My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Trinidad and Tobago Nationals

The biggest tournament of the year and it wasn’t an international one, it was the Trinidad and Tobago national championships. This would be the 4th time that I had played them and so far I had reached the final 2 of the past 3 times as well as won once the previous year 2015. This year would be slightly more pressure since I won the previous year, not to mention I was in all 3 finals, I would be expected to retain my title and capture another in another event. The last tournament that I played was Manhattan Beach International a few months back in February but it was now April and a while since I had been in that sort of environment. Regardless of that I had been training hard and preparing for this because I knew the second half of 2016 would be when I played the majority of my tournaments.

The photographer really liked to get pictures of me drinking water

Flying down to Trinidad is always straight forward and something that I have been doing for years. I fly united and go through Houston so it’s a full day affair leaving in the morning and arriving in the evening. Usually when traveling to an international I arrive 1-2 days before the tournament but when I play nationals I always try and arrive 4-5 days before so I can adapt and feel really comfortable on court. Although the tournament is held at my home club in Trinidad I don’t get to play on the courts other than the 1 week a year that I play nationals so it is nice to get that extra court time to readjust to the conditions down there. I am spoiled in Canada since we play and train in the perfect conditions which in reality you rarely every find outside at competitions. The previous year in 2015 I wasn’t seeded at all and that had been an issue to people as I was in the finals in 2014 and not seeded in 2015. This year I was 3rd seed despite winning nationals the year before. That definitely raised questions to everybody down there, but in reality it’s whatever to me I don’t really care that much about seeding.

I left Calgary and arrived In Trinidad but that would not be the only trip I was taking this time. After playing nationals in Trinidad I would head out to Atlanta for a little relaxation and mini vacation. I would be spending about 12 days in Trinidad and then another 10 days in Atlanta being gone for almost a month. But back to Trinidad first and it was nice to have the heat hit me when I arrived. Calgary had an abnormally warm winter though without a lot of snow falling but nothing beats a tropical island in the Caribbean. Arriving was nothing new, get to the airport, grab something to eat, wait for my aunt to pick me up and then home we went. The first few days was nothing special I pretty much just played badminton at the CRISA arena in Chaguanas to familiarize myself to the courts and shuttle speed again. I was playing singles, doubles with Jason Ramjass, and mixed doubles with Kerian Quan Chee. My old mixed partner had gotten banned for a year and was unable to play nationals or play period at the time. Practice was done and the tournament was set to start, just 4 nights this year Wednesday through to Saturday night.

Funny faces are what I do best and frequently on court

Singles was up first and I played a slightly older recreational players who played for one of the oil companies, followed by the 2nd round of singles that night where I played fellow club mate Alverio in which we had a fun match. That was the first night of action and there would be many more, not to mention newspaper articles as well. The second night consisted of another round of singles as well as a round of doubles and mixed. I played Sheraz another club mate in singles and then in doubles we had a fairly straightforward match and mixed was a lot closer as all of us on court were pretty similar skill. Day 2 done and was in all 3 semifinals.

More water bottle drinking pictures

So when the 2nd last night rolled around I have to play a player named Will Lee who I had never played before but he traveled with us to CAREBACO last year and we sort of talked then. It was a match that went to 3 as I was actually nervous and played emotional badminton opposed to actual badminton. I was able to pull it off in the 3rd thanks to Kerian and Naim for coaching me through it. That means that I was in the men’s singles final again. Men’s doubles didn’t go our way though and we ended up losing to Anil and Milind a German who married a Trinidadian girl and lives in Trinidad. He also won the other semi-final for men’s singles so I would play him in the finals, also he’s who Kerian and I beat first round in mixed. Mixed doubles saw us make the final as well when we beat Leanna and Jewel to advance. I was only in 2 finals this year, which was alright with me as can’t always get everything that I want.

During singles

Finals night, the night of all nights came around and I would be playing in the singles and mixed. Singles was up first and it would be against Milind Ogale a German citizen who is a resident of Trinidad and Tobago because he married a Trinidad woman. So you can imagine the newspaper headlines on that one, German Vs Canadian comes to mind. The match was pretty straight forward and there were no nerves this time to take it all the way and win my second national title in men’s singles.

Up next were the other matches and then the final match of the night, mixed doubles. Rahul had already won the men’s doubles final and now was going for title #2. Rahul and Stephanie had played together for years and this was the first time me and Kerian have played together despite being from the same club. The match went to 3 and unfortunately I would only be getting one national title this time in the singles.
So a 1st place in singles, 2nd place in mixed doubles, and 3rd place in men’s doubles would be the medal haul for the 2016 nationals.

