The End Of Part II
It’s pretty interesting how one thing can lead to another. In hindsight, perhaps that was the theme of my 2016 Olympic run. Without real planning, I’m left with a lot of lessons learned through hindsight.
But to be honest, it was an interesting experience nonetheless, and I must say I definitely grew from it as a person. We learn so much from failing and although I have failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in the most simplistic terms, I must ask myself if this really is the end, or just a climax in my life story? Again, I seem to be at crossroads where I’m not sure if I should stop competing and find something else to do, or if I just need to make some adjustments in my training. “Can I get any better, or is this the best that I can be?” is a terrible question to have to ask yourself, but perhaps it isn’t a question that measures aptitude… but rather effort. Of course I can be better, but what are the key obstacles?
Obstacles, roadblocks, or hurdles (my go-to word) are bound to happen. Everyone faces them and I can say that I have had my fair share of hurdles this Olympic cycle. Some highlights:
- Losing in the quarterfinal of the 2014 Canadian Nationals. I think this was the key event that changed many things. For more backstory, it’s somewhere on my old badminton blog (towbsss.blogspot.ca).
- 2014 Commonwealth Games: The overall results were not bad, but there were a lot of new problems that came from this event. Again, you can search my old blog for details.
- 2014 World Championships: One month after the Commonwealth Games, things were not getting any better. I wanted a one month training block for Alex, but she opted to play a tournament with her Women’s Doubles partner instead. I said that it would not be possible to train properly, but the National Team coach at the tournament left it to her to choose, because she thought she could (in Guatemala… with no gym… not safe to run on the streets). In the end, the tournament didn’t go well and I think she got sick. Oh well.
- 2014 Pan Am Championships: This was one of the largest hurdles I had to overcome. I had decided to commit for the year to try to qualify for the 2015 Pan American Games because they would be held in Toronto. As the test event, this tournament was huge. I had an amazing epiphany at the beginning of this tournament because I realized that Alex didn’t get the same formal training I had in Mixed Doubles. She just pretty much PLAYED mixed doubles for a number of years… kind of like how I just play Singles sometimes (but I’m not going to lie… I have little confidence in my singles). The tournament started off terribly, with us losing twice in the Team Event. We even contemplated putting me back in with Grace Gao, my former Olympic partner. However, I realized that would be foolish considering I would still have to play the Individual Event with Alex the day after. I went around and talked to every coach that was at the tournament that worked with Alex in the past to look for a solution. I chose to act instead of just passively sit back and “try my best”, because that’s not trying your best. When there’s something you can do, but you didn’t do it, then you haven’t tried your best. I will always believe that. Miraculously, the effort paid off and we ended up winning the individual title.
- Losing Funding for the Olympic Year: It was difficult to play more tournaments with no money, and I also had to make a minimum ranking. I still ended up playing about 12-13 tournaments that year anyway, but it wasn’t high enough to get me to Top 30, which I needed as a requirement for Sport Canada AAP. I saw this prerequisite as a problem years ago, and I had spoken to many people about it (High Performance Committee members, Players Association President - ironically, Alex), but nothing was done. To simplify the criteria, it states that an athlete needs to show progression over the years, and that the chosen metric to measure it is World Ranking. For Singles, it would make sense to have this, and also for Doubles, IFF you have the same partner. What happens though when you change partners? Nothing, apparently. So after playing 5 years with Grace, the requirement states that my 6th year with Alex needs to be even higher. To this day, the rule is still there…
- 2015 Sudirman Cup: Alex probably received 20+ service faults throughout the tournament, in different matches, different events, by different service judges. Back to the basics. I’m not blaming anyone, but I need to ask the question: who is responsible for correcting Alex’s serve? The coach? The partner? Herself? It’s not an easy answer, is it?
- 2015 Canada Open: A difference in opinion… I felt that Alex gets nervous in certain match situations, perhaps when she has friends or family out to watch her play. The National Team Coach said otherwise. Alex felt otherwise. I predicted that Pan Am Games will be no different. They both thought otherwise. I backed off.
- 2015 Pan Am Games: See above (2015 Canada Open). I don’t even know how we won that 2nd game in the final.
- Fun Fact: I told Alex that I would not do Olympic qualifications if I did not get Sport Canada AAP for that year. I did not get Sport Canada AAP that year. I guess that makes me a liar.
- 2015 Pan Am Tour: Rio Grand Prix, USA International, LA Grand Prix, and Mexico City Grand Prix were all losses in 3 sets. Good effort, but no results. These were golden opportunities, but nothing seized.
