|All the participating country flags at the venue|
So it has been a while since I have played an international tournament, January 2015 to be exact when I went to China for the China International Challenge. In March I played Trinidad National Championships and won those. The thing is that next year (2016) are the Olympics in Rio which means that there will be Olympic qualifications. For badminton it is a yearlong process running from May 1, 2015 to May 1, 2016. This meant that the 2015 Trinidad and Tobago international would be my first event of the Olympic qualification process.
I have played tournaments before during Olympic qualification in 2011-2012 for London but at that time I was not looking to qualify. This time is different and I am trying to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, as impossible of a task as that may be. This meant that starting now every tournament would count towards my world ranking for Olympic qualification. Trinidad started off looking hard with the M&Q report coming out and me being in qualification due to a large amount of high ranked players playing. Luckily for me by the time the draws came out some people had withdrawn and I was in the main draw against Turkey. Fortunately for me all the Turkish players withdrew and that meant that I would play a promoted player from qualifications. For doubles me and Jason would play a pair from Chile and then in mixed me and Solangel would play the 3/4 seeds from Chile.
I arrived in Trinidad may 17th at night due to it taking an entire day to get down there and didn’t get to practice that night. On the Tuesday however I was able to hit at the main venue in the night and oh boy was it a surprise. Of course like all other South American tournaments the venue was a piece of work, drafts galore and they kept changing. Now we all know the deal with me, it takes me longer than I like to adapt to those external conditions. Fast/slow shuttles that’s no problem cause it’s just the speed but once you throw in the drafts that cause the shuttle to wobble in mid-air or drift a few feet here, slow down there, etc then I have a real love hate relationship. I am not using that as an excuse, because we all have to play in the same conditions and are essentially all in the same boat. Some people are just more use to it and others adapt quicker and change their game faster to suit the conditions. Me on the other hand I was unable to do that on the faithful day of my singles match.
|Opening ceremonies some steel pan|
Thursday rolled around and I stepped on court to play against my opponent from Suriname. I had a nice draw and it could honestly go either way. I was greeted with wind just blowing at me on court, I could feel it and it had some force. I quickly got 20-16 up and that’s when everything fell apart I don’t know how or what happened but I couldn’t win that one point and I fumbled the first set losing 21-23. That was a real mental bust but one that I wouldn’t let affect me going into the second. We switched sides and I was with the draft meaning that I couldn’t lift or push as everything would go out, so that meant I needed to control the net, something that my opponent had been doing since the start. It was a hard battle and I was unfortunate to lose 18-21 in the 2nd. I was devastated and destroyed, after my match I spent a good 10 minutes outside alone reliving the events, trying to understand what I had done wrong and to comprehend it. It happens and on that day I was outplayed.
That was not the end to the story though, I had mixed that same night which was going to be a good match. We could have a chance me and Solangel against the Chile pair. We ended up playing doubles against them and that really didn’t work at all in our favor but we didn’t switch it. We lost the match 16-21, 16-21. What a solid start I was off to in Olympic qualifications. Thursday ended and I headed home to recoup and refocus for doubles with Jason the next day that would be the last event I was still in and once again playing against Chile. That started off not bad and we were neck in neck but a few mistakes and we lost the first game, no big deal we would however switch to the harder side going with the draft. I honestly didn’t hit a single solid smash that entire tournament, anytime I played and the shuttle was lifted it would catch the draft and wobble. I have yet to play in a situation like that and didn’t know how to account for the wobble when hitting. We lost the match 18-21, 18-21 which wasn’t too bad but it was so close. The tournament stung something fierce, coming off of nationals a month before being the national champion in singles and loosing first round. Making the finals in doubles and mixed then also loosing first round. I couldn’t help but feel like I let down the entire country, on home soil none the less. The feeling ate me alive and for the first time in my career for a brief moment what others thought of me snuck in, I quickly squashed those uncertain and negative thoughts though.
So just like that the tournament was over for me and so was my first even of Olympic qualification, anybody on the outside looking in would think that trying for the Olympics after that performance would be a death sentence and futile attempt. This is me we are talking about though and you all know that I don’t give up that easily, while I may not be at the high level that isn’t going to stop me from chasing my dreams. It was Friday morning when I got knocked out so I would have till Wednesday morning before I flew back home. I would get a little bit of a vacation and some time with friends, something that I haven’t had or done in a while.