1st place mens singles, retained my title and 2 time national champion
2nd place in mixed for the 2nd year in a row

3rd place mens doubles

The previous year I flew out the morning right after I won nationals but this time I stayed an extra day. That extra day I celebrated in style a little winning another title we went out for dinner and then afterwards went to a club and lived it up, downside I flew out that next morning so the night was a little short lived. It would not be back home this time though, I would be making a stop over to Atlanta and spend just over a week there. A nice and well deserved vacation after winning nationals.

Friday, December 23, 2016

2016 Beijing, China – Part 2

Day 4 – Making dumplings and badminton in China

CCTV building, I love architecture so seeing this was great

Morning on the other side of the world and I was ready for the day to start. It was the fourth day of the trip and today I would be playing some badminton. I hadn’t played since my last match at Manhattan Beach International just a few short days prior but that was fine, I was itching to get back on court. Before that though Belinda and I went to the grocery store to get some fruits for her parents as a gift when I went to their house later for lunch before badminton. Chinese supermarkets are always my favorite as they have everything that I would and could ever want. After picking up a variety of fruits (Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, etc) we proceeded to go to her condo/house.


When we got there her parents had already started to make lunch, dumplings. Of course I wasn’t going to stand by and not get in on this. So on that day I helped and learned to make dumplings from scratch. It was quite the process but they had already finished making the stuffing and the dough. All that was left was the cut the dough into pieces that would be used for each dumpling and then fill it. So I picked up the role of dumpling filler and it was good. In the end couldn’t easily tell which ones were mine compared to the pros (her parents). They tasted great and after we had eaten it was now time to go to play badminton. This would be a different place than her parents usually play at because it was during the week and they mostly play on the weekends. But that was alright and they found a place, a pretty significant place actually. The stadium that we ended up playing at was the stadium that they built and used for the 1990 Asia Games and I would later find that out when Ardy was telling me a story about being in Beijing.

1990 Asia games stadium where I played badminton

The stadium now has long since been repurposed into a multisport facility with lots of different uses but primarily it had tennis courts and lots…lots of badminton courts. There was also an indoor rock wall which was cool to see families coming out to use that and not your everyday common sight in China compared to North America. The courts were alright and it wasn’t like I was playing a tournament or anything, just trying to make sure I impressed her parent’s haha so they would do. We played a few games of 3 vs 1 and then Belinda and I played some doubles games against them. After a while her parents left to get some stuff done but said they would be back later if we needed them. When they left I ended up doing some drills, I didn’t get stared at as much as I thought I would while playing badminton there. Some guys rented the court behind us and when they saw me doing drills they ended up stopping to watch for a while. We finished our session and the lights above the court went dark, time was up. Belinda’s parents came back because it was pouring outside so they didn’t want us to walk in the rain and ended up dropping us back to the hotel. That night we had dinner plans with some of Belinda’s school friends from when she lived in China.

The subway stations in china sometimes have awesome designs

Night time and the lights came on, but there was rain on this night not to light but not too hard either. Thankfully we were just walking across to the Golden Resources Mall to meet them there. With so many restaurants it makes sense as the place to go for variety and what did we end up having but Chinese hot pot. Her friends were incredibly entertaining and actually spoke a decent amount of English, a well-rounded group and funny to be around. We may have also bonded over the common ground of making fun of Belinda but that’s normal when there’s somebody new in the group haha. The dinner went well and we sat in the restaurant for a while, afterwards the night was still young and it was a dilemma to figure out the next place to hit up for some fun. A bar and club were out of the question, nobody was feeling in the mood to drink or party that hard. But then somebody said it and we went to karaoke, now anybody who knows me knows that I don’t actually sing…like at all. I would swear that I am tone deaf and just have no singing capabilities at all. But I still went along to have fun and just spectate what was happening there. They sung some Chinese songs, mostly love songs but then it happened and the cheesy English songs came on. But by that time my eyes were closing on me and sleep had taken me for the night, I ended up falling asleep in the room and not to long after we went back to the hotel.


Day 5 – Interrogation at dinner


After a good night’s rest and feeling very refreshed there was another task to complete today. Find a gift for Belinda’s grandmother, not just any gift though a gift that she would like and approve of. So we set out and went to mall after mall, it was settled upon that we would get a necklace for her. The nice thing about china you can find anything so we got the chain and pendant separate to find the perfect combination for her. This however was not as easy as it sounded, we needed to find the right combination and that was hard enough already without spending an arm and a leg. But we did it, ultimately it took a while but we found the perfect pieces and together it was the one so we picked it up and then picked up some lunch to refuel our famished bodies.


