Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2011 Singapore Super Series (Part II of Asia Tour)

(Additional pictures will be on my Facebook FanPage!)

A few Canadians went to the 2011 Singapore Super Series after the Maldives International, though it was a much smaller team this time, including Adrian Liu (MD/XD), Derrick Ng (MD), Joycelyn Ko (WS/WD/XD), Alex Bruce (WD), Michelle Li (WS/WD), Grace Gao (WD/XD), and myself (XD). Grace and I left the Maldives Monday afternoon, but had to wait for a 7 hour layover in Sri Lanka. We then had to take a red-eye flight to arrive into Singapore at 6:00am in the morning. It wasn't the best choice in itinerary, but I guess it was the cheapest available. We took a taxi to the hotel and had to pay a $40 SGD early check-in fee, but I guess it was worth it for the one hour nap. We went to practice with Derrick and Alex at 9:00am at the practice hall. The practice hall was pretty hot, almost like the venue at the Maldives International. Fortunately, water was provided. Alex also had some of the Li Ning shuttles as the tournament was sponsored by Li Ning. After, we went to watch Michelle's WS Qualifier and Adrian & Derrick's MD Qualifier. We had to take a cab to the stadium, but it wasn't too bad as it was fairly close.

Practice Hall @ Chinese Swimming Club, Singapore

At the stadium (Singapore Indoor Stadium), we went to find Adrian and Joycelyn as they had an early XD Qualifier against Singapore. Unfortunately, we found out they lost by walkover because their phone alarms didn't go off because the phone ran out of battery! I really hope this will be the last of the Canadian walkovers, because even one is already too much o__O Regardless, we were there to cheer Michelle on in her WS against Elizabeth Caan [ENG]. The two of them played in the Commonwealth Games Individual Event QF, with Elizabeth Caan winning in the 3rd set. This time though was totally different, as Michelle looked like she was in control the whole match through and won in straight sets! Adrian & Derrick had a much tougher round though, playing a Chinese pair in the Qualifiers. Unfortunately I don't have footage of their Doubles as Adrian asked me to tape it for him on his camcorder. Perhaps they will upload the footage to their joint site shortly (see http://www.goingforglory.com). 

Singapore Indoor Stadium

There was a short break between the qualification rounds, so most of us headed to the nearby mall to get some food. Food was very cheap and they had a very good selection of Asian food. The mall was quite big and included a karaoke bar, a skating rink, a movie theater, a video arcade, and a couple more restaurants. We were there quite often as it was nearby and easy access for food and drinks. The rest of them headed back to the hotels, though we were at different hotels (I'll explain later), but I stuck around and hung out at the  arcade. Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition for 50 cents was definitely a plus. Regardless, I went back in time for Michelle's second qualifying match and she was up against Arundhati Pantawane [IND]. The first game didn't go so well for Michelle, but she picked things up in the second and took that set. The last set was pretty close the whole way through, but due to a couple lucky shots by her opponent, she lost 21-19 in the third. It was a good try for Michelle but she's showing a lot of promise and I'm sure she'll break away and start dominating in the WS real soon! Also, excuse me for cheering and clapping on the video like a maniac haha...

Food court at nearby mall from the stadium

Food court

Food court

Afterwards, Michelle and Alex went back to the tournament hotel, but Adrian, Joyce, Grace and I stayed at a cheaper hotel *ahem* in the red light district while, Derrick went the cheapest and found a hostel. It's tough sometimes for us because we really can't afford to stay in $300+ hotels. Alex and Michelle only stayed until Friday, so that wasn't too bad for them I guess. However, in our area, there was really cheap food to eat and the hotel room only costed $46 CAD, so we pretty much booked our whole week for a single night in the tournament hotel. Sure we had to pay for taxis, but we took the odd metro and the taxi only costed about $5-8 SGD one-way, divided by the number of people going. Usually it was by 4, so it was very cheap transportation regardless.

