|Posted by Anna Rice on October 28, 2009 at 6:21 PM||comments (137)|
After eleven years…back to Guadalajara
Eleven years ago in the summer 1998 I traveled from Vancouver to Guadalajara, Mexico for my first international badminton tournament. Yes, I was a late bloomer as far as international experience goes; a far cry from the Wang Yihans and Saina Nehwals of today who have already won major world titles by the end of their Junior careers. But every badminton player’s trajectory of improvement is unique, part of what makes our sport so interesting.
I went to Guadalajara back in August of 1998 for the Pan American Junior Championships and it was a deciding event in my badminton career. The excitement of playing in a big stadium, experiencing another culture and meeting friends from different countries got me hooked on the idea of pursuing badminton further as I began university.
Last week- more than a decade later, I was again in Guadalajara, this time for the Pan American Team and Individual Championships. I was honoured to have been named Team Captain by our co-National Coach Jeff White and I was really proud of our young Canadian team for winning Gold over Peru in a 3-0 victory. It was the first National Cap for many on our team and it showed me that the future of Canadian Badminton is very bright. Having been away in Europe for the better part of the last decade, I’m really enjoying being a part of the Canadian badminton scene again and getting to know the younger players.
After the team event it was time to battle it out for the title of Pan Am Champion. I won this event when it was hosted in Calgary back in May, 2007 and I was very motivated to claim the title once more. After defeating players from Peru and Mexico in the early rounds, in the semi finals match I came up against Peruvian badminton star and Beijing Olympian Claudia Rivero. It was against Claudia that I played in the finals of this tournament back in 2007, so I knew I had to be focused and ready to work hard if I wanted to win. I handled the tough playing conditions of this tricky stadium well and was able to control the speedy shuttles and the windy conditions a bit better than Claudia on this day. (The wind training I’d done for the past few years in Denmark using a large industrial fan seemed to really pay off this week).
The day of the finals was exciting for all the players involved as well as the Mexican badminton fans who had come out to watch. I played fellow Canadian Joycelyn Ko in the finals and was able to use tactics and experience to overcome my talented teammate. Canada took home a total of 8 medals, including Gold in the mixed doubles, the women’s doubles and the women’s singles events. Congrats to all the medal winners.
Pan Am coaches clinic
One of my goals relating to badminton since I’ve returned to Canada is to help raise the level across Pan America. In the days following the Pan Am Championships I was able to help out with an event that is also working towards this goal. The event was a coaches clinic for 15 coaches from various Pan Am countries including Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Costa Rica. The clinic was organized by Pan American Development Coordinator German Valdez and I was honored to participate as a guest speaker.
I spoke to the coaches about the Danish approach to training and how Pan America can learn from the Danish badminton system. In the afternoon I did an on court session with the group under the same theme, and I had lots of fun explaining different drills in my very rusty and basic Spanish. The guest coach for this seminar was former Malaysian national team member and coach Kwan Yoke Meng and it was very interesting chatting with him about his perspective on international badminton and how it has changed since his time as a player.
A badminton hero we all should know about
Everyone knows about Peter Gade and Zhang Ning, but right now I want to introduce to you a badminton hero of a different kind. Sabastiao is a badminton coach from Brazil and his story is incredible. Having grown up in an orphanage in a rough Rio neighborhood, life dealt Sabastiao a tough hand. But like all amazing people in this world, he used his challenges to make him stronger. Eight years ago Sabastiao began a project to build a badminton club inside one of Rio’s poorest slums.
Using only the leftover scraps from the construction site of the Pan Am Games village a few years back, Sabastiao and his crew built an amazing 8 court badminton facility on the steep banks of his Rio favella. Not only has this club brought badminton to these disadvantaged children, it is teaching them to be champions. Sabastiao’s club has no less than 8 Pan American Junior Champions!
The incredible people running this club are all believers in the power of sport to help kids living in poverty create better lives for themselves. Anyone who knows me knows that this issue is also something very important to me. I only wish I knew about Sabastiao’s club 2 years ago when I was writing my Masters thesis on the topic of Sport and Development, as I would have loved to have used his club as one of my case studies.
I was so impressed by Sabastiao’s presentation that I’m hoping to post it on my website so all of you can watch his video and read about the incredible work he’s doing in Brazil.
