My Badminton and Life Blog

My Badminton and Life Blog

Friday, July 28, 2017

2016 Brazil Grand Prix Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil


So Aruba was last week and now after a quick layover in Calgary, just enough time to do laundry and repack, I was off to Brazil. This was an exciting trip because although I have been to Brazil before this time it would be to a city that I haven’t gone and there was a major tourist attraction there, Iguacu Falls. The city is borders both Paraguay and Argentina but this waterfall is located on the Brazil/Argentina boarder and is massive so that would definitely be something that I would have to check out while there can’t pass up that opportunity.  But before any of that could happen I had to get there which required a flight to Chicago and then onwards the long flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil and finally a domestic flight to Foz Do Iguacu. The flights themselves weren’t bad, the flight from Chicago to Sao Paulo was a long one but nothing I haven’t encountered before.  Matt had arrived a day before me so he rented a car and when I arrived into the small airport he was there to meet me and we went off to our hotel for the night.

Matt booked us a hotel very close to the venue, it was about 2 blocks away so perfect to walk to the venue and not have to worry about catching transportation. This was my first time playing in this city but Matt had played this tournament before in the past and was very familiar with the city. The tournament was a very small one especially for a grand prix level event, the men’s singles was a 32 size draw and doubles was a 16 size at that. There were quite a few Europeans that came over but not many people from the Pan Am zone. It is true that it was right after the Olympics and most countries/players really didn’t have the money to spend on travel. This made it the perfect time to try and qualify for worlds and even better time to get a head start at the tournaments where people were not attending. At this point I was just thinking about qualifying for doubles with Matt, the idea of trying to qualify for singles hadn’t even crossed my mind yet and wouldn’t for a little while.

Our hotel 2 blocks from the venue

So we had a day before the tournament started to practice and adjust, the venue itself was actually set up very nice. For the location and the rest of the building they did wonders. The courts were great, no blinding light, no terribly drafts, and good lines of sight all around. There were 3 match courts and 2 practice courts, given the size of the tournament it would be more than adequate to run all the matches with no delays. We were able to get in a good amount of practice before the matches commenced the following day with singles in the evening. Matt signed up for singles as well and had drawn a local Brazilian player first round as did I. My player however did not show up for the match so I was granted a walkover, a walkover into round or 16 at a Grand prix level tournament was a lot of singles points to be awarded 2110 to be exact and more if I won the next match. I would have to play Milin Ludik of the Czech Republic the following morning for my shot at a quarterfinal appearance. That did not happen though and I lost to him, it was a fun match and aside from Aruba and Canada Open one of the few times I had a coach behind my court with me.


Singles was done and now it was doubles time, the real reason I had travelled all the way down to South America. We were up against a mixed country pair, how appropriate since we too were a mixed country pair, of Brazil and Paraguay. The player from Brazil was an accomplished player as well the guy from Paraguay was a former Japanese national level (not national team) player and had since moved to work and live in Paraguay but was now playing under their flag.  This was a harder first round than some of the other teams had, a local junior Brazilian pair would have been nice but that’s alright we were up for the challenge. The match started and it wasn’t as shell shocking as the US Open against the other Japanese pair, we were able to have rallies and actually win points. Matt is known for being able to control the net and serve exceptionally well and of course he demonstrated it here but he can also play from the back. Being this was only our second tournament together there was for sure some times of uncertainty with shots and rotation as well as sequences but that was something that we would learn as we went along. We lost the match but weren’t blown out so although a crappy feeling for losing it wasn’t as terrible a feeling as it could have been.

