ANNA RICE BADMINTON

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Up then Down...

Posted by Anna Rice on February 5, 2009 at 3:01 PM Comments comments (0)

The past week has been an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I flew back to Canada for the 2009 Canadian National Championships in Laval, Quebec.  The tournament went well and I was happy to bring the title home. However, when I phoned home to share my news of victory with my family, I was informed that my Auntie's husband had lost his battle with cancer.  I was very sad to hear the news and my sincerest sympathies are with my Aunt and her family during this difficult time. 


Goodbye 2008, Bring On 2009

Posted by Anna Rice on January 20, 2009 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (1)

Happy New Year!


Wow, Christmas has already come and gone and now 2009 is in full swing.   I’m back in Denmark after almost a month in Canada, two weeks of which I spent at home in Vancouver.  The West Coast of British Columbia got the biggest snow dump since 1965, and although it looked beautiful it wreaked total havoc over the city’s transportation infrastructure.  Over 1,000 flights were canceled out of the Vancouver airport, with many people spending days there waiting to get to their Christmas destination. I was actually very lucky to get home without too much delay, only 15 hours in the Edmonton airport plus three more days to receive my bags.  Here's a pic just outside my mom's house during one of the snow storms...



When I finally got home to Vancouver, I had lots of fun visiting with friends and family and enjoying Christmas activities.  But I also found myself reflecting on the past year, which I consider to have been the most eventful of my life so far.  2008 was filled with ups and downs and definitely some ‘all arounds’, as I traveled to over a dozen countries to compete.  The highlight of the year was definitely my Olympic Experience in Beijing, where I was so thankful to have my family and some very close friends present to support me and witness the culmination of many years of hard work.  

The lowlight of the year was the passing of my Grandmother just days before the Olympics began. I was very close with my Gram and despite her age, I took the loss quite hard.  What I always appreciated about my Grandma was that she never fussed whether I won or lost on the badminton court. If I won, a simple "good good" would suffice. If I lost, she'd come out with a witty insult for my oponent and that would be the end of it.  In a carreer as competitve as professional sports, it's so important to have people in your life that you know will be there for you through thick and thin, through the wins and the losses. 

                                                                        ***

As the draw junkies among you may have noticed, I wasn't in the Malaysia and Korea Super Series programs.  Unfortunately, I got quite sick with a bad cold during the holidays and therefore chose to sit this tour out, as I wasn’t prepared for these tournaments. It often seems to be the case that as soon as I get home and am able to truly relax...I get sick.  The body and mind are strange in this way, but after such an emotionally and physically taxing year, I had to listen to my body and give myself some rest.

Ok, so I thought I might be able to get away without mentioning my match against Kim Dong Moon back in Calgary just before Christmas. But I’ve been getting emails asking me to tell how the match went, so I will let you have your fun. To put it very simply: I was crushed by the Great Wall of...Korea. I will blame my performance on the altitude, but he was simply awesome.  I am known for my fighting spirit, and there are only a few people in the entire world against which I have wanted to give up and put myself out of misery.  KDM is one of such people.  It could have been his incredible shot placement, his ridiculous anticipation, or his nonchalant stroll around the court- which only a multi Olympic and World medalist can truly master, but I was completely and utterly dusted.  Despite the pain, I had so much fun that I came back for more the following day.  

I didn’t feel quite as bad about the loss after he told me that he also used to win against all the singles guys on the Korean National team! They must have thanked their lucky stars he stuck with doubles and mixed ; )

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Happy Hannukah!

Posted by Anna Rice on December 26, 2008 at 2:28 PM Comments comments (0)

From snowy Vancouver, I'd like to wish the global badminton community a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, and a healthy holiday break no matter what occassion you are celebrating during this festive season.