Two More Weeks to Go
I had a great time in Mexico and was sad to say goodbye to my friends and teammates. But there’s still two exciting weeks ahead of me on this “Pan Am” tour, as I’m currently in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic preparing for another tournament. I’m the only Canadian playing this tournament, as the others chose to return home to prepare for school exams and for other tournaments in Europe and Asia. I’m traveling these next two weeks with my friend Charles Pyne from Jamaica who lives in Canada, and after this week in Santo Domingo we’re heading to Puerto Rico for the final tournament of this trip.
|Posted by Anna Rice on October 15, 2009 at 12:58 AM||comments (3361)|
At the end of August my life began a new chapter: marriage. Our wedding celebration was great, it was by far the best day of our lives. Even though my married friends had told me how special it would be, I couldn't even come close to understanding until it actually took place.
The day itself was a perfect Vancouver day. There is no city in the world as gorgeous as Vancouver on a hot sunny day. Everything to do with the wedding went off without a hitch, despite a nightmare I had in which I spilled red juice all over my dress just minutes before the ceremony. There was one little mishap that occurred right as Bobby and I were exchanging our marriage vows. Our little ring bearer was playing at the back of the church and he decided he'd climb up onto the ledge and turn the light switch off. Once we realized what had happened everyone laughed and we picked up right where we'd left off.
Just before my dad and I were about to walk down the isle, I confessed how completely nervous I was and how I hadn't been so nervous since I walked out onto centre court for my first match at the Olympics in Beijing. My dad told me some wise words and I relaxed a bit, even though my pulse was still beating as if I'd just done 30 sets of 20 seconds on/10 seconds off speed footwork.
After the ceremony was over it was as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders, it honestly felt like I had just won the All England title...or at least how I imagine that might feel ; ) I was so happy and excited for the party to start. There are no words to express what it feels like to enter a room filled with your closest friends and family and to know that they are all there to celebrate and show their support for this new partnership.
We ate, drank and danced all night long, and from time to time I looked around at all our friends from different areas of our lives who had gathered together for this special day and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
The days that followed the wedding were both fun and sad at the same time. After so much planning and anticipation, it was suddenly all over. There were some very teary goodbyes, especially those with our friends from Denmark with whom we had shared countless memories throughout the past 9 years and whom we would no longer be seeing on a regular basis.
We recouped from the chaos and excitement of the wedding week by chilling out in Hawaii for our honeymoon. I had never been to Hawaii before and I can pretty safely say it is the closest thing to Heaven on earth that I've ever seen. The weather is absolutely perfect and the atmosphere is so relaxing. We surfed, we snorkeled, we parasailed (though this wasn't my favorite event as I ended up puking on my new husband), we swam, we sunbathed and we...well, you all know what people do on their honeymoons...
In the weeks since our return I've been trying to get back into a training routine but it's been tough. There's still lots to re-organize and get settled after almost a decade of living abroad. Re-adjusting to life back in Canada has had its challenged, but we are managing well now thanks to the endless support of our families and friends.
Here are some pics from the "Big Day"...
(photo by Jessica Pedlow)
Me with some lovely International badminton ladies
The Groom (centre) with brothers
I have also uploaded some more wedding pictures to the Photo Gallery, which you can view here.
My next trip takes me back to the city where I played my very first international tournament: Guadalajara, Mexico in 1998. Back then I was competing in the Pan American Junior Championships and next week- more than ten years after my first trip there, I'm heading back for the adult Pan Am Championships. Stay tuned for more from Mexico...
|Posted by Anna Rice on August 9, 2009 at 12:41 AM||comments (6)|
|Posted by Anna Rice on July 14, 2009 at 11:51 AM||comments (54)|
I was thrilled to have won the U.S. Open title this past weekend in Orange County, California. This Grand Prix event is the biggest tournament held in North America and has always been one of my favorite events, since the sun is constantly shining and there is a cool atmosphere amongst the players.
This tournament win is my biggest title so far, and I really didn't expect it after spending almost three months in Uganda. But actually, I did continue with good training while I was in Uganda, and in fact I feel much more mentally tough since my return, so in hindsight I think the trip was great for my badminton.
