Friday, July 15, 2011

The Canadian Badminton Funding System: Explained

Disclaimer: This article is written by myself, Toby Ng, and will address the situation based on my perspective. Though I may try my best to be neutral, there may be bias in certain parts, which I have hopefully indicated at various parts of the article. I am writing this because I want to tell my story and I encourage you to look for other people's perspectives to complete the story so you can make a proper judgement for yourself. However, I don't know who else will bother writing about it other than myself, but I feel I owe it to my fans and followers about what has happened to my financial situation this year...

The Canadian funding system is rather unique in Canada. The major funding for badminton actually comes from Sport Canada. Sport Canada is a government agency responsible for identifying and funding potential athletes that can place in the Top 16 at the World Championships and Olympics. That's the general idea. It's a rather broad protocol, as a lot of sports are supported through this system, so specifics are left for the National Sport Organizations (NSOs) to figure out. The Sport Canada system is referred to as the Athlete Assistance Program, or AAP, with funding given out in 'cards', or 'carding', as I will refer to it.

Different sports will have different amounts of funding, as in a different number of cards. How the system works is that Sport Canada will fund individuals based on the NSOs criteria. So a Doubles team for Badminton would require 2 cards for both players to be funded, for example. Here is a list of Canadian athletes who are getting funding. I don't believe Badminton is included because of our lengthy appeal process, but the list will be up shortly.

As you can see, there are quite a few cards for certain sports. Generally, the more of a medal/podium potential of a sport, the more cards the sport gets. How many cards do you think badminton has? If you guessed 5 or 6, you would be correct, but let's break down the details a little further first. There are 3 types of cards. SR (senior) cards, C1 (first-year senior cards), and D (developmental) cards. D-cards are for U-23 athletes and funding comes at $900 CAD/month for a year, so that means $10 800 CAD/year. C1 cards are given to athletes who are eligible for senior cards, but it's their first year. Unforutnately, that means they also get $900 CAD/month ($10 800 CAD/year), but only for the first year. After that, if they get senior carded again, they get the SR card status of $1500 CAD/month, or $18 000 CAD/year. Now that you have a general understanding, Badminton Canada gets 5 SR cards per year. However, 2 SR cards can be split into 3 D-cards. The advantage of this is that Badminton Canada can fund 6 people now (3 SR + 3 D), but there is obviously less money to go around. For this current year (November 2010-October 2011), we have 6 cards. As far as I know, here are the Canadian athletes receiving funding for this year:

Stephan Wojcikiewicz (MS)
David Snider (MS)
Joycelyn Ko (WS)
Michelle Li (WS/WD - unclear which event, but most likely WS)
Alex Bruce (WD)
Phyllis Chan (unclear)

Let's break things down again. However, there is a little bit of uncertainty because I'm not sure who has what card, but I can make an educated guess. Here was the original proposed list by Badminton Canada back in October 2010 (to the best of my memory):

Toby Ng (SR)
Grace Gao (SR)
Stephan Wojcikiewicz (SR)
Michelle Li (D)
Dave Snider (D)
Alex Bruce (D)

But, Sport Canada rejected it based on Badminton Canada's carding criteria, since athletes had to meet the published 2010-2011 criteria, so it became:

Michelle Li (C1)
Dave Snider (SR)
Joycelyn Ko (C1)
Alex Bruce (D)
Alex Pang (D)
Phyllis Chan (D)

Stephan, Grace, and I appealed, but only Stephan made it through, so from what I can deduce, the carding situation at the moment should be:

Stephan Wojcikiewicz (SR)
Dave Snider (SR)
Joycelyn Ko (SR)
Michelle Li (D)
Alex Bruce (D)
Phyllis Chan (D)

Though this may be incorrect, this is how it must be, as Joycelyn is ineligible for a D-card, and Dave Snider should be keeping his SR card. As Stephan also is ineligible for a D card, he must have an SR card, meaning Michelle has been demoted to a D card. Hopefully, this is incorrect, because if anything, Michelle should be keeping a C1 (Senior) card with Dave being demoted because Michelle had better results (based on 2010 Nationals placing and World Ranking). Anyway, let's breakdown how each athlete qualified. I will try to just lay out the facts without adding my own opinion. You can decide for yourself how ridiculous it is.