    ******Happy New Year and all the best for 2009!!! ******

My Encounter with the True Canadian Winter

Posted by Anna Rice on December 16, 2008 at 3:22 PM Comments comments (2)
I've been back in Canada now for four days and I couldn't have picked a colder week to arrive. ?The temperature in Winnipeg last weekend got as low as -43 degrees celsius!!! ?I have never in my life experienced such cold conditions. ?But despite the cold, I had a great time in Winnipeg, which is the world's coldest capital city. ?

I arrived late on Friday after a long day of travel from Copenhagen. ?The journey was made even more difficult because of the enormous amount of luggage that I am bringing home with me. ?I'm pretty sure I broke a world record for carry-on weight, as I had my racket bag and two other big bags full of stuff. I could barely walk down the isle of the plane! ?What can I say, I've got a lot of Christmas presents to bring with me.

The training camp went very well in Winnipeg, and I had so much fun coaching and playing with some very talented girls and women throughout the weekend at the Winnipeg Winter . ?There is a lot of talent in Manitoba, but as in other parts of Canada, it's difficult to keep the talented players involved in our sport as they approach university age. ?Thanks to all the girls who trained hard and played so well in the exhibition matches, and a special thanks to Lindsay Laidlaw and the rest of the organizing committee.?

Now I'm in Calgary where I'm giving a camp tomorrow. ?The weather here is much more civilized, a mere -30 degrees!~ I've been visiting a few of my good friends that live here and have also been getting some good training in with one of my former coaches, Dave Humble. ?There are plenty of great coaches here these days, as the King and Queen of mixed doubles- Mr. Kim Dong Moon and wife Ra, are living and coaching here at the Calgary Winter Club. ?I met their new baby girl yesterday and she's absolutely ?gorgeous, just like her big brother. So now the legendary badminton couple has their very own mixed doubles team, who should be ready to go for gold in time for the 2020 Games ; )

Before the camp begins tomorrow I'll be getting on court to fit my own training in, as I have to stay sharp over the holidays so I'm ready for the Malaysian and Korean Super Series next month. ?I'm really looking forward to training tomorrow because Kim Dong Moon has challenged me to a singles match. ?I agreed to play only on the condition that he couldn't use his full smash. ?He laughed and said that would be no problem, as it wasn't his best shot anyway. ?All joking aside, it will be a huge honor for me to step onto the court against one of the best to ever play our game, but that doesn't mean I don't want to kick his a$$! ; )?
I'll be sure to let you know how it goes...

Our Loss to the 'Dream Team'

Posted by Anna Rice on December 13, 2008 at 12:49 PM Comments comments (0)
I?m writing this from 25,000 feet somewhere over the Atlantic, on a flight bound for Canada.  It?s been a tiresome few days, as I have been busy training, playing team matches, getting physio treatment and packing up our apartment.  My more than usual visits to my physio are due to something that has become a major pain in the...heel.

If you?ve ever struggled with planters fasciutus, you know what I?m talking about.  It?s a very frustrating injury, as it appears out of nowhere and stays for an unknown period, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years. I?m hoping it?s a 2008 thing that will become a distant memory come January 1, 2009.

As the oldest member on my Aarhus Elite Badminton Team- (ahem, we have a very young team), I can?t help but feel responsible for our less-than-stellar season thus far.  We've been unlucky with injuries, but that's a challenge that all teams must face.  We played our last team match of 2008 last night and it did not go well.  We had a difficult task ahead of us, as we were facing badminton?s equivalent of the ?Dream Team?: Team Slagelse Skaelskor.  When I say Dream Team, I don?t mean the Atlanta Olympics version, I mean more like the Sydney version, because this team is notorious for underperforming despite their star-studded cast.

Team S.S., as it?s known in the Liga, has two former world champs (Tony Gunawan and Nathan Robertson), one World?s silver medalist (Donna Kellog), and other world class players such as Matias Bo, Joachim Persson, Anastasia Ruskih and Helene Kirkegaard. Oh yeah, and one other guy you might have heard of: Peter Gade.  Although they?ve failed to win the Championship in years past, I think their unstoppable this season, barring injury.