The tournament was a real challenge, since after my first two rounds I wasn't sure if I would even be able to continue playing because I had a muscle pull in my right leg. But I just kept taking it one match at a time and thankfully we only had to play one match per day, which gave my body time to recover. With lots of ice and some physio therapy, the muscle pull was manageable. In the finals, I defeated Mona Santoso, an indonesian player living in the U.S. I had never seen her play before though I had heard of her. Her physical conditioning was weak by the time of the finals, on which I was happy to capitalize. But, she does have the biggest smash I've ever encountered in women's badminton!
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Duong and Thu Phan and their family for hosting me at their home during the tournament. Their hospitality and cheering support (not to mention the awesome Vietnamese food they fed me ; ) definitely contributed to my victory. I'd also like the thank all my friends for helping to coach me throughout the week.
Phan Family, my hosts for the week
The U.S. Open Trophies are the biggest on the badminton circuit
Celebration dinner Saturday night at a Cuban restaurant with friends.
(Big Mohito headaches the next morning ; )
So now it's time to look ahead to the World Championships. Hopefully I can keep this winning streak going all the way to Hyderabad, India next month.
|Posted by Anna Rice on July 7, 2009 at 7:22 PM||comments (9976)|
Wow...what an exciting few months I've had. Uganda is a very special country and I am so honored to have been able to live there the past few months. I made some incredible friends and had some serious 'eye-opening' experiences that will be with me for my entire life.
I apologize that I haven't updated my blog as frequently as I had hoped, however, internet access to this site was limited from Uganda. I arrived back to Canada two weeks ago, just in time to fly to a training camp in the middle of Canada in a city called Winnipeg. The last time I was in Winnipeg was early December and the temperature was all the way down to minus 43 degrees celcius!! This time the sun was out and the weather was gorgous.
The training camp was for all Canadian national team athletes, which included about 15 players from across Canada. Us 'oldies' were there, such as myself, Bobby Milroy, William Milroy, Andrew Dabeka, Stephan (the man) Wojikovich and Milaine Cloutier, and our younger team members were there too, such as Michelle Li, Alex Bruce, Joycelyn Ko, Alex Pang, Derrick Ng, Toby Ng, Dave Snider and Richard Liang. We had a great week and it was fun to train together as a 'team', since that is something that hasn't been done since a pre-Olympic training camp back in 2004!
Our newly appointed National coaches (Ram Nayyar and Jeff White) were leading the camp, and we had the honor of having several guest coaches and sparring players in attendance to help us with the training. Former All England Champion and current Indian National Coach Gopichand from India was there and I really enjoyed working with him throughout the week. The crop of talent he's raised in India (including my friend and recent Super Series winner Saina Nehwal) is truly an impressive accomplishment for Gopi, who is proving he's equally as talented sitting behind the court as he was playing on it. Sparring partners from England, Denmark, Korea and Indonesia were also there to help with the training and we all had a great time.
I'm currently in Los Angeles competing in the U.S. Open, which is one of my favorite tournaments. The weather is gorgeous and it's the biggest badminton tournament on our continent, so it always has a special atmosphere. Former Olympic and World Champ Taufik Hidayat is the top seed on the men's side so it's sure to be a crowd-pleasing tournament.
The results and live scoring for the U.S. Open can be found on tournamentsoftware.com . I'd also like to invite you to read my latest blog from the CBC.ca website, in which I talk about a special experience I had during my last weeks in Uganda. Here's the link:
|Posted by Anna Rice on May 19, 2009 at 6:47 AM||comments (7)|
If you are reading this blog than you've likely played backyard badminton, even if you don’t want to admit it. But how many of you can say your ‘backyard’ was a communal field in the centre of a refugee camp?
One week ago I returned from Western Uganda, where I spent twelve days visiting two refugee camps and running badminton programs there. The project was called the Badminton Initiative in Uganda (BIU) and it was a joint mission between the Badminton Players Federation (BPF), Right To Play and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
I was joined on this trip by my fiancé Bobby Milroy and Pedro Yang, who are the respective President and Vice President of the BPF. The BIU was Bobby’s brainchild born back in September, when he decided he wanted to try and bring badminton to some refugee camps in Africa. When it became clear that I would carry out my Right To Play internship in Uganda, it made sense to arrange the iniative to take place here so that Right To Play could contribute.