Things took a golden twist afterwards when we headed to see the Olympic stadiums from the 2008 Olympic Games that took place in Beijing. The weather however could have cooperated better with us on that day. It was very cold and got to be pretty windy which didn’t help at all when combined with the fact the area was essentially a large flat area with just a few large buildings greatly spread out. I got up close and personal to the birds nest and at first it didn’t look huge but I soon realized that I was staring at it from a weird side angle of the curve of it causing it to look incredibly small, when I saw it from the side then its true massive nature hit me and the gravity of the Olympics happened right here was a cool feeling. I had just gone to Pan Am Games the year before which are a way smaller version of the Olympics but the same concept so to see the scale of this area just blew me away. The water cube was across from the Birds Nest and although it wasn’t night I could remember how cool it looked all lit up. Snapped some pictures and then we were done and happy to be getting out of the cold. Now the task of getting to Belinda’s grandmothers place happened but eventually we got there runny noses and all.

2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium, aka the Birds Nest

Her grandmother has such an amazing view of the Olympic Village and as soon as it turned dark she got excited to show me, it truly was a beautiful sight to see the water cube lit up and the national stadium lit again.  After some tea and quick talking we ended up getting dressed up again to brave the weather and headed to dinner. I would be meeting her family or well those that came back from their recent trip to Hinain province for Chinese New Year a few days prior. I did not know what I was walking into that is for sure. We arrived at the restaurant and found ourselves ushered into a back room which had a gigantic table with lots of chairs set up in it. There was already about 5 or 6 people in the room and then add them to the group of 7 or 8 of us that just walked in and a few more people who came a few minutes later there was a lot of people. We all sat and got acquainted with one another, mostly it was people asking questions about me and Mengran translating it for them to understand. A few of her aunts and her mom understood English so they could verify that what she was translating was in fact what I was saying. All during this amazing food dishes were coming out and we were eating, as well as drinking (some super strong famous alcohol that her uncle brought, how I did not get wasted I don’t know) and discussing anything and everything you could think of about me.


The Q&A of who is Nick came to an end finally and then we moved in a different direction, towards a slide show presentation about the family’s New Year’s trip and celebration. That was a pleasant slideshow and a familiar place that I have gone before so was cool to see other people enjoying it and to share that connection with them. This whole time we were eating dinner and some amazing Chinese dishes not to mention having some rice wine that was brought for the occasion. Just like that 3 hours had passed and the night was over as people had to head home for the night. Overall it was a fantastic dinner and great time even if I did get interrogated by quite a few people. It was time to call it a night and then get ready for the final day in Beijing.

Small portion of all the people that were at dinner

Day 6 – Time to Say Goodbye


It was time to leave Beijing, seems like it was just yesterday that I arrived but time had definitely flown by. Both Belinda and I were flying out on the same day but to 2 different places for different reasons. I was heading back to Calgary, to training and coaching as well as life as I knew it. Belinda on the other hand was heading to Atlanta as she was now on her last rotation for the GE program that she was in. So she would spend 6 months working in Atlanta. It was February 14th, valentine’s day, and we were flying to different cities from the same airport and just so happens that our planes were next to each other at their respective gates. We boarded our flights and headed out for new journeys that lay in front of us. 


The first tournament of the year had been completed as well first trip to Asia for the year was completed. I wouldn’t have another tournament for a while, the next one would actually be Trinidad and Tobago national championships in April. I would be defending my national title there but first a 12 hour flight back to Calgary and a lot of movies to catch up on.
Being on the Olympic grounds, maybe one day ill be able to be there as an athlete

Thursday, December 15, 2016

2016 Beijing, China – Part 1

*Warning this is my longest blog post to date…its long and has lots of pictures hence why it’s in 2 parts*


Manhattan Beach International had just finished and I found myself at LAX but not on a flight home to Calgary, rather on a flight to San Francisco where I would catch my connection to Beijing, China. Belinda had invited me to go to China with her and meet her parents/family and I said that I would. I would also try and get in some training as well while there, it is China after all and home to badminton. I was already planning the trip when I thought I would be in Thailand the week before and it would be easy to fly over from there but when that got cancelled I still decided to go to China anyways. I would be there during Chinese New Year which is something that I haven’t experienced in Asia as of yet.


Day 1 – Arrival


The flight to China is nothing new to me, I have gone there and to Asia many times before so the 10-12 hour flights isn’t something I dislike or stay away from. The flight over was standard as usual in terms of my routine, sleep half of it and watch movies for the rest according to the time in China. Once I arrived I was greeted by a driver that Belinda’s family had hired to pick me up and take me to the hotel. The family and she would arrive the next day as they were in Lingshui, Hinan province for Chinese New Year. I had just gone to Lingshui January 2015 for the China international challenge. So I had a day and a half to kill before they arrived back to Beijing and I was in luck with the location I was at.