Lin Dan poster at the Practice Hall

The next day would be Joyce/Grace and Alex/Michelle in the WD, plus Grace and I in the XD. Alex & Michelle started the day up against Japan, though they did a little better than the team they faced last week, it was still not quite enough to do too much damage against them. Same with my Mixed, where I had major difficulties with the wind in the stadium. Singapore is arguably the hardest place to play in terms of the wind, and I've never seen anything like it. Unfortunately since we arrived so late, we couldn't practice in the main venue, so that's a lesson learned. Following our Mixed against Scotland/England, Grace and Joyce were up against the top Russian team. Though their first set was a good attempt, they had a lot more trouble in the second. Check out the videos at the end of this post!

En route to Marina Bay

Downtown Singapore

Since we were all out of the tournament pretty early, we decided to do different things in Singapore. Considering Alex and Michelle would leave Friday, it left maybe a day to go out. We decided to go to Marina Bay early Thurday morning, but it turned out to be a little disappointing because we didn't have too much time there and decided not to go up to the top of the hotels, as it costed $20 SGD. Since we'd only be there for like 20 minutes, we opted not to and headed back to the hotel for a bit of food before going to practice. We went to practice in the afternoon, then a few of us went to the stadium for a brief period of time to pick up some racquets that got re-strung. After, we headed back to the hotel to meet with the group and decided to take the metro to Orchard Road to find the Hard Rock Cafe, as Alex Bruce wanted to get her shot glass from Singapore! It was pretty cool as there was a lot of shopping there, but we didn't get too much time to walk around. It was quite high end as well, so we basically just went and found the restaurant. Overall, the food was pretty good, though it was quite pricey. After, we just headed back as it was getting pretty late.

Near Marina Bay

Marina Bay Sands Mall

This is where we were supposed to go, but oh well...

The next day though, we planned on going to the Bugis Street Market. It was pretty awesome as there was a lot of cheaper stuff and the food was cheap but good as well. We spent a little time there, then went back to the hotel as Alex and Michelle had to leave. After they left, Grace and I decided to head back for a little more shopping, then we met back up at the stadium with Adrian and Joycelyn for some all-you-can-eat sushi at the mall. Though it was about $23 CAD for the dinner, it was fairly decent as they had unlimited sashimi, drinks, and desserts included. We did order too much food but it was a great meal overall. After dinner, we went back to the stadium to watch the last of the matches before heading back to our sketchy hotel.

Singapore is so clean!

Sashimi at the Japanese restaurant

That's pretty much the end of my trip in Singapore, as Grace and I headed to Indonesia on Saturday. Unfortunately the airline we went to (Garuda) was only allowing one carry on bag, so both Grace and I had to check in our badminton bags. They then charged us $11 SGD per extra kilo. I think we both were 10 kilos over (30 kilos/person isn't very much) so we had to pay a combined $165 SGD!! Airlines are just ripping you off left, right, and center nowadays... but since we had a really good itinerary, I guess it wasn't too bad. It was just unfortunate because that was the only time in our entire trip we had to pay for extra baggage... ridiculous o__O

Full Draws: [TournamentSoftware.com]

Matches (via YouTube):
WS Qualifier R1: Michelle Li [CAN] vs. Elizabeth Cann [ENG]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

WS Qualifier R2: Arundhati Pantawane [IND] vs. Michelle Li [CAN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

Game 3 (HD 720)

WD R32: Shizuka Matsuo/Mami Naito [JPN] vs. Alex Bruce/Michelle Li [CAN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

XD R32: Robert Blair/Gabrielle White [SCO/ENG] vs. Toby Ng/Grace Gao [CAN]
Game 1

Game 2

WD R32: Valeria Sorokina/Nina Vislova [RUS] vs. Joycelyn Ko/Grace Gao [CAN]
Game 1

Game 2

That's all folks! No miscellaneous footage this time unfortunately, but hopefully you can enjoy some of the HD matches! They took forever to upload o___O Thanks for visiting my blog!

The journey continues...

To be continued... Indonesia Super Series Premier (Part III of Asia Tour).

Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011 Maldives International Challenge (Part I of Asia Tour)

(Additional Photos are on my Facebook Fan Page!)