Nakivale and Kyangwali Refugee Camps
The first week of the badminton sessions took place at the Nakivale Refugee Camp in South-West Uganda. Ben Afflect had recently shot a documentary film at Nakivale, bringing with him about 12 people as part of his entourage. When Bobby, Pedro and I arrived to Nakivale, our UNHCR representative innocently asked us: “So when is your entourage arriving?” We looked at each other and laughed. “Oh, their flights got delayed so unfortunately they can’t be here this week”, I jokingly replied.
The ‘camp grounds’-pardon the pun- at Nakivale are stunning, and it’s no surprise that it is considered by the UN to be one of the most beautiful locations of all their 700+ refugee settlements world-wide. In an area covering just over one hundred square kilometers, the peaceful setting of rolling hills and grazing cattle could not hide the harsh reality of war and poverty facing the 45,000+ refugees currently calling Nakivale ‘home’. The residents of this camp come from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Sudan.
The second refugee camp we visited was called Kyangwali, which is 90 minutes by dirt road from the small West-Ugandan town of Hoima. Our UNHCR correspondant for Kyangwali was a very nice Danish man named Gert, so I had fun speaking with him and brushing up on my Danish, which has already gotten a bit rusty after over a month away from Denmark. Gert generously hosted us for the week at his lovely home in Hoima town.
Kyangwali is home to roughly 20,000 refugees from the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With most of the Congolese and Rwandese refugees speaking French, I heard my mom’s voice resonating inside my head: “Someday you’ll thank me for making you stay in French Immersion”. And yes, I was very thankful. The young women in particular were very excited to be able to speak to me without a translator, asking question after question on topics ranging from what Canadians usually eat for breakfast, to how I get my boyfriend to do the cooking, and why I’m not a mother yet at the ‘old’ age of 28.
Culture is such a fascinating thing.
With no plumbing or electricity in either of these settlements, most refugees live in mud huts barely high enough to stand. They share the space- sometimes no more than nine square meters- with up to six family members. Each day, water must be brought from the nearest pumps, sometimes requiring a trip of up to 5 kilometers each way and usually done on foot by girls and women.
“What are the Olympics?”
Over the course of the two weeks we spent at the camps, roughly four hundred refugees ranging in age from ten to thirty years old took part in our badminton sessions. Only a few had ever heard of badminton before, but their lack of previous knowledge of our game didn’t limit them one bit. In fact, throughout the course of these two weeks, I witnessed some of the most impressive displays of natural athleticism I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t help but wonder what these kids could have accomplished in sports had their circumstance been different. There was one girl, about 17 years old, who Bob and Pedro were convinced could become a top 50 player within one year.
The badminton sessions took place in the middle of a flat field which Right To Play has permission to use for their sport and playa games. On a big patch of lush green grass the perfect lines of three badminton courts had been laid and despite the occasional interruption by a herd of cows, a pack of curious goats or a brief rain pour, the six-hour per day sessions went great.
We taught participants and community coaches the game of badminton, with topics ranging from how to hold the racket and hit the shuttle to how to keep score. Above all, the ideas of inclusion and fair play were focal points for the sessions.
When I coach youngsters or visit schools in Canada, kids are always drawn to the fact that I’ve been to the Olympics. “Did you win gold?” “Was it the coolest ever?” “Did you meet Kobe?” they often ask. At the Nakivale refugee camp, one kid had the courage to ask what we later figured most must have been thinking: “What are the Olympics?”
The World’s Real Heroes
Of the refugees we met, a few had recently arrived to the settlements but most had been living there over a year and some had even been there more than a decade. Inside the camps time is spent tending cattle or goats, keeping crops, preparing food, fetching water, going to school, going to Church or Mosque, and generally trying to create a sense of normalcy in conditions that most would find very far from ‘normal’.
A refugee, by definition, is someone who is forced to leave their home due to life-threatening conditions. Of the refugees we got to know, their courage and inner strength was beyond anything I’ve seen before. Some were orphans, most had witnessed brutal violence, all had their own unique story of resilience.
It was tough to see such poverty, but I felt guilty and ashamed for even thinking how hard it was for me to see. Hard to look at, Anna? Try living it.