Across the street from the hotel was the second largest mall in the world called the Golden Resources Mall, funny enough the first largest mall was also located in China just in another city. It was true this thing was huge and it barely fit into a panorama, nothing compared to any mall in Canada or anywhere else in the world. So I spent quite a few hours exploring that as well as getting my food and groceries too. After all that walking it was time to call it a night and prepare for the following days activities. Located a little walk from the hotel was a park or rather palace park. It was the emperor’s summer palace and highly recommended by Belinda to check out so I planned to spend the following day there. I would be greatly surprised by the sheer size of the area when I got there.

GR Mall... huge thing just barely fits in the whole panorama

Day 2 – Self tour of the Summer Palace


Day broke and the weather wasn’t terrible, despite all the fireworks going off the night before the air was pretty clear and the sky wasn’t overcast. Being February it was still winter in China and I thankfully brought my winter jacket which I definitely needed that day as well as one more layer underneath. So I started the walk down the canal towards the Summer Palace and it was just a few kilometers away nothing to bad and I love to walk so it’s always a pleasure for me. Boy was I in for a full day of walking, climbing up and down stairs and walking through ancient buildings/temples. The river was still partially frozen but getting closer to the park there were people swimming in it. I paid my entry which allowed me to see everything in the park and then walked in, at first I didn’t grasp the size of the area. Walking in and seeing the emperor’s palace all the way at the other end of the lake I was just thinking wow the royal family was incredibly lucky to have all this to run away to. I could just think how lucky the kids of the royal family would be to have all this space and so many cool things to explore and play around.

The river while walking to the summer palace
The place had amazing buildings and all the details mind blowing

I had a lot of ground to cover, thankfully I had almost the whole day as the park or well access to the buildings closed at 5pm and it was only 11am in the morning. Start walking I did and did I ever walk, I ended up taking the “shortcut” which cut through the lake and that a lone was filled with many little buildings and bridges along the way. Some of which were turned into restaurants for people to eat at. Despite it being Chinese New Year and lots of people left Beijing to go back to their home provinces the park was still packed and there was lots of tourists…Chinese tourists not so much foreign ones (I saw less than 10 foreign tourists the whole 6 hours I spent in the park). I brought my DSLR with me and started taking pictures of everything, there was just so many intricate details on everything and such beauty in the architecture. I always liked Chinese history and Japanese history as they are so rich in cultural experiences, events that took place and the physical sites still around, we don’t have the same kind of history or historical sites in North America.


I decided to save the palace for last or well almost last instead of just going straight to the main attraction. So I walked around back where there was a sort of shopping area set up down on the water, it was cool to walk around the narrow edge and see all that was there. Following that I went up the back way of the palace and saw some of the beauty in the artistic detail on the buildings, each roof piece had the same carving in it. All the artwork on every beam of the ceiling it was amazing and must have taken a long time to do all of that. I came to the palace from behind and made my way down the hill seeing all the auxiliary structures and temples/statues. Now time for the main attraction, walking up there was a lot of stairs that needed to be climbed but these didn’t feel like normal stairs they were steep. Making the way to the top was a statue of Guanyin and in all its glory in front of us. Of course it said no photographs but every single person was taking pictures so I snapped a few as well. Making my way back down I visited all the various other rooms seeing how they were set up and the history behind what they were used for. The view from the top was amazing you could see over the entire lake all the way to the entrance and that’s when I truly appreciated the size of the park and the palace itself.


The weather had warmed up a bit and the sun was shining in an almost cloudless sky. I began walking back towards the entrance on the opposite side of the lake this time when it happened. I turned to see the palace looking at me across the lake with some boats in the water. I thought it would be a cool shot and I snapped a few pictures not thinking too much of it. Later when I was sorting through all the pictures there it was the picture that I had taken and I just couldn’t stop staring at it. Instantly it was my favorite picture of the trip and just the way that I captured the scene blew my own mind.

My favorite picture that I have taken to date

I still had one more little island to visit before heading out and it was a peaceful little place, sitting in the lake you could have a view of everything in the park. I was just thinking about taking a swim in the water come summer haha it looked like it would be such a nice thing to do. Alas the time in the park had come to an end, I spent roughly 6 hours in there walking around and seeing everything that I could. Time flew by and I couldn’t believe how long I spent let alone how many kilometres I must have walked within the park that day. Time to walk the canal back to my hotel, it was still light out but getting slightly colder again so I put some gloves on and started the trek back to my temporary home…with a stop at the mall for some food first. Belinda and her family flew back in that night and of course I was able to see her that night, it was so nice and she also told me about the plan for the following day what we would go do and see.