City view from hotel in Male, Maldives

As I have a lot of footage from my 3 tournament tour in Asia, I've decided to split it into 3 parts (Maldives, Singapore, then Indonesia). The 2011 Thailand Grand Prix Gold was held the same time as the 2011 Maldives International Challenge, but all the Canadians participated in Maldives instead, as Thailand had a significant jump in the level of the players. There was a fairly large team traveling to the Maldives, including Stephan Wojcikiewicz, Charmaine Reid, Nicole Grether, Adrian Liu, Derrick Ng, Joycelyn Ko, Alex Bruce, Michelle Li, Phyllis Chan, Grace Gao, and myself. Grace and I had a pretty rough itinerary getting there, as we missed a few flights and had to go on later flights. We flew from Calgary -> Vancouver -> Hong Kong, but missed our connecting flight to Singapore. We had to wait 2 hours more for the next one, but that flight was further delayed another 2 hours. We were scheduled to arrive in Singapore at about 10pm, but got in at about 2:30am instead o__O We had a hotel booked for the rest of that night and flew the next day to Sri Lanka. Again, for some reason, our flight was delayed in Singapore because of 'missing people' and we missed our connecting flight to Male, Maldives when we got to Sri Lanka. Instead of catching the 6:30pm flight, we had to wait for the 1:00am flight. Fortunately, it wasn't too long of a flight and we got in around 2:30am again. Luckily, we were met by the tournament people, so they brought us to the tournament hotel =) Quite interestingly, the airport in Male is on its own island, so we had to take a ferry into the main city where the hotel was. Never experienced a 3am boat ride before... In case you're still not sure where the Maldives is, it's a small country made up of many islands below Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. Usually people are looking for island getaways or honeymoons, as it is very beautiful down there.

3am boat ride from airport to main island

The tournament hotel, The Beehive Nalahiya, was pretty good though I had to share a triple room with Grace and Phyllis. Unfortunately that meant a double bed + cot, so I obviously got the cot. That was the worst cot I've slept in EVER, and thinking back, I don't know how I was able to spend a week in that thing. There wasn't too much cushioning and if you slept on it the wrong way, you get a piece of metal bar in your back o__O The hotel also had a common area, including a kitchenette and laundry machine, but none of those were working. The hotel food was pretty good though, and I spent a lot of time there as there weren't too many restaurants around and most of us didn't trust their food. The breakfast buffet was alright, but costed about $11 USD, which we only found out after our first morning, because usually tournament hotels include breakfast. Their lunch and dinner menu were pretty affordable however, with meals only costing about $5-9 USD.

The venue was near the side of the island, hence all the boats.

The venue wasn't too bad. There was a very slight draft in the venue, and they played the tournament on only 3 courts. The floor was fine, but the venue itself was not air conditioned. Though it's manageable for spectating, it was excruciatingly hot for the competitors. I would rate this as the hottest, most humid venue I've played a tournament in. The tournament had a few re-draws, as two players pulled out of a 66 player MS draw. Since there were 64 people, the referee decided to do a redraw. Mixed and Women's Doubles also faced redraws, due to the fact that two Japanese teams that entered in the Mixed Doubles draw were actually Women's Doubles teams =P ... so those draws obviously needed to be changed.

Opening ceremonies at the venue before play on Day 1. Dancers were performing a traditional dance.