After a few days under the 30+ degree sun, I was so hot at times I wanted to lock myself inside our UN Range rover, crank the AC and down as much bottled water as I could. But I resisted.
Maybe it was the Somali women- dressed in full Muslim robes and playing badminton for hours without a word of complaint about the heat. Or maybe it was the little boys- bellies swelled and skin covered in dirt- laughing and playing endlessly with the plastic badminton shuttles and our discarded water bottles.
Whatever it was, I found inspiration from these people, in a way that I’d never experienced before.
Yes, Lance Armstrong’s story is incredible. True, Kyle Shewfelt broke both his legs.
But somehow being around these refugees and seeing their determination to persevere despite having lost almost everything: their loved ones, their homes, their freedom, their country, has inspired me more than any motivational stories or speakers ever have and likely ever will.
When it was time to leave, some of the older kids gave us gifts. Imagine that. They have nothing, still they offer to us some of what little they have. One gift was even wrapped in pink paper and had a bow on top. It was a book, a love story that this Rwandan teenager wanted to give to Bob and I, since he found out that we were getting married soon. Later that night I opened the book and inside was a note: “Thank you for teaching us badminton and for listening to my story. You are my heroes”, the Rwandan teenager wrote.
I hope someday he and the others will know the truth: that it’s not us- but them who are the world’s real heroes.
Click HERE to watch a slideshow that I made using a compilation of pictures and videos from our trip. The pictures displayed were photographed by myself, Miriamm Lczoch and Gert Holtz.
Here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip, which I didn't include in the slideshow.
This was one of the cute boys (my favoriite : ) who would watch our sessions and take
the used pastic bottles to play with.
A group photo of Pedro, Bob and I with all the 'coaches-in-training' at Kyangwali.
The match they'd all been asking for: Bobby vs. Pedro.
The inquisitive girls from D.R.Congo
|Posted by Anna Rice on May 2, 2009 at 8:54 AM||comments (45)|
It?s been three weeks since I stepped off the plane in Kampala, Uganda. In some ways it feels like I?ve been here for months,in others every day feels like my first. Before arriving to Uganda I?d been to Africa once before, though only to compete in the 2003 Nigerian International. As most badminton players will agree, when you visit a place for a tournament your priority is always to make yourself as comfortable as possible, taking control of as many variables as you can in order to acclimatize yourself. This usually means bringing along food, staying in a comfortable place, testing out the courts, etc. etc.
For the first time since I can remember, I?m allowing the environmentto dictate, which is both extremely challenging and thrilling at thesame time.
A Long Way from Denmark
What is making my first weeks in Uganda all the more interesting is the fact that I am moving here straight from Denmark. It is no coincidence that the Danes invented Lego, and their orderly and impeccably structured society often feels like a life-sized version of the children?s game.
Enter Kampala. Wild, passionate, struggling, thriving, it?s full of contradictions that seem to fit together in a way that makes sense. To try to give you a taste of how different life in Uganda is compared to that in Denmark, let me compare the public transit systems.
In Denmark, the array of buses, trains, subways and orderly bicycle lanes make moving around town painstakingly easy, if not boring. Just don?t expect anything out of the box, like casual conversation with a stranger or the bus driver to drop you even ten feet before the designated and clearly marked bus stop. If you happen to be leaning off the curb even slightly when the bus arrives to the stop, the driver won?t hesitate to knock you with the side mirror. (If you think I?mjoking, I?ve witnessed this three times! Thankfully, none was my own head.)
In Kampala, there are no trains nor pubic buses, per se. Bike lanes? Well sure, every road doubles as a bikeway, and a motorway, and a walkway, and a parkway. What Kampala has which Denmark?s rules and regulations would never allow for, are ?boda bodas?, which are scooter taxis. These convenient modes of transport will whisk you off to your desired location anywhere inthe city, so long as you?re willing to risk your life as these young Evil Kanievals (sp?) weave through traffic dodging potholes and oncoming vehicles as if starring in a speedway video game.