Day 3 – Tea in Beijing


We awoke that morning and got ready to head out bright and early, there were more fireworks the previous night as it seems people were still celebrating. First on the agenda was to go to see the Forbidden City so we figured its best to go early as there was only a limited number of tickets available for the day. We jumped on the subway and headed towards the center of Beijing, switching lines a few times in order to arrive. Once getting there and stepping outside there was a lot of smog and fog in the air, it was really hazy and limited visibility. There was also a ton of people with the same idea of going in to view the city. Again it is one of those things that you can’t fully comprehend the size until you are standing there and can see the size of things with your own eyes. There was a lot of walking and once you are past the iconic front wall of the Forbidden City you get into the bowels of the area, unfortunately for us the tickets were all sold out for the day so we would be unable to go inside the city. That was alright at least I got close enough to it and gives me another reason to come back to China in the future.


We left the Forbidden City and walked out past Tienamin Square as well as one of the national museum’s which had a line wrapped around it of people waiting to get in. We kept walking towards a small little area that was filled with shops and more importantly places to eat food, I had worked up quite the appetite at this point. So we walked around the area and saw lots of goodies for dessert afterwards but food first. There were a few places but the lines were crazy long so we eventually found a quiet little spot which had amazing food. It was at that moment the reality sunk in that I was in China after being in North America. But this time it was different, I have always traveled for tournaments and although I just played a tournament this was kind of like a vacation and a nice time away from badminton for a few days. After we had late lunch we walked around some more and got dessert and headed to see some shopping before meeting up with Belinda’s parents later that night for dinner and a show at a famous tea house.

Tienamin square, famous for many things
Nom nom nom all the desserts

The darkness crept over the city and with it came some rain but the bright lights of Beijing and amount of people out would have you think otherwise that it wasn’t nighttime. We met Belinda’s parents at a little restaurant and had some nice traditional Chinese dishes. After dinner we walked over to a famous tea house where they display a bunch of different performances from Chinese culture for foreigners. Many famous people have passed through those doors from former USA presidents to actors/celebrities from all over the world. The show started and they of course gave us some tea and various snacks to munch on throughout the show. We sat and watched the variety of performances and what would be somewhat spectacles. They were very impressive but all did tell a part of Chinese history which has happened for generations and generations, some of which still are practiced today. Upon the end of the show we got some pictures and looked around the little museum like house which was the theatre. There were lots of historical items present as well as many kinds of tea for purchase. The rain had more or less passed at this point and we went for a little drive before Belinda’s parents dropped us off at the hotel.

Inside the tea house
Performances at the tea house

Three days had passed just like that, I had done so much already and see so many things. Not to mention eat a lot of delicious authentic Chinese food, yum. It was time to call it a night and then the adventure would continue the next day…or well in the next blog post for you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016 Manhattan Beach International

The time had come and it was the first tournament of the year, the 2016 Manhattan Beach International in Manhattan Beach, LA. I had been to LA many times before, to many to count on ones hands but never to Manhattan Beach. My good friend Yuko Kawasaki lives there and invited me to stay with her for the tournament so I wouldn’t pass up the offer to hang out with a good friend. I boarded the all familiar flight to LA and before you know it had landed in LAX the only difference was that I had a late night flight and arrived some 1am in the morning. After arriving I was picked up and whisked away to Yukos house to get some sleep for the night. I had never seen her house before and when I arrived I was amazed at how tightly packed all the houses were packed into their lots and next to each other. But it was nice to be in their mansion for the week and hang out with and meet the family. The tournament wasn’t to start for a few days I went down early to adjust to the place and get a decent hit in at the venue and of course check out the beach.

The beach at Manhattan Beach

So first things first I went down to the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club (MBBC) which is where the tournament was going to take place. A small private club located about a 10-15 minute walk from the beach. The club is a simplified version of the Glencoe Club in Calgary as it is just badminton courts and an outdoor pool area as well as a sort of sitting area too. Nice little club located within Manhattan Beach though and very popular not just for its badminton but just as a space for people to go and hang out by the pool. The tournament wasn’t meant to start for a few days so I was able to get in some hitting with friends who were there as well as some of Yuko’s friends who were playing the tournament (Dean and Jen) as well as Yuko’s daughter who I was playing mixed doubles with. I was however unable to practice with my doubles partner before the tournament happened.

Manhattan Beach Badminton Club (MBBC)

One nice thing that you don’t always see at the lower level of tournaments is that they had a welcome dinner for us. The city of Manhattan Beach hosted an athlete’s welcome dinner at the local fire station for the event. The firefighters cooked some pasta dishes for us and salad as well they honoured some of the top badminton players to come out of Manhattan Beach and the MBBC be those nationally, internationally, and Olympians.