- 2016 Canadian Nationals: I was not pleased with our performance. We trained for a week in Winnipeg together with Alex’s coach, Andrew Dabeka. I would have expected a near best performance. We decided not to play tournaments in Malaysia and India (which probably was still the best decision) to train together instead. If these conditions are our best and we still can’t perform well, where do we really stand as a team?
- 2016 Austria/German Internationals: I got sick, pretty bad. It was better by the time we were in Germany, but still not 100%.
- 2016 India Super Series: We didn’t play, but our rival team from the USA did and they ended up playing a team from the qualifications from India and beat them 21-8, 21-1, which gave them huge points because this is supposed to be 1 of the 12 strongest tournaments on the tour (Super Series circuit).
- 2016 Final Tour: We played 5 International Challenges in hopes to get to 1 final to negate the result that the Americans got in India. It didn’t happen. The draws for 2016 Tahiti International were also not favorable to us, because if we had been drawn on the USA’s side in the semifinals, defeating them there would have been good enough. No luck in the draws.
- Miscellaneous 1: The Americans have played 8 more tournaments than we have, essentially buying their way to the Olympics. I was hoping that we would be good enough to be at a level that could surpass that, but we were unable to overcome the fact that more tournaments played might mean better draws eventually. Over a 2 year period, I would estimate that the USA team has played 50 tournaments, while we have played about 35. I cannot compete with money, so my only chance is to hope that my ability would be good enough. Alas, we can conclude that it wasn’t.
- Miscellaneous 2: Alex and I did not train together. I would think we only had about 6 weeks of training together over 3 years, with only 2 weeks with the same coach. Perhaps I had to play a large leadership role which included many elements of coaching, but it is very taxing to be both a partner and somewhat of a coach. Again, I was not good enough.
- Miscellaneous 3: Some of the umpiring was
horrendous, including in our final 2 tournaments having to play against Russia.
Alex got a ‘foot fault’ in Peru, and I got the same in Tahiti. Topped off with
a net kill fault at a critical moment in the 2nd set in Tahiti and
that’s a good way to prevent us from defeating a very good team. Not all
umpiring is bad, but everyone makes mistakes (www.youtube.com/
watch). However, not everyone is strong enough to admit when they were wrong. ? v = ajs - SK…
Of course, I have to save the best for last. Here are the
good things that have happened, in addition to solving some of the hurdles
mentioned above. Despite the fact that we did not qualify, there were still
many great things that have come out of the journey:
- The outcome of the 2014 Nationals was difficult, but I got through it in a way that made me stronger. It was a difficult situation for many people, but I’m glad I grew from it. To this day, I will never be apologetic for constantly wanting to improve myself and grow as a person. Maybe I didn’t do things the right way back then, but I’ll be better prepared to handle these situations in the future.
- Between the 2014 Nationals and the Commonwealth Games, I saw a strength coach and had a full program. It was amazing and I hope to do something like that again. I had so much confidence in my fitness. It’s an amazing feeling to have when you feel complete as a player. My mental toughness has been always strong individually, but it still needs improvement when playing as a team.
- Again to recap the outcome of the 2014 Pan Am Championships, I was faced with a decision at that time: to do something, or to do nothing. I’m glad I chose the former and the effort paid off. Additionally, it went well the week after as we won the 2014 USA International as well.
- 2015 European Tour: We went to Czech International, Bulgaria International, Dutch Open, and Denmark Super Series. Czech International went rather poorly, and I realized that we were not making the most of our training time together to get more sparring. So the rest of the time in practice, I opted to do more game-based exercises. The result paid off very well and we had some good results, including my first ever Super Series win in the Round of 32 at Denmark Open.
- 2016 India League: I’m just so thankful for the experience and getting to be among some of the World’s greatest players. It was truly an eye-opening experience and I will be forever grateful to those who helped make it happen!
- 2016 Nationals: Despite how I felt our performance was, we still pulled through to defend our title.
- 2016 Brazil International: This was our only tournament title of Olympic qualifications.
- Miscellaneous 1: This goes to all my family, fans, friends, and supporters who have been with me through thick and thin. I get every one of your comments, Likes, and encouraging messages. Your support really got me through tough times and I appreciate all those who took their own time to help me on this crazy roller coaster ride. Your donations have also made it possible for this journey to last all the way until the very end, and I will save a very special announcement for you all at the end of this blog!