Until I purchase my own helmet (and seemingly become the only geeky ?boda boda? passenger in East Africa to wear one), I?m opting for the second mode of public transport, which are taxi buses. Taxi buses here are mini vans that serve as the public buses would in Denmark or Canada. No need for bus stops, just wave your arm by the side of the road and your chariot awaits. They are 12-seater vans (though usually hold around 20 people at once) and they drive around the city in a particular route, picking up everyone (and everything-I sat beside alive chicken just yesterday-) along its path.
I dare you to try and board a bus holding a live chicken by the neck inDenmark. You can barely carry dead chicken (they?re sticklers for eating on the bus) let alone a live one.
As different as the Kampala transit system is to anything I?ve experienced before, I must admit it not only functions, it thrives. I?ve never had to wait more than a minute for a taxi bus to come along, and in two weeks I?ve had more friendly conversations with complete strangers (in some cases while holding a child or two of theirs on mylap) than I had in eight years in Denmark. Might I add that a trip across Kampala costs a maximum of 85 cents, while a similar ticket across Copenhagen would set you back about 12 bucks.
First (and hopefully last) Emergency Hospital Visit
I had hoped to be writing about the Kenyan International tournament which took place this past weekend. I had been training hard at the Kampala Club with some of Uganda?s top players to prepare for this event. Unfortunately, en route to the airport, my visiting fiancé Bobby Milroy passed out and had to be rushed to hospital. It seems he had an allergic reaction to the anti-malaria medication he was taking.
Although both Bobby and I are singles players, we had actually entered to play in the mixed doubles event in Kenya, our first ever international tournament as partners on the court. I knew Bobby was back to his normal self when he jokingly said to me the day after his ordeal: ?let?s look on the bright side, I think I saved our marriage by preventing us from stepping on the court together?.
Bobby is making a fast recovery and I?m very grateful to the Surgery Hospital in Kampala for taking such good care of him.
Two Exciting Weeks Ahead
Despite not being able to participate in the Kenyan International tournament, all is not lost for Bobby?s visit. Starting tomorrow, we will be joined by Pedro Yang, badminton?s first ever IOC Athletes Commission member. The three of us will spend the next two weeks running badminton programs at two major refugee camps here in Uganda. Bobby has spent the past eight months planning to making this happen, and we are looking forward to putting his ideas into action. We?ve collected over 100 rackets and will use these for the camps, after which we will leave the rackets so the badminton programs can be continued after our departure.
The first week we will travel to the Nakivale refugee camp, which is acouple of hours outside of the south-western Ugandan city of Mbarara. The following week we will travel to the Kyangwali refugee camp, which is a couple of hours drive from the city of Hoima in mid-western Uganda. The camps are home to more than 65,000 people, most of which have been displaced from their homelands due to war. The majority come from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan. We know our impact is limited, but we hope to give a few hundred kids a chance to try badminton and to be able to play recreationally in the future.
I?ll be sure to report back to fill you in on how things go.
Here are a few pictures of my stay so far?
The source of the Nile, Jinja town, South-Eastern Uganda
Badminton court at the Kampala Club where I've been training. In this photo: My training partner Ronny, a member of the Ugandan National team.
My neighborhood, near Ntienda Market
My friend Joyful and I at the weekly food market. Joyful also works at the
Right To Play office.
|Posted by Anna Rice on March 28, 2009 at 2:16 PM||comments (157)|
On July 22, 2000 I landed for the first time at the Copenhagen airport for what I thought would be an eight month stint training at the International Badminton Academy while studying an exchange year at the University of Copenhagen.
Almost 9 years later, I never could have imagined I would still be living in Denmark. When I came to Denmark I was ranked 157 on the BWF world rankings, and proud to be amongst the top 10 best in Canada. Never could I have predicted that 9 years later I would have had the privilege to attend two Olympic Games and would have competed in over 50 countries while playing the sport I adore.
Yes, it’s been an incredible journey and I cannot give enough thanks to the friends and coaches that have helped me develop, both on and off the badminton court, throughout my time in Denmark.
I must admit, I’ve been reluctant to publish online some very personal news. However, the time now feels right to officially announce that this summer I will be getting married to the love of my life, the one and only Bobby Milroy. Bobby is one of the top Canadian badminton players and is the President of the Badminton Players Federation, which is the official players body within the Badminton World Federation.