Gift bag from the tournament
Dinner at the local fire station

The time passed and eventually the day arrived for the tournament to start. In singles I would play Job Castillo from Mexico, in doubles Tuck and I would play Bjorn and Matthew Fogarty both from USA, and in Mixed Yoshi and I would play Bjorn (USA) and his girlfriend Marina from Mexico. Side note I was going to play Manhattan Beach international and then after play Thailand Grand Prix Gold but the flights didn’t work out to leave and get to Thailand in a good time for my first match so I had to cancel that trip and withdrew from the tournament before the draw was published even though I was in the main draw. Match day came and singles was up first, I played Job and this was the first time we had ever played despite attending so many of the same tournaments. It was a tough game from the start but I was able to rally with him and make him move, in the end though he prevailed and beat me so that ended singles. Doubles came next and it was the first time me and Tuck had played together period. We had such a close game with Matt and Bjorn losing 19-21, 19-21 to them, the winner of that match automatically went to semifinals and got a medal. Matt and Bjorn would however make it to the finals and lose in 3 games to a pair from Indonesia so the fact we almost beat them was very promising for us and a great result. Mixed was last and likewise it was Yoshi and my first time playing together so it was a learning experience and a fun time none the less. We were able to string some rallies together but I would need to improve my mixed for sure after playing.

The tournament had come to an end, a phrase I say all too often these days it seems. No medals here but was very close in the doubles to getting one yet at the same time I was satisfied with the results. It was the first tournament of the year and definitely not the last to come. But in the meantime I would be off to China to spend time with Belinda and her family so I had that to look forward to. Anybody who knows me knows that I have a huge soft spot for China, I just love it there and now I would get to go back first trip for the year so of course I was excited. Plus it’s a long flight on a big plane and just as well anybody who knows me knows that I love flying on big planes and that I don’t consider anything under 5 hours of flying traveling. I did however have a few days left to kill in LA so I did spend most of my time at the tournament and the beach of course as well at one local attraction.

Sand Dune Hill is the name of the massive sand dune in Manhattan Beach that is famous for anybody into fitness and working out. Back in the day everyone use to run it from the football and basketball teams that call LA home to the various other athletes and just anybody who wants a killer workout in general. So me being me the lover of fitness I had to try it and run up and I was not disappointed at all. Firstly off it is all sand, secondly the angle of it is rather ridiculous, and thirdly it’s pretty high. Starting out strong I soon felt the effects of running and having your feet just sink into the sand, at one point I was almost on my hands and knees to crawl up the hill but in the end I made it. Dean recorded the whole thing and added a pretty fun commentary to it as well. I got a picture at the top cause Yuko took the stairs up to meet me there and then headed back down. After that we went for a nice and a lot easier walk along the beach. That was my last activity in Manhattan Beach before flying out to Beijing the following day.
Sand Dune Hill

All in all I am satisfied with the tournament and learned more about what I needed to do and work on. The next tournament would be Trinidad and Tobago nationals which I would try to defend my title at. That would be taking place in April so still a few months to prepare for it but no travel or tournaments prior unfortunately. Until then another trip to LA was completed and added to the books for the travel stats of 2016. Not to mention I had now switched from Air Canadas reward program over to United’s program because Air Canadas was getting harder and harder to achieve status and the past few years I would always be one tier lower status each year. United’s program was so much easier and I always fly United to Trinidad so it is a no brainer, I also am pretty happy with their service.

Victory on top of sand dune hill after conquering it

Sunday, June 26, 2016

2015 USA Grand Prix

The final tournament of the year had arrived, this whole time since May 1st had been Olympic qualification and I was making my attempt for the 2016 Olympic qualification representing Trinidad and Tobago. The downside is that I had some very tough tournaments which didn’t allow me to progress far in the draw and acquire points, but also had a few good ones to.


The last one of 2016 and my 10th international for the year, 11th if you include Trinidad nationals, had come around. I had been traveling every month of the year at this point and while this is the most that I have played in 1 year it doesn’t come close to some of the other players on tour who played anywhere from 15 to 30 tournaments. Regardless I was pumped and once again would have a European first round, this time it was my friend Jan Frolic from Czech Republic, somebody who I have traveled with on tour before and become friends with. Also I would be playing doubles with Kevin Barkman of Canada who shared with us the week prior in Orlando and was pretty cool to room with.

Sun and the Crystal Cathedral/Palace

Arriving into LAX wasn’t anything new as I have done it all too many times over the years, we were greeted by the tournament representative and then that’s when everything went to hell. It took 2 hours for the transportation to be arranged to take me and one of the umpires (Ashley who’s also from Calgary) to the hotel and then the drive itself took almost an hour and a half. So already we were off to a great start and I wasn’t able to get any practice in that day at the venue, the good thing was there was still the following day and I was in the main draw for singles. It was just doubles that Kevin and I had to play in the qualification against an Australian pair. After some practice I was feeling good and OCBC is a place that I have played at lots over the years (at least 5+ internationals there). The day went smoothly and the weather was nice and sunny/hot a pleasant change from the snow and cold in Calgary.

