|Posted by Anna Rice on October 28, 2009 at 6:21 PM|
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.