The only weak point for Team S.S. is their women?s singles, and I was happy to capitalize on that last night with a victory over a young talented Danish player named Camilla Overgaard.  Despite the supportive cheers from her teammate (and boyfriend) Joachim Persson, I won the match in straight sets. But it was the first men?s singles match that the crowd was eagerly awaiting.  Our up-and-coming star Jan O. Jorgensen was to play against Peter Gade, and it was Jan who claimed victory over Gade in Indonesia last June. (Jan?s win marked the first time in over 10 years that Gade had lost to a fellow Dane in international competition- quite an impressive record!) But last night Jan was not on his game, particularly struggling with his control to the back line, where he hit about a dozen shuttles long.  Gade was definitely ?fit for fight?, as they say in Denmark, no doubt eager to dispel the bitter taste of their last encounter.  

The only good news of the night came when it was announced that Team Lillerod- another club hovering on the lowest rungs of the Liga ladder- earned three points against Team VEB by winning 4-2.  This means that it will be Team Gentofte joining us in the bottom two. We have a much better line-up against Gentofte so it will increase our chances of success in the next few months, when we?ll be fighting for our Liga survival.

After getting home from Aarhus at 1am last night (-another speedy drive back to Copenhagen with my friend and teammate Lena Frier), I had to finish packing, clean the apartment and get some sleep before my early morning flight.  I?m very happy to be heading home for the holidays, but it?s not exactly a direct journey straight to Vancouver.  Right now I?m on a plane to Toronto, where I?ll connect onwards to Winnipeg.  I?ll be in Winnipeg for the weekend doing an all girls training and motivational seminar.  I?m really looking forward to the weekend, except for the fact that the temperature in Winnipeg is currently -25 degrees celcius?and that?s the high!  I'm told it will get down to -45!! After Winnipeg I?ll be in Calgary, where the temperature is much more reasonable, a mere -20 high!  In Calgary I?m joining former Canadian team member and Athens Olympian Jody Patrick for another all girls training and fun-filled badminton evening.  I?m excited for this leg of my journey as I?ll be staying with my good friend Lindsay Mullaly, who is my former doubles partner (from when I was forteen) and also my former rival ; )

After Calgary it?s up to Edmonton for the Alberta Open tournament and a quick visit with the common-in-laws.  Then at last back, to Vancouver from there.  When I finally reafch home, I?ll have a few days of last minute shopping before the big Birthday (J.C.?s that is), and I?m looking very much forward to some good food, good friends, and hopefully some good presents! ; )  Though in all honesty, being home for the holidays is gift enough, as anyone who lives abroad can attest.


It Stings...

Posted by Anna Rice on November 26, 2008 at 7:39 AM Comments comments (2)
It's been just a few hours after I played my singles match here in Hong Kong, I lost to Pia Zebadia from Indonesia 24-22 in the third set. ?The loss stings right now but the first and 3rd sets were very good and I can take a lot from them, so it wasn't all in vain.?

I didn't start the match well and went down by 4 or 5 points in the first set. ?I haven't played Pia before and her stroke is quite deceptive, so it took me about half a set to follow her rythm. After the break at 11 I got into my style of play and was able to make her work a lot. ?I fought back after being down by 6 at one point, so that was positive.

Then in the second set I switched onto the faster side and wasn't able to score. ?She was pumping me into the corners and was able to get to the net higher than me. ?I lost this set with 7 and I knew I would need to start well in the 3rd set to rattle her confidence. ?

I was able to get a strong start to the 3rd set and we were back and forth up to the break. When I switched onto the faster side I was determined to play better tactics as it would be my only hope for victory. I was able to make her work enough to make the set very physical. After some long and fast paced rallies I was leading 19-17. ?I played a bit too safe and let her tie the score at 20-20 and after some great rallies I lost 24-22 when she somehow managed to return my net-kill. ?

