cap off 2014 and that would be Puerto Rico. 

My ride home

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2014 Pan Am Championships

After moving back from Vancouver I didn't have any immediate tournament plans other than potentially playing in the Pan Am Championships which is our yearly regional badminton championships. July to be correct with the US Open in New York was my last international, so come October 15, 2014 I headed out on tour again. This year Pan Am’s were in Markham, Ontario because in 2015 Markham will host the Pam Am Games which happens every 4 years and is a replication of the Olympics just on a regional level/scale. This time I would see myself competing in my 2nd Pan Am Championships but only in the individual event as there were no other Trinidad players attending to enter a team. My 1st Pan Am’s were in 2011 in Lima, Peru but this time it was a lot closer to home…it was in Canada just on the other side of the country. It would be stupid of me to pass up that opportunity with it so close to home and I would not have to spend much money to attend just fly over for the weekend play and come back home. One of my friends from Barbados also wanted to attend and she was the only player from her country going to so we ended up playing mixed together for the individual events to get in an extra match and make the most of the trip.

So I left Calgary and jumped on a plane to Toronto which isn't that long of a flight and because of how often I've flown that by now its next to nothing. Thankfully it wasn't a red eye flight so I arrived at a decent time and wasn't tired from it. Sabrina arrived a few hours before me but didn't get picked up so when I arrived we linked up and were driven to Markham in style. The hotel was fabulous a nice brand new Hilton suits built almost on the outskirts of the town. There was a shopping center and park across the street and then not much else aside from stuff a 10-15 minute walk away. The best part though was the room that we got it was a suite with a kitchenette in it and pretty much looked and felt like a condo. There was also a fitness club, that’s right an entire club built into the hotel as it was also for outside use but we got free access to it pool and all.

The room was a condo pretty much

The facility was the new Pan Am center which they built specifically for the Pan Am games happening in 2015 at the same location. The Games are a multisport event that happens once every 4 years so it is a big deal and there is a lot of infrastructure going into preparing for them. So the facility was brand spanking new you could smell the paint that was recently used as well as they were still building or completing parts of the building. When I arrived the team event was just finishing and the finals were going on so went to the facility to watch those as well as try to get a hit in the practice area to adapt to the conditions. The thing is that the practice area and the main hall felt like 2 different areas despite being in the same building and just separated by a wall. The following day was a break and then matches for the individual event would commence the following day but first there was the opening ceremonies for the individual event. This had all the athletes walk in together showing what country they were from and of course I was the only representative from mine. Following that were some speeches from the planning committee, city officials, etc and then a lion dance proceeded and concluded the opening ceremony. 

I and Sabrina had our mixed match in the morning followed by a nice break and then singles in the afternoon/evening. In mixed we played a pair from Peru and things got interesting as we were doing pretty well for never playing together before but the Peruvian got a lot angry when Sabrina flicked him a few times and got all giggly about it. He was pissed off and started to show his anger both verbally as well as in his shot selection. So that was my experience with the mixed doubles it was fun and I thank Sabrina for playing with me for it we had a good time out there. Evening came and that meant time for the main event, men’s singles to start. I was one of the first matches up and was on the TV court playing against Daniel Paiola from Brazil who was also the 4th seed for the tournament. It was going to be an interesting match and despite the scores the match was pretty good with decent quality rallies and some good points. Ultimately though the difference in skill level proved too great and Daniel had a relatively easy time closing out the match to win. That meant my time at Pan Am’s was over but I still had 2 days left in Markham to kill before heading back home.

One night I ended up going to play badminton with a friend from the area named Vincent, we ended up playing out of a club based in one of the local high schools. Armed with my badminton gear and google maps I made my way to the club and had some matches with him and his friends, it was a fun time to just relax and play some fun badminton for a change. Other than that I did not do much sightseeing as going to downtown Toronto or even out to Niagara Falls was a pretty far drive/transit ride as well the weather wasn't always nice. I did however venture around Markham or at least the area I was in when it was sunny enough to. Apart from all that I spent my free time sleeping or in the gym at the hotel because sleep is something I don’t get much of at home. More so the opportunity to sleep in till 11am or 1pm since I have training and stuff to do in the early mornings. Plus I have been to Toronto before and am sure that I will go back again, despite being a 4 and a half hour flight away for being in the same country.

Just like that Pan Am’s had come to an end and I would be flying back home, another tournament completed another trip taken be that not too far from home. I got to spend time with my friends, Kamasha and Sabrina. The 3 of us ended up going out for sushi that night before both me and Sabrina left the next day, I had an unfortunate 6am flight back to Calgary which meant leaving with the Brazil team at 4am in the morning. Returning to Calgary I would end up coaching that night what a life it is that of an athlete from training, competing, coaching, that leaves very little time to myself or to relax even. All was not over though I would have to start preparing for the next tournament which would be a bit further away, back to Asia again this time Korea for a tournament there.