As if August 2008 wasn’t already packed with enough emotion and excitement to last a lifetime, Bobby chose this month to pop the question, on my Birthday no less. “Why are you so dressed up?” I quipped at him critically when he arrived for dinner that evening dressed to impress, with me wearing the team Canada tracksuit for yet another day in a row.
It was a very special evening and one that I will never forget. It took me several weeks to recover from the emotional intensity of that month in Beijing. I doubt that any four weeks for the rest of my life will be as intense as those of August 2008.
Bobby and I at dinner one hour before he proposed
A New Chapter Begins
For some reason- perhaps as a result of our engagement, many people seem to think that I am retiring from competitive badminton. For the record, this is not the case. Can’t a woman be a wife and an athlete? (Please tell me you didn't dignify that retorical question with an answer).
It is true, however, that Bobby and I are moving back to Canada and will no longer be training in Denmark at the International Badminton Academy. Our years studying under coach Michael Kjeldsen have come to an end, as educational as they've been. I am planning on continuing my competitive career, though for how much longer I am not certain. I will assess my motivation after the 2009/2010 season to decide what the future holds.
As the D.J.s (draw junkies) among you may have seen, a couple of weeks ago I came close to beating the reigning world champion, Zhu Lin, at the Wilson Swiss Open. Knowing that my game is still progressing and after coming so close to winning that match, I was reminded that my passion for this sport is still burning strong.
Life's Unexpected Twists
Two years ago, on a flight back from a team match, Tine Rasmussen and I were discussing our futures in pro badminton. Both of us were in agreement that we would stop after the Beijing Olympics to pursue other interests. Shortly after that conversation, Tine’s results went through the roof, and now the world number one would be insane to end her career before the 2012 Olympics. Such is the way life can twist and turn on a moment’s notice. I can only hope the same twist of fate might occur for me!
In a sport where wisdom reigns, Zhang Ning has proven that age ain't nothin' but a number. For me, the true defining component rests inside the heart, where inspiration and motivation reside. As my physio/psychologist has advised me to do- (yes, my physio also doubles as my shrink)- I will listen to my heart and know when the time is right to let the rackets rest.
Uganda Here I Come
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve always got quite a few things on the go at any one time. This Spring is no exception. As well as planning a wedding and a move and keeping up my World Champ’s training prep, I’m also going to Uganda for 10 weeks to work with my favorite humanitarian organization: Right To Play.
Remember how I said August 2008 was a busy month? Well, I forgot to mention that it was also in Beijing that I was selected to travel to Uganda for an internship with the Right To Play organization, for which I have been an Athlete Ambassador for the past four years.
I’m very excited for this adventure to begin, and I’m looking forward to giving back some of the knowledge and experience that I’ve had the opportunity to gain through my sporting and academic careers.
For the past few weeks I've been collecting badminton equipment to bring with me to Uganda, and I now have over 150 rackets, 5 outdoor nets, 50 brand new t-shirts and dozens of plastic shuttles. My sincerest thanks goes out to my equipment sponsor Wilson.com for donating a total of 40 rackets, 4 outdoor nets and 4 dozen plastic shuttles! I'd also like to thank my teammates in Aarhus as well as other players and Aarhus fans in Denmark who have given me rackets and plastic shuttles. Special thanks to former Danish Women's Doubles star Majken Vange for donating 50 brand new T-shirts as well as some of her old rackets. I'll be sure to tell the Ugandan kids that they may be holding the racket that won a World Championship medal in 1999!
It's been hilarious sorting through all the old rackets I've been given. Some of my favorites so far are: "the Kawasaki 81", "the Yonex Cab 20", "the Stein P Rapier 250", "the Victor AT 9900" and "the talbot torro Crusader 5.0".
I plan to use all this equipment for some badminton projects that I will initiate through Right To Play office in Uganda.
|Posted by Anna Rice on February 27, 2009 at 2:36 PM||comments (4)|
"That's why she's world Champion", is all I could say to myself after my tough match against China's Zhu Lin yesterday at the German Open. After a good start to the tournament with a win over Germany's fourth highest ranked woman Karin Schnaaze, I was excited to meet the (stil reigning) world champ.
Our last encounter occurred just a few days before Zhu Lin won the crown as the world's best, and we had a good match then before the raucous Malaysian crowd. In the match yesterday- as in K.L. two years ago, the first set was very close in score until 18, at which point some smart shot selections from Zhu led to some weak replies on my end.