- Miscellaneous 2: Communication is huge, and I have really developed communication skills with Alex that I never had with Grace. My only hope is that I can keep improving them to create better teamwork with my future partners and with any other teams in real life, whether for sport, work, or even family life.
- Miscellaneous 3: Due to the fact I had no funding for 2 years, I’ve had to find ways to earn money in other ways. I must thank Adrian Chan and his family for introducing me to his USANA family. For those who don’t know, USANA is a network marketing company that specializes in pharmaceutical grade supplements, which are also safe for athletes to take. Overall, I’m grateful for the convenience and benefits of their supplements and food products, and making a bit of extra money on the side. That’s all I’ll write so it won’t feel too much like an advertisement, but struggling with finances for many times in this Olympic run has taught me some good financial skills in addition to developing a bit more business sense and respect for business. A younger me used to dislike business because it felt like one person getting rich off a lot of other people, but over the years, I grew to change that perspective because sometimes, people get rich off others because they are providing a genuine service or product that other people want. Additionally, there are also times where some people choose not to do anything and would rather pay for convenience. Lastly, some people work really hard, and some don’t. I guess it’s all perspective and I’m glad mine has shifted. You live and learn.
- Miscellaneous 4: A big thank to Yonex and ClearOne Badminton for being with me every step of the way. Yonex equipment has been exceptionally reliable in helping me perform my best. I’m not just saying it because of the sponsorship, but because I truly believe it. As for ClearOne, it has been a long time place for me to train both on and off court, and I am very thankful for the supportive community at ClearOne.
Looking back at these last 3 years, it has been an interesting journey with many ups and downs. Much like a roller coaster, there are parts that are enjoyable and also parts that are far beyond my comfort zone. But in the end, I’m still on the ride until the end regardless. In my honest opinion (IMHO), I think Alex went a really long way from her transition from Women’s Doubles. I think she did a really good job and gave her best effort. As for myself, I can’t say that I was at my best, because it felt a lot different this time. I don’t think my skills were as sharp as they were last time, but I’ve developed better communication skills and overall physical fitness. I spent a lot of our practice time working on Alex’s part of the game instead of my own. You may think that is an arrogant statement, but if I had to do it again, I would make the same decision. Who’s responsible for making these changes? We don’t need to answer that, but I ended up doing a very large part of the work. I still think I could have been better; I just didn’t have enough time or resources. I must thank Alex for her time and efforts, and I apologize that I could not have been at my very best.
For a highlight reel of our career together, please check out this video compilation I made (via download through DropBox due to music issues; for private use only!)
So this is the end of the 2016 Olympic run for me. In other words “Rio Not Real”. But is that the end of my competitive career? No, I actually hope to play in Scotland at the 2017 World Championships. One last year to try some new things, like going back to Men’s Doubles, which I started with back in 2007. That would give me a solid 10 year competitive career which would look better on paper than 9, but will it end there? Even I don’t know yet. I’m still able to play and it will depend on the level of the upcoming juniors. If they can defeat me, then they should carry the torch for Canada and I will fully support that. Until then, I guess it’s fair game for everyone!
In the Dark Knight Rises, [*Spoiler Alert*] where Bane breaks Batman’s back (wow… alliteration) and he has to rehab himself, I feel like I’m in that kind of climax. The hero suffers a major setback, and has to find a way to make a comeback. It would make sense that movies only show successful comebacks, but real life is always a different story. Since this is real life, we’ll have to see where this goes. Perhaps I just need to think of a cool hashtag to use… like:
#CoastToGoldCoast (Commonwealth Games 2018)
#JapanCanHappen #TokyGoGoGo (Tokyo 2020) Well… maybe not until I think of a better hashtag.
Regardless, it’s time for my special announcement! Even though I may or may not play in the future, I’ll forever be a part of the badminton community. I’ve been fortunate to be accepted into UBC’s Graduate Certificate in High Performance Coaching and Technical Leadership which I will be starting in June! I hope it can turn into a Master’s Degree, but we’ll see how things turn out. I don’t like uncertainties, but that’s just life. I really hope to find ways to improve badminton for those in the system and our future superstars, because I don’t want someone struggling like I did this time around. Some people still believe that we have to struggle to qualify, but I want to think bigger. I hope the next generation of athletes can struggle less so they can accomplish more. If anything, I hope they can beat me sooner than later so I can put my competitive aspirations to rest! In other words, I hope the next generation of Canadian players can exceed my accomplishments, and I want to help them.
In the meantime, it’s time to take a bit of time off from traveling and get back into training. Next up: Canada and US Open!