Tournament day rolled around and we had doubles qualification in the morning, Kevin also had to qualify for the men’s singles so we would be there for a little bit. We played our doubles match and it was a lot tougher than we were expecting it to be, for our first time playing together though it wasn’t too bad. We unfortunately lost that one but didn’t get slaughtered so that was a good thing so it was now onto singles. Kevin won his qualification match so that meant that he would play that same night in the main draw with me, both of our matches would be amongst the last of the night and we were both playing Europeans.

Game time came and we went to the venue to watch some matched before our turn to take to the courts. Jan wasn’t feeling the best that day but I wasn’t able to exploit it, I was too rushed in my play and didn’t stay patient. I forced too many shots leading to many unforced errors something that I would have to learn the hard way wasn’t the right way to play. In the end I got beat…bad but it was my own doing I was trying to play a style that would not work against the Czech giant and I wasn’t able to change it or was to stubborn to change it mid match. Just like that in one day the tournament had come to an end. After such success from the Suriname international to some rather disappointing first round losses at these tournaments it wasn’t the way in envisioned the year finishing off. But that was that and the tournament had come to an end for me, the last tournament of 2015 my jam packed year.



Overall I was decently happy through the year with my performance and couldn’t be happier about all the traveling that I was able to do. I had just 2 more days in LA as I didn’t want to spend too much time and money there and stay long. I have been to LA so many times before and this tournament is more technically in Orange County not LA itself so there is only so much to see without going up to the city. So the plan was to watch a few matches the following day and train a little with Kevin, we also ended up watching the last part of the hunger games at the movie cinema…it was a horrible ending to the series.

Walking around Orange County at night

Just like that the trip was done and it was finally time to board the last plane for the last flight of 2015, such a huge year it was for me from national titles to Pan American Games and the most tournaments I’ve played in a year yet. Time to enjoy Christmas and take a slight break for the holidays then get back on court to prepare for 2016 and see what the year would bring.

Last lounge visit for 2015

Monday, May 16, 2016

2015 USA International Challenge

The year was coming to an end as it was December already. Christmas decorations were up in the malls and snow was on the ground, or at least there should have been more snow. Calgary was having an abnormally warm and snowless winter which isn’t out of the ordinary. But it was time for me to fly off again and for the first time this year to go to two tournaments back to back. Every trip I had taken so far had been to just one tournament, nothing back to back. These two would be a lot closer to home though, both taking place to our neighbour to the south in the USA. First up would be the 2015 USA international Challenge in Orlando, Florida. Difference this time being that I would be traveling with some friends from canada, even one guy who trains at the Glencoe club with me and a friend from Vancouver as well as another I would have just met. Sean, Kevin, Antonio, and I would all be sharing a hotel room for the week that we were in Orlando and it would be quite the experience.

Atrium in our hotel, it lit up at night

The tournament would start mid-week so we headed down on a Sunday this way there would be time to practice and get accustomed to the courts. I would only be playing singles for the tournament though but after such a great performance in Suriname I was hoping to do well here too. I would be playing against another European player, Ville Lang from Finland the Finish Viking as he would come to be known as. The venue wasn’t bad as it was at clear 1 Orlando, the same clear franchise owned by my boss where I work in Calgary. So the set up was pretty familiar and the real adjustment just had to come with regards to the shuttles and their speed.

Clear 1 Orlando, the tournament venue

Practice went smooth as there was lots of players that I knew and was able to get a few sessions in before the tournament. Something that doesn’t always happen because I usually travel alone but this time it was nice to go with friends. The plan was that once we were knocked out of the tournament we would go to universal studios one day and then Disneyland the next day but the tournament was to come first. So game day came and we all went down to the venue to play our matches. Sean was up first and played a Chinese Taipei player, I was next up and then Antonio and Kevin played their respected players. My match started out rough against Ville but come the 2nd game I was adapting a lot faster than I had in the past and was taking the fight to him. I felt better, although he was really solid when I was patient I was able to score a lot more points but then the impatient moments would kick in and that’s when errors occurred. I ended up losing the 2nd game 18-21 it was incredibly close and I could have forced a 3rd if I was a little more patient. But it was a learning experience and I was happy with the result, the Finish Viking had taught me a lot of valuable lessons.