In the second set, I struggled to find the backline, hitting some unforced errors, so I changed to a more attacking game. This worked, though only temporarily. After a few points went my way, Zhu aptly took a step forward on the court and started counter pressing my attempts to hit through her. Coming out of the break with a solid lead, her confidence grew and when she gets to this state, she reveals why she's the reigning world champion.
So what's her weakness? If you can stay with her, challenge her physically in the rallies while at the same time adapting to her cunning tactical skills, her mental stability can be shaken. However, shaken and broken are two completely different things.
Can and will she defend her crown this summer in India, you may be asking? My answer: Yes she can. But likely no she won't. Her first hurdle will be proving she's worthy of selection onto the Chinese roster, as there are only three spots amidst the hungry likes of Wang Yihan, Wang Lin and Lu Lan, not to mention the new Chinese queen bee Xie Xingfeng. A win at the All England would certainly help her case.
I'll get another crack at this tough nut in a fortnight, when Zhu Lin and I are set to play in the opening round of the Wilson Swiss Open. Hopefully the lessons of yesterday will bring me a step closer to victory.
|Posted by Anna Rice on February 15, 2009 at 10:13 AM||comments (6)|
This is an important blog entry for me, as it discusses an issue close to my heart. Namely, the need to fight for what remains true within the arena of Olympic and professional sport.
As some of you may have read by now, this past December the International Olympic Committee announced they would end the memorandum of understanding that had existed for over 15 years between the IOC and the humanitarian sport for development organization Right To Play. When this news broke, many media outlets wrote how disappointed they were with the IOC, some going as far as to call the decision the worst in recent Olympic history. Many Canadians- including sportspeople from grassroots to Olympic levels- are asking how and why this happened under VANOC's watch? (VANOC is the Organizing Committee for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics). As a Vancouverite, it saddens me to think that this decision by the IOC was made as a result of sponsorship disputes relating to the 2010 Games.
When money comes above all else, the Olympic ideals are put in jeopardy.
The one-year countdown to the 2010 Olympic Games has just begun, and with this milestone the IOC dignitaries are gathered in Vancouver to celebrate the occasion. Meanwhile, more than a hundred Canadian Olympians have joined together to unify their voice in support of Right To Play.
Please read our official letter entitled “Statement on RTP by Olympians”.
As you know from the main page of this site, I am an athlete ambassador for Right To Play, which means I endorse and support this organization in various ways. It is also with this organization that I will be traveling to Uganda in a couple of months to do an internship, which I was awarded last August in Beijing. Five Olympians were selected and this incredible opportunity is just one example of how Right To Play contributes to the Olympic movement and promotes the best of what sport can be.
I am very disappointed that the IOC has ended their partnership with Right To Play and that Right To Play will not be able to set up their usual information booth inside the Athlete's Village for the 2010 Games. I know how valuable this exposure is, as I myself first became aware of the organization after coming across their tent inside the Athlete's Village at the 2004 Athens Games.
This debacle is such a shame not only for Right To Play but also for future Olympians, because they won't have the same unique exposure to this great organization that I was able to have. Many athletes would like to get involved and use their status as profiled sportspeople to help disadvantaged children and youth gain access to sport and play, but they simply don't know where to start.
Having a presence inside the athlete’s village was a way for Olympians to learn about how they can use their social and symbolic capital to inspire meaningful social change. As an Olympian, I have experienced the enormously positive impact of sport in my life. Right To Play works to bring the positive aspects of sport to children who live amidst war and poverty and who may not otherwise have the opportunity to simply play.
Below is a link to an article written in the National Post newspaper yesterday by sports columnist Bruce Arthur, in response to the joint statement released yesterday by Canadian Olympians. I spoke with Bruce from Copenhagen to share my thoughts on this issue.
I would like to thank Canadian Olympic Gold medalist and fellow Right To Play Athlete Ambassador Adam Kreek for initating this joint statement.
If you would like to read more on this topic, see these articles published in the Toronto Star and the Vancouver Province last week:
To read about Right To Play and for more on this topic visit www.righttoplay.com .
Please click HERE and sign your name in support of Right To Play!