Tournament venue was set up very nice for a South American Grand Prix

So the tournament was over and we had a day left in Brazil before heading home. Me and matt were on the same flight from Rio to Houston but we had a different departure time leaving Foz Do Iguacu. The weather wasn’t the best during the week and had limited moments of sunshine with mostly rain both heavy and light. This did not make the most ideal weather to go see the Iguazu waterfalls and the Itaipu dam (largest hydroelectric dam in the world in power generation). But we caught a break, the Friday it was sunny and the forecast said that the rest of the day would be more of the same. This was the time we took the opportunity and drove out to the falls, it wasn’t that far from the city actually which was surprising. It was located in a sort of national park as you would call it and when we paid to go in we boarded a bus which drove us off to the various stopping points. We were interested in the falls but wanted to do the little trek to them in order to get a better appreciation for them as well as see the scenery. The hike started off with a nice open area before retreating to the side of the cliffs for a more intimate view of all the various waterfalls on route to the large main falls. Because we were on the Brazil side we were seeing the waterfalls located on the Argentina side. Likewise the people on the Argentina side would be seeing the waterfalls on the brail side.

The beginning of the trail
It was simply amazing
Nothing short of breath taking

We snaked our way along the trails, stopping at the various viewing points to catch more glimpses at the power each waterfall held. Finally after some time passed we were at the mouth of the beast, the devils mouth as it was called. There was a catwalk of a bridge leading out over the raging water and up to the edge of one of the falls. We were right in the middle of the beast, getting soaked by all the water blowing in the wind. The people on the Argentina side did not get the same experience as their catwalk was at the very top of the falls, allowing them to see a magnificent top down view but not an inside the area experience. From the Brazil side we were also able to go up to above the falls on a tower to get the same sort of top down view but we would do that after. Standing there and seeing all that water was an eye opener to the true power of Mother Nature and sheer force the water had. For those of you who can conceptualize it, Iguazu falls has a flow of 1,756 meters cubed per second of water flow. Once off the catwalk there was a landing area literally right next to the waterfall where you could stand, the area was a soak zone and oh did I ever get soaked. But you could see just how fast and how much water was coming down, not to mention the sound as well. Standing there it really made you think where is all this water coming from that this much flows through every second of every day every year.

Those are the waterfalls on the Argentina side
Getting closer to the main falls, time to bring out the rain jacket
In the soak zone, it was crazy to see so much water falling down

Upon completing my time in the soak zone we preceded up to the top of the observation tower and got a nice top down view. You could see the whole area from the river before the falls to where it all ended up, truly a breathtaking and amazing sight to see. We then walked a little further up river and viewed how calm the water was, you would never think there was that monstrosity lurking just a few hundred meters downstream. There was some gift shops and food places but that was about it so we took a quick look and then boarded the bus back down to where we had parked. It was still pretty early in the day though and we had one more stop. It was a dam, but not just any dam, the largest hydroelectric dam in South America and let me tell you it is definitely worthy of that title.

View from up top, Argentina is on the other side in the back
River up atop the falls, you would never guess what lies beneath and ahead

We arrived later in the evening but were fortunate as there was 1 more tour bus going out to the dam for the day, of course we jumped on to it and got ready to see what all the fuss was about. Matt had already been there before so he knew what was what but to me it was all brand new. The drive up was interesting, everything was so artificial and the dam actually served as a border between Brazil and Paraguay so on the far side there was border control for those driving the route but we wouldn’t have to worry about that. We stopped at 2 different viewpoints of the dam, the first was a ways away to grasp the size of it from a distance which was actually quite hard to do. You could see busses and trucks driving on the road that up the dam but they looked so tiny in comparison. The second view point was closer and offered a little more context to the scale of this man made giant. Ironic just earlier we viewed the waterfalls which was raw and uncontrolled nature but now we were viewing a manmade structure all about the control of nature. Finally the bus took us along the dam, driving the full distance and that’s when I truly got an appreciation for the size of this thing. To see the pipes and sheer size of everything running up and down let alone the distance that it covered was mind blowing. We then proceeded to drive along the top having a view of both the lake behind and then drop off to the waterway below.