First off, everyone who qualified for Carding on that list qualified based on results at the 2010 Canadian National Championships in Winnipeg. Grace and I had a freak loss in the QFs because we just came back from Asia. We played Korea Open, then Malaysia Open, then came back the next week for Nationals. It gets a little more complicated, but at the moment, it isn't the topic at hand. Since we made a QF only, we were ineligible for carding because you need to have finished in the top 3 (which was later changed to top 4, as Stephan appealed).

- Stephan (4th Place MS) - lost in SF to Martin Guiffre; lost 3/4 to Dave Snider (via Walkover)
- Dave Snider (3rd Place MS) - lost in SF to Alex Pang
- Joycelyn Ko (3rd Place WS) - lost in SF to Michelle Li; won 3/4 vs Valerie St. Jacques
- Michelle Li (2nd Place WS/2nd Place WD) - lost in F to Anna Rice (WS); lost in F to Melody Liang/Lydia Jiang (WD)
- Alex Bruce (2nd Place WD) - lost in F to Melody Liang/Lydia Jiang (WD)
- Phyllis Chan (Results from U23 Nationals - 2nd Place WS, 1st Place WD) - lost in F to Michelle Li; won WD with Melody Liang

Though Grace and I had lost in the QF for XD, it is worth noting that I had a 2nd place in MD with Adrian Liu, while Grace had a 3rd place in WD with Anna Rice at the Nationals. However, these results cannot be used because the carding criteria has certain restrictions.

It goes a little further though, because in the respective event, placing in the top 4 at Nationals is just one of the eligibility criteria. World Ranking also makes a difference, so that is why Stephan and Dave have carding over Alex Pang, because Alex's World Ranking was the lowest. But that's all Priority #3 of the Carding Criteria. Since we didn't qualify for Priority #3, we had to attempt Priority #2: International Results. If you're that curious, Priority #1 is a top-16 World Ranking by the way. Anyway, back to the International Results, the 2009-2010 criteria for Priority #2 was only TWO International results from the following list:

- International Challenge - 1
- Grand Prix - Top 2
- Grand Prix Gold - Top 8
- Super Series - Top 16
- Defeat a team in the Top 20 in a BWF competition

But unfortunately for us, it was changed to FOUR Internationa results for 2010-2011 from the following list:

- International Challege - 1
- Grand Prix - Top 2
- Grand Prix Gold - Top 4
- Super Series - Top 8
- Defeat a team in the Top 20 in a BWF competition

Also, the qualifying period changed from October 1, 2008-September 30, 2009 to October 1, 2009-August 31, 2010, reducing the qualifying period by a month. In any case, let's look at our athletes again (rough estimate of International results):

- Stephan: 2009 Pan Am Champs - 2nd (MS)
- Dave: N/A
- Joycelyn: 2009 Pan Am Champs - 2nd (WS)
- Michelle: N/A (honorable mentions: Peru IC & Canada IC (WS): 2nd Place)
- Alex: N/A
- Phyllis: N/A (honorable mention: Peru IC (XD): 2nd Place).

Whereas, Grace and I had a few more:

- Toby/Grace (XD): 2009 Pan Am Champs, 2010 Peru IC, & 2010 Canada IC: 1st Place; honorable mention: Guatemala IC - 1st place (mid-September 2010).

We technically made 4 results if we include September 2010 and make it a 12 month qualifying period. Otherwise, we would have met it for sure if we only needed 2 results (based on 2009-2010 criteria). But since we didn't follow the EXACT criteria, Badminton Canada had to default to people who were eligible based on exact criteria, hence the 2nd list because Sport Canada turned down the first one. However, since they knew we were going to appeal the decision, they froze the money until we sorted things out. Badminton Canada then had to assemble an Internal Appeals Committee which included:

- Fiona McKee (Badminton Canada Player's Association Representative - Vice President)
- Frank Gaudet (Badminton Saskatchewan - President)
- Grant McDonald (Badminton Saskatchewan - Executive Director & was the Committee Leader for our Internal Appeal)
- Maurice Boudreau (Badminton New Brunswick - President)

Unfortunately, they couldn't find a 5th person, as is usually required. Also, Fiona McKee and I never got along, so that was another issue that was temporarily raised, but not addressed. As the Player's Association's other member was my brother, that would have definitely been a conflict... The burning question that still hasn't been answered was how this Appeals Committee came to the conclusion that '6 months is enough time for a Canadian player/team to make 3 eligible International results, with the minimum result being an International Challenge win... which to this day has not been answered.

