Why am I playing Nationals this year? Why not? Some people run 5K races, then 10K races, then marathons, then triathlons, but you know what? I REALLY hate running. If I were to wreck my joints, I'd rather do it jumping and lunging in badminton. I have not found a better alternative to the tactical complexity of the sport in which you compete by yourself, or with a partner. Having more people and being a part of a team, I feel like I would slack off. I mean, in hockey, you can still function reasonably well when the other team is on a power play (i.e. 5 vs. 4 players).
So if anyone thinks this is a comeback, you are correct. I'm coming back to play for fun. Whether I lose first round or win the tournament, it won't change anything. There will be no run for Tokyo 2020, even if I get full funding because I would also need a partner who is funded, and also it seems kind of pointless to go back and sacrifice another year and a half. Things can really change over 18 months.
But that doesn't mean I'm not going to do my best at the tournament. I am extremely grateful to compete with my partners and I think I will enjoy myself for once. This will be the first nationals where there really is no pressure to perform. I get to be the underdog once again, but on the other end, where instead of being that young rising star, I am the retired veteran. Where I lose out in physicality, I get back in experience. Since I'm not playing Singles (thank goodness), I have minimized my physical limitation.
Ultimately, I do hope to see more people competing at this event in the future, but I think it needs to be done differently. I think our best international athletes should be invited back to compete (i.e. paid) and there should be less pressure for them to perform at this event. I understand the argument for wanting people to have to perform at a particular tournament (i.e. "You need to perform at Worlds/Olympics"), but you need to get to those events to begin with, meaning that a consistent performance is required over a longer period of time. Peaking at the National Championships seems like an incredible waste, since there isn't anything close enough to it to warrant tapering in the first week of February. All Englands is a month away and to peak now would seem like it would sabotage the mesocycle if we are talking about traditional periodization.
Based on that same argument, let's say that our top athletes are only at 70-80% of their best, as they are trying to peak for All England Championships in March. If we have some younger upcoming athletes peaking at Nationals, so arguably close to 100%, that threshold between a challenger at 100% and our top players at 70-80% has a chance of being close at times, depending on the level of the challengers and our top players. Most of the time, it doesn't really make a difference, but what happens IF it does? In fact, it has happened before.
If you did not know this, our top players have increasing pressure to perform, and the quarterfinal is typically the most important match for them because if they happen to lose there, they potential have lost all funding for the next season, due to a very strict requirement that only athletes who make a semi-final result or higher can get funding from Sport Canada. I have argued against this requirement for probably my entire competitive career, and I will continue to argue it until something is changed.
The usual argument is that "Well, the best players should perform at Nationals." and the funny thing is, I agree! They SHOULD. But what if they don't? Should that discount them for an entire year of funding? Are we all defined by that ONE tournament once a year at Nationals? Apparently we are. The solution in principle is simple, but to execute may take a bit of work. It would start by asking: If a team didn't win Nationals, what kind of other results do they have to show to prove that they are the best in Canada? That is a difficult question to answer, but at least we would be moving in the right direction. Winning a bunch of International Challenges would be good. Winning 3-4 seems like something reasonable, or having equivalent results. This used to be the case a long time ago, which included winning an International Challenge, making a final or better at a Grand Prix (BWF 100 event e.g. Canada Open), and equivalent results over the higher level tournaments.
Creating these types of benchmarks would definitely give players a reasonable pathway to start improving their results over time. Win Nationals, then get 4 significant international results, then improve on those results over time (i.e. 5-6 the next year, 7-8 the year after, and 9-10 in the final year). If done right, that almost creates an Olympic cycle (4 year period) if done in the most efficient way possible. Of course, that is just the first step of getting to the Olympic Games, and it would likely take another 4 years after to medal at it. Think 8 years (12 is probably better if you can get that first 4 year start within junior age), and although I currently can't prove anything, someday I think I will map it out.
So why am I not coming back to compete? I made my Olympic run in 4 years, but I wasn't able to improve on my results too much after that. Making it to the Olympics again would just mean I haven't improved much after 8 years. If anything, it's not worth chasing again if I cannot do better, and I hope someone will make it that will decide to medal at 2024.
My time is long gone, but... I guess I'll always have Nationals!
Here's a throwback to a promo video I made for the 2012 Nationals, also hosted by the Glencoe Club. Apologies for the Street Fighter references, but it was to give credit for the use of the song.