The tournament seemed to go pretty well for most of the Canadians, though I'd have to say that a few of us faced problems against Sri Lankan teams. They are not seeded generally and have few tournaments, but they play pretty well and if you don't take them seriously, you could definitely be looking at an upset. Stephan and Phyllis lost to Sri Lankans in their respective Singles event, while Derrick/Adrian (MD) and me/Grace (XD) had close games with the MD winning a close 2 set match, and mine in a closer 3 set match. However, for the WD, the Japanese teams posed the greatest difficulty for the Canadians, and all 3 teams lost to the Japanese. They were quite strong and placed first and second in the event. If you're wondering about Michelle's walkover loss in Maldives, it was caused by a series of unfortunate events. Michelle and Alex came to the tournament late and couldn't attend the manager's meeting (there is no manager for Canada so you would have to go on our own). The schedule that was distributed at the hotel said that the semifinals would begin at 4pm, but it was verbally changed at the manager's meeting to 3pm due to TV requirements (yes, the tournament was actually filmed for the semis and finals). Basically, she thought the semis began at 4pm as it was written in the schedule, so by the time she got there, she was too late and got defaulted. She was also unlucky because of the match order, where she might have made it if they played MS first after the XD. I think Eric Pang (NED) in the MS semifinal was in the same boat, as he pretty much showed up late because he didn't know of the changes and barely made his match. Fortunately we called Alex Bruce to come earlier so Michelle and Alex were okay for the WD. Jurgen Koch and Peter Zauner (AUT) also showed up 5 minutes before their match as well. And of course I personally feel terrible because I attended the meeting, and Derrick and I even had dinner at the hotel with Alex and Michelle the night before but it totally slipped my mind and the topic never came up... unfortunately, the tournament scheduling or draws were not posted on the internet either until after the matches were played for that day. That would have meant that you would only know about the changes if you went to the manager's meeting, checked on the board at the tournament on the night of the QFs (I'm PRETTY sure it wasn't updated until the day of the QFs), or heard from someone else. I do feel somewhat responsible as I attended the meeting and told the other players on that day, but since Alex and Michelle arrived the day after, I forgot to pass the message to everyone, so I'm definitely very sorry for that. Though there's not much we could have done or could do now, at least we will all learn from this lesson. It's a shame cuz Michelle would have very likely made it into the finals too! I'm so sorry Michelle! >___< (You'll get the next one!)

To a brighter day... =)

On the brighter side (pun intended), a lot of us got to go out and sight see on different islands. Michelle and Alex went and stayed a night over somewhere, while Adrian and Joycelyn took a day trip to a different one. Unfortunately for Grace and I, we had to stick around for the finals that day, but we did find out that the tournament would organize a picnic to an island, so that was something to look forward to the next day. The final was pretty shaky, as we had a REALLY bad start (e.g. down 11-2). We were able to get some points back and roughly even things out, but even if you're matching points with your opponents, you won't win if they are up 10 points. However, it continued into the 2nd set (which I was rally hoping for) and we took a small lead at the 2nd set interval. From there we took off and won the next 9 points... giving us game point before we made like 4 mistakes. We were able to finish off the set and forced the 3rd. The 3rd set was a little similar to the 2nd, though we had a greater lead at the interval. We just kept the lead and it slowly expanded until we finally took the match at the end. I felt pretty tired at the end and I'm grateful we were able to pull through before I crashed o__O Though we were the only 3 set match of the evening, I think we were the shortest match regardless =P It was quite a relief to win, and we were able to take a title home for Canada and our 2nd XD title this year!

The goods we get for winning!

The next day, we had our 'picnic'. However, I guess picnic meant lunch buffet provided by the people at the tournament hotel, but just outside on the small island we were in... SWEET! We left fairly early in the morning and we all took a boat over to the island, about a 30 minute ride. It was a very small island as you could walk around it in about 15 minutes, but it was kind of cozy and there was a fair amount of stuff to do. We were greeted with a coconut each, and though it was a little warm, it was cool to drink from a coconut. The sand was white and the water was a very light blue. We spent most of the day there and headed back in the evening. I won't bore you with the details, just check the 15 minute HD (720) video that I took =)

Boat ride to the island for the picnic
Tent where we had our picnic
Another island nearby our island
The corner of our island!

That would pretty much mark the end of our trip. We would head off to Singapore the next day though we would arrive at 6:00am Tuesday. Thanks for checking out my blog and be sure to tune in next time for Singapore!