In the end, we were turned down by the Internal Appeals Committee and Badminton Canada was bound by their decision. We tried to appeal again with the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada (SDRCC) but that was very recently declined as well. However, we will find out the reasoning behind it soon enough. I anticipate it may be due to the technicality of things, more or less certain wording or procedures that we might have missed. I'm not a lawyer and I don't think I ever will be, so what would I know about these things anyway? I'm supposed to be a badminton player, but I guess we need to insert an adjective now, because I'm now a "poor" badminton player. Interpret that anyway you want, because making money takes time away from training... enough said.

So, that's a general idea of the overall carding situation. If you would like more details, please comment on the post, or ask me, PM me, etc. If you can brainstorm any ideas for better criteria, please share those as well, because I hope to be able to help make changes to this broken system so that these things won't hurt the deserving athletes. Though everyone who was eligible is deserving of a card, when push comes to shove and there isn't enough funding for everyone, just leaving it to the system to solve the problem may not be the best idea.

Oh, just for the record, we qualified for the upcoming year (2011-2012) of carding ONE WEEK after we received word of our carding application being declined in November 2010... so yeah, it's definitely frustrating... Also, I'm NOT mad at Badminton Canada, just the Internal Appeal Committee members. Badminton Canada maintained a very neutral stance, and though it would have been nice for them to just come out and nominate us, at least they remained very neutral... unlike the Internal Appeals Committee (in MY opinion). I hope I presented mostly factual information in this article and I hope I wasn't too biased.

Thank you for your time if you read the article. I hope you get a better picture of at least my side of the story.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2011 Indonesia Super Series Premier (Part III of Asia Tour)

It's been a while since I was in Indonesia (since Thomas Cup Finals in 2008), but it was pretty nice to get to go again, especially knowing Indonesia's reputation for their active crowds! Grace and I left Singapore earlier on Saturday for Indonesia and luckily it was a short flight. The bad thing about the short flight, because we flew Garuda airlines, was that they limited us to only one carry-on bag and made us check-in our badminton bags. Then we had to pay an extra $11 SGD/kilo for anything over 20kg, so we ended up paying about $165 SGD between the two of us. It's pretty rough with airline traveling nowadays but I'll save the ranting for another blog post (don't even get me started on Air Canada o__O).

We made it in and were able to get a visa on arrival (required for Canadians), but it was only $25 USD and it would last a fairly long time, though I can't recall how long. Unfortunately, change is given in Rupiah (IDR) so it depends on how the exchange rate is at the time. When I went in 2008, it was almost 1 000 000 (one million) IDR for $100 USD, but now for the same amount of USD, you would get maybe 850 000 IDR. Actually, coming out right after you get your bags, there are about 8 currency exchange places, all calling you to try to change money. They are all side by side, so it's pretty competitive. However, each place actually gives different rates based on the currency you may have. Since we had Canadian Dollars as well, there was a place giving a rate of 8600 for 1 CAD, while another may only give 8300 for 1 CAD.

We met the tournament organizers and they were very hospitable and guided us to the taxi which would take us to the tournament hotel. After being harassed by a couple of guys who want to 'help you with your bags for a small tip' (lesson learned from 2008), we made it into the taxi and it was off to the hotel. The drive was quite long, about 45 minutes, but traffic in Indonesia is quite congested at various times, especially near the hotel. When we finally got there, we were able to get a decent room and had a lunch at the hotel's Chinese restaurant, which was very affordable and we would revisit it very often this trip.

Shanghai Style Hot and Sour Soup with Noodles - I ate it like... 6 times.