This meant that the tournament was officially over for me as well as for Sean. So we would start to plan out the rest of the trip. The following day we ended up staying around the area as the weather wasn’t too great and we wanted to see if there was a few more players who wanted to go to universal studios so we could rent a car and keep down the cost. Turns out the 2 of my European friends that I had travelled with before, Jan Frolic of Czech Republic and Matej Hlinican of Slovakia, were also out of the tournament and looking to head down to universal studios. So the plan was set in motion and we bought our tickets online to head to the park the next day, it would be an all-day affair.

The gang left to right: Jan Frolic, Matej Hlinican, Me, Sean McGowan

The morning came and the weather wasn’t super amazing but was still Florida warm, with overcast skies looming and forecasted for the remainder of the day. Our bags packed and electronics charged we rented a car and started out on our grand adventure. It took around an hour to drive there and that was without traffic which was pretty long in itself but we finally saw the exits that marked Disneyland and Universal Studios, we had made it at long last and pretty early in the day only 10am at that point. Parking, we made our way to the gate…well to all the stuff before the actual gates to enter the park. There were tons of shops, food places, and just random things which was expected but we passed by it all in anticipation of getting into the park and onto some rides not before taking a group picture of course. Starting off in the park we hit up a warm up ride right away to get ready then went for a big one “Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall” which is a drop tower type ride. It wasn’t too bad but was relatively short with just a few shots up and drops. Still enough to get the blood pumping and adrenalin up though, we would continue our way through the area and onto the next part toon world. There wasn’t too many rides there and the ones that there was were water rides and seeing as we would get wet we would save those for later in the day. Passing by Jurassic Park his meant that we would now adventure to the best part of the park and most anticipates area, Harry Potter world which spanned between the2 sides of the universal park.

Got absolutely soaked on this ride

Harry Potter area was amazing and there were some fantastic rides. The main attraction however had broken down in the giant castle but they offered a walking tour through the waiting line and let me say that line can get ridiculously long… you could wait an entire day in line just to ride that ride. Spoiler they got it working later so we were able to come back and ride it. I have to say that is hands down my favorite ride at universal studios. But after that we went to get some butter beer which was delicious, it went down smoothly and had a creamy caramel flavor to it but was very refreshing. Following through that the rest of the guys went on one of the Harry Potter rollercoasters but I’m not a big fan of rollercoasters so I didn’t go. That was the extent of the Harry Potter part of the world on this side of the park. So we quickly went through the rest of the island and saw the Atlanta’s part and doctor Suse world then proceeded to catch the Hogwarts express over to the other side universals park.

Hogwarts Castle was awesome
Got my butter beer in hand

Arriving at the station we proceeded to go through platform 9 ¾ into London and towards daigon alley which is where we stopped for lunch. The rest of the Harry Potter world had just one ride which we did and was more of an interactive experience but still good none the less. The rest of that side of the park had the themes such as Simpsons land, the MIB ride, Transformers, Terminator, Minions, ET, etc so we hit up some of those rides along with the mummy indoor rollercoaster which was a great experience and I don’t mind those types of indoor rollercoasters. The rest of the guys went on the final ride twice which was the rock and roll coaster, it did have quite the amazing and impressive drop on it but I passed. The night had come and the theme park was closing soon, we had spent the entire day there and had been able to see everything as well as ride a lot of rides. We did end up going on the water rides before leaving that side of the park, they were not bad at all just got you really wet so good thing I brought an extra change of clothes.

The day was done and we went to the outlet mall across the highway quickly before heading back to the hotel for the night as well as to grab food. It was a long day and we were all tired so getting into bed that night was a big relief for sure and before you know it the sun had risen and another day started. Originally the plan was that on the 2nd day we would go do Disneyworld but looking at the cost and just how much I spent the day before at Universal studios I decided it wouldn’t be a finically smart plan. I would be flying out the next day back to Calgary for a day and then off to LA for the USA Grand Prix. But first I had to see my cousin who lives in Orlando. He is my actual blood related first cousin who I hadn’t seen since 2009 when he came down to Miami to see me play when I competed in the Miami international there. But this time I was in his city so it all worked out perfectly to meet up. Sean came and we went to downtown Disney to hang out and walk around, so even though I didn’t make it to Disneyworld I was able to make it kind of close at least. My favorite part was by far the Lego store because well I LOVE Lego and am such a kid at heart when it comes to those things. If I could have (and if the exchange rate was better) I would have bought so many Lego sets to take back home with me but alas the opportunity needed to be passed up this time. After some quick shopping it was time to head out grab a quick bite and then call it a night as I had a flight early in the morning the following day.

Who doesn't want to chill with a LEGO hulk

The flight back to Calgary wasn’t a bad one, had a stop in Chicago which I haven’t passed through before but thankfully no weather delays made everything smooth. Upon arrival in Calgary though was the best surprise awaiting me for my one night back home before flying out to LA for my final international of 2016, the USA Grand Prix.