Full Draws: [TournamentSoftware.com]
(NOTE: These draws were unavailable during the tournament and the BWF published the draws afterwards because they use TournamentSoftware for World Rankings)

Matches (via YouTube):
XD QF: Toby Ng/Grace Gao [CAN] vs. Murat Sen/Neslihan Yigit [TUR]
Game 1
Game 2

WD QF: Miki Komori/Nao Miyoshi [JPN] vs. Joycelyn Ko/Grace Gao [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2

XD SF: Arun Vishnu/Aparna Balan [IND] vs. Adrian Liu/Joycelyn Ko [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2

XD SF: (incomplete) Toby Ng/Grace Gao [CAN] vs. Lasitha Menaka Karunathilaka/Renu Chandrika Hettiarachchige [SRI]
Game 3

WD SF: (incomplete) Miki Komori/Nao Miyoshi [JPN] vs. Alex Bruce/Michelle Li [CAN]
Game 1

MD SF: Jurgen Koch/Peter Zauner [AUT] vs. Adrian Liu/Derrick Ng [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3

XD F: Toby Ng/Grace Gao [CAN] vs. Arun Vishnu/Aparna Balan [IND]
Game 1
Game 2

Game 3

Miscellaneous Videos (via YouTube):
- Boat Ride to Island Picnic (HD 720)

- Walking Around the Island (HD 720)

To be continued... 2011 Singapore Super Series (Part II of Asia Tour)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

How to Qualify for the 2012 London Olympics in Badminton

Though I won't explain the process in too much detail, I will be outlining the general process of what it will take to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. The reason why I'm only saying the 2012 Olympics because qualification processes have been very different in the past. I will be briefly outlining World Rankings in Badminton as well, because qualifying for the Olympics has always been based on this. Lastly, I will emphasize Doubles events (Men's Doubles, Women's Doubles, and Mixed Doubles) more, as that is what I'm most familiar with.

To start off, let's explain World Ranking in Badminton. World Ranking begins once you've played two tournaments. With Doubles events, you must also play with the same partner. If you play two tournaments with two people, you won't get a ranking until you've played two tournaments with the same partner. Technically, if you play two tournaments with two partners, it's possible to have two different World Rankings. World Ranking is based on points you attain in a tournament. You will gain points as long as you show up and play, even though you may lose in the first round. However, since larger tournaments have limited spots in the Main Draw, there are also qualification rounds you may have to get through should your ranking not be high enough. Tournament entries list the teams in order of their ranking (with an exception in Doubles events), so they higher the World Ranking, the more likely you can start in the Main Draw.

Generally, there are 28 spots in the main draw, leaving 4 spots for qualifiers. This makes a draw of 32. Within the qualifying draw, there are 16 teams, qualifying for 4 sports. Should you lose in the very first round of qualifications, it would be considered a 128 draw, and losing in the 2
nd round of qualifications would be considered a 64 draw. The higher the prize money for the tournament, the more points you get for the tournament with the exception to World Championships and Olympics, which give you the most points but no prize money! Tournaments have a particular name now for the amount of prize money they offer (in addition to World Ranking points). From lowest to highest, we would have Future Series tournaments, International Series tournaments, International Challenge tournaments, Grand Prix tournaments, Grand Prix Gold tournaments, Super Series tournaments, and the newly formed Super Series Premier tournaments in 2011. Lastly, a BWF event tournament would count for the highest level tournament, such as World Championships, Olympic Games, and the team events of Thomas Cup (Men's team tournament), Uber Cup (Women's team tournament), and Sudirman Cup (Mixed team tournament). World Championships are held every year with the Olympic Games alternating every 4th year, while Thomas/Uber Cups rotate with Sudirman cup every other year. For a list of points, refer to the BWF Ranking Overview.

