Off to Africa I was going, well an island off the coast of the African continent but it still counts and falls under being in Africa. The 2015 Mauritius International was taking place June 11-14th (those dates would slightly change later). This would count as an Olympic qualifying event, any international tournament between May 1, 2015 and May 1, 2016 would count towards the 2016 Olympic qualifications. This was my second tournament I’d be playing of Olympic qualifications and I had to play 2nd seed Kevin Cordon of Guatemala first round. Not the best draw for flying all the way across the world for a tournament but anything is possible. So the flight to Mauritius wasn’t anything that I haven’t done before, 12 hours from Paris was about the same as going to Hong Kong from Vancouver or Korea from LA. The flight was smooth and landing in Mauritius was a nice sight, seeing the tropical island appear out of the otherwise desolate ocean. Upon arrival went through customs and then began the journey of being picked up and heading to the hotel.
|Quite the sight to see|
There turned out to be a small complication when we arrived in the city of the tournament, only 40 minutes away from the airport on the other side of the island. The tournament hotel that the tournament organizers had booked players in was full. I arrived with a few other people for the tournament, a girl from Finland, and 3 Turkish players plus their coach. None of us had a room in the hotel we were promised so the association gave us the run around and brought us to another hotel which would house players at the same tournament rate and provide the same services (meals included). This place wasn’t any resort looking area and was smack dab in the middle of a residential (neighbourhood) surrounded by houses for blocks around. There was nothing available for the tournament at that time, no practice times or bus schedule to the hall so the day I arrived was a write off and I was more than happy to relax and fight off any jet lag.
|My wonderful hotel|
|And its slightly sketchy looking pool|
The next day rolled around and we were told that there were practice times available for early that afternoon. At that time some other players had come into the hotel, a guy from Hungary and a team from South Africa. Not to mention at the same time as our badminton tournament there was a football tournament so there was a lot of teams staying at almost every hotel in the city at that time. So I went to the hall and was able to have a hit with the Hungarian player for about an hour on the courts. The hall in Mauritius was nice as it was the national badminton center. 14 courts but only about half of them had mats on them the others were simply a sort of rubber hard floor that while provided grip was very hard on the knees. After the session I was able to have another quick hit with a player from India and then called it a day heading back to the hotel.
The nice part about the hotel was the meals were included in the price so upon arrival we got lunch and then had a few hours to kill before the managers meeting that very evening. The team managers meeting is something that I attend every tournament I go to usually because I am the only Trinidad athlete present so I have to go. This one was no different only that it was single handed the longest managers meeting I have ever been to…and I didn’t even stay for the whole thing. This is where an interesting predicament arose. The tournament was originally June 11-14 with qualification events being on the 10th. The 14th was Sunday and there was a government election taking place that same day. By law on the day of elections it is illegal to have a public gathering of people so that meant that it would be against the law to have the finals for the tournament on that day. The tournament organizers had only found that out about 2 weeks before the tournament, long after everyone had booked their flights and everything to come so they couldn’t cancel the tournament. This meant that the tournament would now happen over June 11-13th… only 3 days. There was 1 round of singles the first day, 2 rounds the following day and then on the Saturday semi-finals in the morning and finals in the evening.
So the tournament started that night with qualification events, 3 rounds of it. The following day around noon I played my match against 2nd seed Kevin Cordon of Guatemala. I set up my gopro to record it but the modes got switched and it just ended up taking a picture every 10 seconds for the entire duration of the match. So that was my unfortunate mishap and I was kind of disappointed at that fact. The match on the other hand went well, a lot better than expected. I was able to win points, the major reason that I lost points were primarily unforced errors. Don’t get me wrong Kevin is a beast on court and he is able to change the pace as well as has a cannon of a smash. All in all it was a long way to fly to play another Pan Am player but I and Kevin finally had our match 2 years later than it was scheduled. In 2013 I was to play Kevin 2nd round at the 2013 Tahiti International Challenge but that is when he blew out his knee the week before in Peru and I played another played 2nd round making it to quarterfinals of an International Challenge.
I was out of the tournament just like that, meaning I had another 4 days left in the country to enjoy and relax as well as celebrate my birthday. Friday rolled around and what did I do but sleep in till 4pm, my body was destroyed by jet lag and I didn’t want to do anything that day at all other than sleep. Essentially Friday was a write off. Saturday rolled around and I slept in again but this time I got up and went into the town to explore and see what was what. I was planning to take a boat trip to a remote island and enjoy the beach, etc on Sunday since it was my birthday but then after looking through everything I realized that it wouldn’t be as much fun to go alone. Instead when Sunday rolled around I got up nice and early and went to a place called Flic-en-Flac beach which is a famous destination in Mauritius and a very beautiful beach. I spent a solid 5 hours at the beach doing a multitude of things from swimming, reading, running, and sun tanning (yes even I can tan and look better with a tan). Spending my birthday on the beach of a tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa turned out to be pretty sweet after all. The day came to an end, the hotel provided all the meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) so they knew it was my birthday and cooked me a special birthday meal even with a dessert surprise. The next day I would catch my flight back home in the night, the long journey to France and then to Calgary.
|The wonderful beach where I spent my day|
|Everyone needs a shirtless beach picture|
I woke up the following morning and finished packing, ate some food and then went to check out the big shopping mall that was across the highway from the hotel. There wasn’t really much present in terms of shops just random places and no souvenir shops, which was quite a surprise because even in town itself I had a hard time trying to find souvenirs. After that had my last dinner at the hotel and it was a kind of bittersweet ending to the tournament. The van came and picked me up, there was other player from an African Country who was also leaving that night. We drove to the airport and then the long trip home would begin with a 12 hour flight from Mauritius to Paris, a layover and then another long haul flight home to Calgary. Overall I felt good playing in Mauritius, the big moment was when I was sitting in the airport in Paris and got the final confirmation that I was attending the 2015 Pan Am games to represent Trinidad and Tobago in badminton. That made the trip all the more sweet but meant I would only have 3 weeks to finish my preparations for that. Knocking 2 continents off the list, getting to see 3 countries and some amazing sights/architecture as well as got a tournament in I’d say that the trip was well worth it and quite a success. But first up would be the 2015 Canada Open which would be in my home city of Calgary, Alberta just a week after my arrival back from Mauritius.
|My plane back to Paris, France|