Itaipu Dam, this thing was damn big... ha ha couldn't resist the pun
Driving on the lower level of the dam
Looking up from the lower level

The final stop was towards the back on the lake, there was a restaurant and a whole area purely based and run on tourism as nobody lived back there. There was also a cruise around the lake where a large ferry would take you for a soothing sail around the lake to enjoy the view but it had ended for the evening as we were the last tour. So we walked the little dock and took in the view of a setting sun in South America over a manmade lake teeming with the beauty of nature. Boarding the bus the ride down was peaceful and left one with an overwhelming sense of the sheer size of things. You think you can conceptualize distances, sizes, etc but until you are standing right in front of it and seeing it yourself then your mind doesn’t know what it thinks it actually knows.

Pristine lake that was created when they built the dam and an amazing sunset

So that was the end of Brazil, I would fly out to Rio the next morning on an early flight and then Matt would join me later in the day for the flight from Rio to Houston. Following that I had my final flight onwards to Calgary which at that point I was super happy to get home and sleep in my own bed for the first time in over 2 weeks. But it would not be for long as I would just be home for a few days and then heading back out to Guadalajara, Mexico for the Mexico international series. I was happy with this tournament, some big results in both singles and doubles getting major world ranking points and this was my first thought of hey my singles ranking is going to go up. I still wasn’t thinking about qualifying or trying to qualify for world championships in singles yet though.

Rio 2016 Olympic touch at the dam

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2016 CAREBACO Team and Individual Championships, Aruba

It was time to fly out again, this time I would be gone for almost 4 weeks in a row with a packed tournament schedule. Aruba, Brazil, and Mexico back to back then a week break and off to Columbia. This time I was heading to the Caribbean for the CAREBACO championships which happen every year, last year it was in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and we got a bronze medal in the team championships. This year we would see what we could fight to get. I was also the first seed in the individual BWF singles event.

2016 Trinidad and Tobago Senior CAREBACO team (L to R: Me, Solangel, Leanne, Kerian, Will, missing Alistair)

Flying to Aruba proved a little longer and harder than expected but nothing terrible just an overnight layover. For all the upcoming trips I would be flying through Houston international airport in Texas as it is a united hub for South America and the Caribbean. It was substantially cheaper to book all my flights as round trips than trying to go from one location to the other, weird yes I know. Unfortunately didn’t have status yet so I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the lounges or anything for the next few trips, I was just star alliance silver which doesn’t get the perks of lounge access but got priority check in and boarding. The last time I went to Aruba was when I was very small and we went island hopping one summer with my mom, aunt, and cousins so I didn’t remember it to well from back then.

Who could pass up these beautiful beaches on the island?

Arriving in Aruba was nice, the weather was hot and sun shining bright. It was still summer in Calgary, well ending, but the weather was good there however winter was looming around the corner. Upon arrival I was unfortunately not picked up from the airport which is something I am quiet use to despite submitting my arrival information. After some time and using the wifi I was able to contact somebody from the Trinidad team and the tournament organizers came and took me to the tournament hall where the junior team tournament was happening. I stayed there for a while to support the juniors. The rest of the senior team was to arrive the next day. The venue didn’t look terrible, definitely not the worst place that I have been to before. That night I got a decent rest and the following day me and Rahul (President of the TTBA), Navin (TTBA position), and one of the juniors Renaldo went to have an early morning practice at the hall. It was a good first hit in the venue and something well needed as the Senior Team tournament would start the following day.

The tournament venue, practice day

I headed back to the hotel and rested for the majority of the day, venturing out for food and to explore a bit but didn’t stay out long due to the heat. That night the rest of the team thankfully arrived and we were relieved to see them. Team matches would start the following day and was in the format of men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. To win the tie you had to win 3 out of 5 but they would play out the entire tie for completeness sake. There was only 4 countries entered this year; Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Suriname. Every team was strong and it would be a fight right to the end. We played Suriname first and unfortunately lost 1-4. I played singles against Suriname for that tie. While Dom Rep played Barbados and won their tie. Next tie was playing against Dom Rep and we lost 1-4 yet again. This time I played both doubles and mixed doubles having 2 close matches. Suriname played Barbados and won their tie. This meant that playing for first and second place would be Suriname and Dominican Republic. Playing for third and fourth place would be Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. There was only 3 medals; gold, silver, and bronze nothing for fourth place.