Now it's time to enjoy some shopping and forget about badminton...Well, for one day at least ; ) ?Now it's back to Denmark to get ready for three important team matches before the Christmas break. ?I'm going to post my match in the videos section so you can take a look and share in my pain ; ) ?Actually, you won't get to see the final few points because our match was over an hour and the battery on my camera died at 21-21. ?

Time to go to Times Square and drain my sorrows in delicious food..mmmm...

A New Batch of Chinese Players is Born - Nov 20, 2008

Posted by Anna Rice on November 20, 2008 at 3:47 AM Comments comments (1)

 Greetings from Shanghai, where I?m playing in the 2008 China Open Super Series.  It?s great to be back in China again, though a much different environment than that of the Olympics a few months back.  No special passport lines or VIP treatment this time around I?m afraid.  Speaking of Olympics, I?ve uploaded some more pics so check them out in the photo section.

 

Shanghai is the business capital of China- whereas Beijing is the political centre, and the wealth of the city- especially in the Pudong area where the tournament is being held, is very apparent. 

 

The Plaza Royale hotel is where all the players are staying and it is extremely nice, (especially for me as I was upgraded to a suite because there was a problem with the air conditioning in my first room : ))  The Chinese media are out in full force to cover their badminton stars and the crowd at the Pudong stadium is also excited to see their Olympic heroes back in action. 

 

This tournament feels like the official debut for the new batch of Chinese National team players, with many new Chinese names present in all events.  In the women?s singles, it feels like the end of an era to see Zhang Ning sitting behind the court rather than standing on it.  She seems very relaxed and happy to be starting this new phase.  I even saw her drinking wine at the welcome dinner!

 

Although it is nice to see some new faces on the top circuit, it?s not so nice to fall victim to one of them.  Yesterday I met that annoying fate when I lost in straight sets to Li Han, a young Chinese girl who plays very well.  I played strong in patches, but wasn?t able to extend the rallies as I needed to during some crucial parts of the match, which gave the youngster too much confidence.  However, I was very happy that I felt no pain in my knee during the match, as I injured it at the French Super Series a few weeks back.

 

Yes, there are some good players coming up from the ever-strong Chinese structure, as was seen in my match and others, including the youngster who pushed the world number 1 Tine Rasmussen to three sets.  Having said that, there is no one who seems likely to replace Zhang Ning or Lin Dan anytime soon.

 

The bad news is I lost my singles. The good news is I won my doubles with newly crowned World Junior Champion Saina Nehwal.  I was joking with Saina and my good friend Lena Frier Christiansen yesterday telling them that ?from now on, I only play doubles with Champions: you must be a world champion or a European Champion, or some major champion to play with me? ; ) .  I have played doubles with Lena Frier for several years in the Danish Club league, and she is the reigning European Champion in women?s doubles.

 

Saina and I will take on the 4th seeds from Korea later today, so I have to go and prepare.

PS?I was all wrong on my predictions.  Taufik won in straight sets over Boonsak, Saina lost to Zhu Lin and Pi Hongyan lost to Wang Chen.  That?s why I don?t bet! ; P

 

PPS?My website is still inaccessible from China mainland. Arg!!! Thanks to Mark for helping me upload this from Ireland. 

Today I'm Grateful to be a Badminton Player

Posted by Anna Rice on November 9, 2008 at 5:06 PM Comments comments (1)

When I saw the picture of CBC journalist Mellissa Fung beside the news headline yesterday that read ?Canadian Journalist Held Captive in Afghanistan?, I couldn?t believe my eyes.? Relief ensued when I opened the article and read that Mellissa had been safely released.

I met Mellissa in Beijing last summer at the Olympics, after she contacted me to ask if she could wrote a story about the fact that I could not access my website from within China (which, on a side note, my friends in China confirm is still the case). Mellissa was in Beijing as part of the Canadian Broadcast Corporation?s (CBC) team of reporters, we met when she came to the Olympic village for an interview.?