Although it looks like it's better to play more tournaments, only your best 10 tournament results count. You can play more tournaments to replace weaker scores and generally, it is in your best interest to play at least 10 tournaments. For each player/team, their top 10 tournament results are added together and the final result is used for World Ranking purposes. World Ranking updates every Thursday (North American time) so new tournament results will be added in every week. World Ranking is also cyclical, as it only counts the top 10 tournaments over a one year period. For example, if I play the Canadian International Challenge and win in April 2010, I would get 4000 points toward my ranking (International Challenge winner = 4000 World Ranking points). However, if the tournament is canceled the next year, unless there is another tournament to replace it, I would lose those 4000 points from my ranking. If the tournament is held again, I would need to win the tournament again to keep my points. Anything less than a win would result my ranking to go down. From this example, it is easy to see how World Ranking can fluctuate tremendously. However, if the tournament is held a week earlier, I would gain points for both tournaments on the nearest ranking date. But nonetheless, it is only temporary as I would lose my points once I overlap the dates from the tournament of the previous year.

A couple of miscellaneous concepts I will highlight are notional rankings for tournament entries, and team event points. Notional rankings is for seeding purposes and helping good players who form new teams have a better starting point. Although only used in tournament entry lists, if a new team were to form, they would technically have no World Ranking together as it may be their first or second tournament. However, to compensate for that, they take will take half of the points from each player and add them together to give a rough placement of where they can start in a draw. This only applies for Doubles events. The easiest way to give an example is that a new team may have less World Ranking points than another team only because they have played less tournaments. Because of that, they will divide ranking points by the number of tournaments (minimum 5) to find a team's notional ranking. Hope that isn't too complicated... o__O Team points are much easier to explain. They are only gained from team events and you can only have one team event point score per year. In the team event, as long as you play someone, even if you lose to them, you would get an average score of your top 10 tournaments. For example, if you had 30 000 points from 10 tournaments, your average will be 3000 for that team tournament. However, it can only count once, and the higher team average will be counted for that year. If your opponents have a higher average than you and you beat them, you can actually gain their average! But it can also happen the other way, if you lose to a weaker team. They will get your average and you will get your own average in the end. 

Now that I've explained most of World Ranking, to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, I would need to theoretically be within the top 16, as only the top 16 teams get to compete in Badminton at the Olympics for Doubles events. The qualification period has already begun, as it started on May 2, 2011. It will end on April 28, 2012 (with the final ranking taken on May 3, 2012) and the top teams will be announced. Though it seems pretty ominous, there are a couple of extra rules which will help some of the struggling athletes. For Doubles, since only 16 teams are allowed, a country may only have two teams participating if they are both in the top 8. For example, if China holds #1, #4, and #10, only the teams #1 and #4 would go, with team #10 being omitted. If China holds #1 and #9, then only one team gets to go, as only one team is in the top 8. However, they could choose to send #9 in place of #1, though that is highly unlikely. As a few countries will take up more than a few spots, there will be a few teams omitted, thus giving more of a chance for other countries to qualify. Lastly, there is a continental position. Since Europe and Asia generally secure positions already, there are continental spots left for Africa, Pan America (North & South), and Oceania. However, the team has to be ranked within the top 50, otherwise they will have to give up the spot. This offers a much better chance to some teams, as the draw is so small already for the Doubles. Singles is slightly different, as there are 38 spots allotted. There are some different rules, but usually it is easier to legitimately qualify for Singles, provided you are the top player in your country and are ranked high enough. There are also a couple of wild-card spots for the Host country, but I am not too familiar with those details.

Hopefully I've done a decent job explaining the Olympic Badminton qualification process. It certainly isn't easy and very often, it costs athletes a lot of money to qualify. As more tournaments mean a better chance of qualifying, sometimes Canadian athletes will go out an play 30+ tournaments during the Olympic year! That's a LOT of traveling, as each tournament is generally a week long. So 30 International tournaments means 30 weeks of traveling, and 30 weeks of expenses. Though I'm really hoping I won't have to resort to playing so many tournaments, I do anticipate probably playing at least 20 tournaments or so this season. Of course it's better to do well and play less tournaments, but with everyone trying to qualify for the Olympics, it becomes pretty tough for most people, especially most of us Canadian athletes who are funding themselves... nonetheless, we will do our best! =)

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment/question and I'll try to get back to you as soon as possible! For further information about Badminton at the 2012 Olympics, please visit the BWF Website.

Thanks for reading! =)