Tournament venue during the competition, it was actually a good venue for an island

Game day. It all came down to this tie against Barbados, either we would be going home with a medal or we would be going home empty handed. I played first singles and it was national champion against national champion. I was able to beat the Barbados player but it went 3 games because of my nerves and safe play at times. Next up we won women’s singles with Solangel winning in 2 straight. Then came doubles, if we won this match then we would win the tie and be bronze medalists at CAREBACO. Alistair and Will were able to beat out the other 2 players winning us the tie and taking it home 3-0. That was a good feeling to have gotten a bronze medal at least from the tournament which was a big moment for national pride and made me feel good about being Trinidadian.

2016 CAREBACO Team Event Bronze Medal, award ceremonies
The medals that we got, they are actually pretty cool

That however was not all that took place in Aruba, I was there for just over a week due to the amount of events I was participating in. there was a day where I did have no badminton due to the team tournament finishing and the international starting the following day. What better use of a day than to explore the island or as much as possible and within walking distance of the hotel. There were 2 shopping malls down the road which we checked out earlier in the week to find food but this was the first time that actually spent time walking through them and seeing what was what. There was a dock where the cruise ships came in and then just retail all along the strip since it was a very tourist heavy area. Located there was also a giant “I love Aruba” sigh which of course is the perfect photo opportunity and a must have picture. The walk to the mall/shopping area wasn’t terribly far maybe about 15 minutes but the heat is what was really the killer, it was also deathly dry there so not a good combination. The view however could not be beat, blue clear water just tropical paradise status, and was always a welcome sight. Not to mention very tempting to just jump in and go for a swim.

Climbing up on the Aruba sign
Another Aruba sign and of course I needed to climb it again

Talking about going for a swim and the ocean this was yet another trip where I was not fortunate enough to actually go into the water. Despite our hotel literally being across the street from the beach the most that I went into the water was up to my knees for a picture…but it was a good picture and the water was so warm. We did however spend some time hanging out on the beach both during the day and at night. During the night there was a food truck which came out and the food that they served was delicious. What better thing to do than grab some food and walk down to the beach. Listen to the calming of the sea and stare into the abyss of space seeing the sky lit up with the stars of our galaxy…alright if you couldn’t tell I enjoy space a lot.

Couldn't leave without getting a picture in that perfect looking water

We spent a lot of nights eating at this food truck, it got lots of business
With the team tournament over it was time for the senior BWF individual event to start as well as there was a junior international event happening too. The draws were late to be posted and we only found out the draw 2 days before the tournament was to start which is almost unheard of for international standards. This international was only a future series which is the lowest level offering no prize money, and very limited points. I had a decent draw playing against a Suriname player first round and then that took me into quarterfinals where I played a Jamaican player and unfortunately lost. This loss would cause me to leave Aruba the next day and focus on my tournament in Brazil which was a much higher level and offered a lot more points. Because of the tournament in Brazil I did not play men’s doubles or mixed doubles due to the time constraints of getting to Brazil on time. It would also be the next step in my new partnership with Matt for world championships qualifications so was important to get to and adjust to the venue. All that was left was to leave Aruba and fly back to Calgary for believe it or not a 5 hour layover before flying straight to Brazil. I know what you are thinking that is a major backtrack but it was insanely cheaper (over $1000 cheaper) to do it this way, also I would get a lot of qualifying miles for my United reward status so not a total loss. Just meant that I would be spending a lot of time flying and in airports, something that I have become accustomed to over the past few years. So now onto Foz Du Iguassu, Brazil for the 2016 Brazil Grand Prix.

2016 CAREBACO team event men's singles, me vs. Barbados