According to cbc.ca, Mellissa was kidnapped on October 12 after she was leaving a refugee camp in a dangerous Taliban-controlled region of Wardak province west of Kabul.? This was Mellissa?s second trip to Afghanistan and she had been there almost a month with she was abducted after a van pulled up beside her and she was forced inside, all this just blocks from a police station.

Held in a small underground cell in which she could barely stand, Mellissa was kept blindfolded, and in the final week her hands and feet were chained.

Her safe recovery is being attributed in part to the media blackout that was agreed upon several weeks ago following her capture.? (A media ?blackout? means that all participating news networks agree not to write anything about a story in question).? News blackouts occur when the safety of those involved in the story could be jeopardized if the information is released to the public via a news story.? In this case, I assume that the blackout had to do with the potential for Mellissa?s captors to request a ransom.

This story has really affected me, not only because I have met Mellissa and admire her approach and commitment to journalism, but because it reminds me of the risk that so many reporters make as they pursue stories in war-torn regions.? They risk their lives to bring you and I the stories and images from the safety of our living rooms. ?

As professional badminton players, we have the luxury of pursuing our career goals and dreams without putting our safety in immediate danger.?

Today, I?m especially grateful for that. ?

Shanghai Here I Come

Posted by Anna Rice on November 5, 2008 at 12:39 PM Comments comments (2)
It's been exactly 3 months since I landed in Beijing and began what will be remembered as three of the most emotional weeks of my life.  With the taste of delicious eggplant & garlic sauce still on my lips- a dish I learned to make at my post Olympics cooking class in Yangzhuo, I'm very excited to be heading back to China in 10 days. I'm especially happy to be heading to Shanghai, a city I've never been to.

Yes, the Olympic year is over and the new season is in full swing.  Some players seem to have taken longer to recover from the excitement and emotion of the Olympics, as was evident in the relatively low top-10 turn out in Denmark and France last month.  Many players- myself included, hung up the rackets for a couple of weeks to enjoy a much needed physical and mental repose, the latter being even more necessary in my opinion. Some players have even hung up their rackets for good, including two-time Olympic Champ and (in my opinion) the most decorated badminton player of all time: Zhang Ning.

The draw for the Shanghai Super Series is out and already there are some mouth watering first round match ups. In the women's singles, the skillful Wang Chen will meet the determined Pi Hongyan in their opening match.  Further down the draw, a battle of World Champions will not disappoint. On one side: the newly crowned World Junior Champion and my doubles partner (hey, I'm proud of her, what can I say ; ) Saina Nehwal. On the other side: 2007 World Champion and homeland favorite Zhu Lin.  In these two match ups I'm going with Hongyan and Saina.

To give your opinion on these and other China Open matches, click on the link below:

http://www.annarice.org/annasforum.htm?forumID=2814910&page=1


To see the draws for the China Open, click on the link below:

Draws LI NING CHINA OPEN SUPER SERIES 08 ( 18 - 23 November 08).xls

My own draw in Shanghai has me meeting a qualifier in my first match. Drawing a qualifier is typically considered a good draw, but not so when the tournament in question is the China Open.  With a depth of field in China second to none, meeting a qualifier in this ?badminton crazed? land is notoriously dangerous.  But I'd like to come up against Saina in the second round, so hopefully my experience can overcome what I assume will be a young Chinese opponent.  In the women's doubles, Saina and I will team up to meet a team from Macau, which is quite a good draw.

The men's singles event will also be exciting, with the elusive Boonsak set to meet Taufik in the first round, a match up that is always a crowd pleaser.  If they reach the quarters as anticipated, Peter Gade and Lee Chong Wei could be a defining match. Can the 'born-again' Gade pull off the first defeat against the Malaysian Olympic silver medalist since their 2006 Thomas Cup encounter? Can Lin Dan continue his quest for total dominance? We'll find out in a fortnight...