Saturday rolled around and Tishelle picked me up to cheer me up and take me out, something that was greatly needed. We went for a little drive up a Trinidad mountain (kind of a hill compared to what we are used to in Canada) but it had a great view of the city. After spending some time up there we went down to a place called Macqueripe beach, it was a private beach in a secluded cove which was pretty picturesque to be honest. We spent some time there and then headed onto the next location, the boardwalk. It is located in Chaguaramas and is essentially exactly what it sounds like….a boardwalk around the beach/ocean. A peaceful way to spend the evening so we got some food and hung out there, watching the sunset before heading home. That was a great day and something that was dearly needed but that wouldn’t be the end. That night we made spur of the moment plans to head to the beach Sunday with some of the other players. So Sunday we headed to Maracas beach (one of my favorite beach’s in Trinidad). We spent the day there, some of the foreign players joined us they were from Mauritius, Slovakia, and Czech Republic as well as the local Trinidad players. It was a fantastic day, I took a run on the beach and then we spent a few hours in the ocean. I got to play around with my new toy the GoPro and got some fun video in the ocean. Afterwards we went to watch the finals of the tournament which were spectacular. My friend from Canada who trains at the same club as me, Martin Giuffre of Glencoe Club, won the men’s singles event. The other events were great and match of the night goes to men’s doubles of Mexico vs Mexico.
Sunday finished and that meant Monday rolled around, Monday we were scheduled to go down the islands. It was going to be quite a few of us but some things fell through and in the end it was just 7 people that went. Some of the Trinidad players, 2 Barbados players, and the one guy from Czech Republic. We took a boat out into the bay and onto Gasparee Island where we would spend the day. The island wasn’t huge or anything drop dead gorgeous as I was expecting it to be. I thought that we were going to a private beach somewhere remote on one of the many small islands off the coast but I was wrong. Overall the day wasn’t too bad and I did opt out of going for a swim in favor of cozening up in the hammock and catching up on some reading. To me that was time well spent, it was peaceful with a marvelous view and most importantly was relaxing. The trip came to an end and with it meant that Tuesday would be my last full day in Trinidad. Time had flown by and I actually hadn’t done much physical activity let alone any badminton since getting knocked out, something that is unfamiliar to me as I am always active.
|The crew going down the island|
|The whole crew on the boat|
|Relaxing in the hammock reading a book|
Tuesday morning saw me get to train at our club in Chaguanas but it was horrible the sun was out meaning there was so much light coming through the open windows. We only had 1 set of badminton posts as they didn’t bring back the posts they took for the tournament. So we got creative and use the netball posts to create a court which surprisingly worked. That’s not the end of it though oh no, there were no good shuttles so we only had a handful to use for drills. Under the circumstances it was quite the gong show for a lack of better description. Not only that we were told we had just from 6am-8am because netball had the facility after us but come 8:30am we were still going. They came in and told us to clean up but netball never came, we could have continued to train but oh well. After the morning Tishelle collected me and brought me home so I could shower and eat something. We were able to spend the rest of the day together until the night. I was able to actually go see a movie in the theaters, we saw The Avengers: Age of Ultron. After that I headed home and packed everything up, getting ready to leave Trinidad on a 7:20am flight the following morning. My 9 days in Trinidad had flown by and I was heartbroken from the tournament but glad that I got a little vacation for once.
|Me and Tishelle|
Heading back to Calgary I would get 12 days before I fly out again to my second tournament of Olympic Qualifications the Mauritius International. The draws came out the day before I left Trinidad and boy was there a shocker, I was fortunate enough to get the last spot in the main draw that also resulted in me playing Kevin Cordon of Guatemala first round. So I have all but 12 days before taking the 2 days to fly over to the African continent for the tournament. The flip side is I will get time in Paris, France meaning I’ll cross Europe of the list as well as Africa off the continental list. So I will have set foot on all the continents minus Antarctica (for the time being at least). Let’s see how the second tournament of Olympic qualification goes, the consolation is that I will be spending my birthday away from Canada again this year. This time in Mauritius, can’t really complain being able to spend ones birthday in tropical paradise.