So, with the Olympics now just a memory, what are the new motivating ?carrots' dangling in front of the eyes of the world's top badminton players? That's easy: World Championship medals, to be determined next August in India 2009.  The road to that podium runs through Shanghai and Hong Kong, and I'm looking forward to hitting that trail.

My Match with Xie, Not to Be

Posted by Anna Rice on October 30, 2008 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (5)
Bonjour tout le monde!   I'm writing from Paris, one of my favorite European cities.  The 2nd annual French Super Series is in full swing, but unfortunately, they'll be no swinging from me tonight.

I've had to default my last-16 match against Beijing Olympic Silver medalist Xie Xingfeng, which kills me because I've never played against her and I was really looking forward to it.  Xie is the only current top player that I haven't come up against so far in my career.  (I also regret that I never got to play Mia Audina before she quit...my curse of the elusive Olympic silver medalists perhaps? Yeah, because come to think of it, I never got to play Camilla Martin in a tournament either...you'll remember that she was the Sydney silver medalist).  Anyway, I had to default tonight because yesterday I slipped and twisted my knee, it's nothing too serious but I had to err on the side of caution. Here's what happened...

Yesterday morning I played my first round match against my friend Linda Zechiri from Bulgaria. Linda and I used to train together at the IBA when she lived in Denmark, though she's been based in Bulgaria for the past two seasons.  I played Linda last year at the Bulgarian Open and won in three sets, so I knew from the start it could be a very tough match.  At the Denmark Open, Linda lost 21-19 in the third set to Ai Goto of Japan, who went on to beat Xu Huaiwen and Eriko Hirose before losing in the quarter finals to Zhou Mi.  The week before the Denmark Open, the Bulgarian number two proved that Petya Nedelcheva wasn't the only Bulgarian who could bring home great international results, as she reached the final of the Dutch Open before bowing out to Dutch star Yao Ji.  So I knew Linda was playing very well.  This match up would be a battle of playing styles: would I be able to get Linda into my long-rally, running game? Or would she succeed with her offensive, quarter-court style of play?

Well, after 67 minutes (the longest match of the tournament so far) I came out on top, but not before some great rallies and some scary moments.  Midway through the first set I slipped on a deep lunge and my knee twisted back and forth and I fell to the ground. As I sat clenching my knee in my hands and waiting those long seconds before the tournament doctor arrived to the court, I thought to myself: "Ok, that was bad...time to start my next career".  But after a few minutes of tweaking and testing, the doctor re-assured me that my knee was alright and I could continue playing if I wished.  I hadn't heard any cracking or clicking sound when I fell, and this was a good sign according to the doctor.

I continued playing, though wasn't sure if I was going to finish the match. Although a bit hesitant moving forward, I was surprisingly relaxed and just playing rally by rally. I could tell Linda on the other side of the net was getting quite tense and agitated, which is something I've also experienced before when my opponent went down with what appears in the moment to be a bad injury. It's hard to get the focus back when you feel like you 'should' be winning easily now that you think that your opponent isn't at full strength.

I ended up losing the second set 21-18, then pulled out the decider 21-16.  After the match I went straight to the physio room to get another assessment from the doctor and physio.  Both agreed that I should wait until the following day to decide whether I should play the second round match, since often with knees the swelling doesn't show until several hours later.

Well, this morning when I woke up I was pretty clear on my decision: unfortunately my curse of the elusive Olympic Silver medalists would continue.  My date with Xie would have to wait, as my knee was much more swollen than the day before.  I'm not only disappointed that I won't get to play Xie, but also because I won't get to play again at the Stade Pierre de Coubertin here in Paris, where the crowd is really energized and enthusiastic. I totally agree with Peter Gade, who said earlier today that the atmosphere on the first day here at the French Open in Paris was better than the atmosphere during the finals last week in Denmark. 

Unfortunately for me, tonight I'll have to settle on being one of these enthusiastic spectators  : (

PS...Souvenez-vous que je parle francais, alors n'esitez pas de me poser un question dans le forum en francais!

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