The hotel we were staying at for the tournament is the Sultan Hotel. It's a very nice hotel and it's VERY big. It's very close to the tournament venue as well (the Istora) but they offered a shuttle service anyway, perhaps for the star players to avoid swarms of fans harassing them on the way back after a match. When we got in, they were still setting up the tournament, but I must say they did put everything up very quickly and efficiently. We were able to get a hit in at the Istora Warm Up area, though it wasn't totally set up yet, and also at the nearby 'Africa-Asia' Practice Hall. Both places were excruciatingly hot to play in, but regardless, practice is practice. Adrian Liu, Derrick Ng, and Joycelyn Ko came in on Sunday so I was able to arrange practice for all of us, and Michelle Li and Alex Bruce came in on Monday afternoon. As we were only getting a couple chances to hit in the main hall, I was fortunately able to be able to book practice times early enough so that I could get the times I wanted, or even a court for that matter in the Main hall. Every country is pretty hellbent on getting a practice time in the Main hall, so if you don't do anything until the last minute, you're pretty much out of luck. Because we didn't have that many players as some of the top countries, we were very limited on courts. At first it was actually just one court for one hour, but we were able to get a second court earlier in the morning.

Constructing the Warm Up hall. It looked VERY nice after, but I don't have a picture of it.

I attended the manager's meeting as well, and it was rather interesting because every country had to sign in and almost had to be accounted for. It's interesting to see how much stricter they are about the regulations, but being one of the most prestigious tournaments, it's really no surprise. The meeting didn't take too long, and I was able to gather all necessary information for the other players, most notably that Grace and Joycelyn's qualifying pool had the top qualification seed promoted into the main draw and that there was nobody to replace them (nobody in the reserve list for WD), and that the winner of Q1 would come out to play Rena Wang/Iris Wang [USA] in the first round of a Super Series Premier! What a great chance to earn 4320 points and split about $1000 USD prize money (because winner of the match had to play #1 WD Seed haha). Also, it was important to try to get the scheduling because it wasn't listed on Tournament Software at the time.

A gift given to the players for entering the tournament.
A hand puppet

The qualification day started with a surprise, as according to the scheduling, Adrian and Joyce would have to play XD in the morning, but the scheduling changed pretty late into the evening. Play also began at 8am, which made things really tough ESPECIALLY WHEN THE SCHEDULE CHANGED LAST MINUTE. Fortunately, they had the courtesy to call Alex and Michelle's room to tell them that their WD Qualification match was actually the first match on at 8:00am.  Since they called at 7:00am, they pretty much had to rush out of bed, change, and head straight to the venue. Derrick called me to let me know, so I had to get up, search the Internet for all the match times and make sure everyone else knew what time they were playing. Since I was up already though, I decided I'd go and film the match and support, because it's tough to be playing first and potentially being the first to exit the entire tournament (in Alex Bruce's case). However, it was good that they won their match against a young Indonesian team, and even better that I have a copy of it for them now =) Unfortunately though, Adrian and Joycelyn had to play right after, but since none of myself, Alex, or Michelle had breakfast yet, we had to go back because we didn't know what time breakfast would finish. Michelle also had two more matches to play, and Alex had one more WD later as well.

Derrick and Adrian warming up during the match.

After breakfast, I went back to watch Grace/Joycelyn in WD and Adrian/Derrick in MD. Though they were scheduled to be on at the same time, I was supposed to film Adrian/Derrick, but it ended up their court was a match behind, so I could have filmed Grace/Joycelyn. Unfortunately, they couldn't pull through and win their match. I got the camera set up for Adrian/Derrick's match though and they had a tough one against another younger Indonesian team. They had a much closer 2nd set, but just couldn't pull of the game. We headed back for a bit, but I had to come back again for Michelle's singles against Adrianti Firdasari [INA]. I started filming the match and Alex came also to watch as well. Since it was already late in the afternoon, the Indonesian crowd had picked up and it was becoming increasingly loud. It really didn't help that Michelle was also playing against Indonesia. Alex and I were trying to cheer, but it was more or less useless against the Indonesian crowd. I made an attempt to sit behind Michelle in the 2nd set to cheer for her (as I'm not much of a Singles coach), but she was unable to take the 2nd set and lost in the end after hard luck in the last two rallies of the match. However, I think she played very well, as Adrianti Firdasari [INA] actually made it quite far in the tournament.

Shot of the venue from the Player's seating area

The last Canadian match of the day would be Alex and Michelle in their second round of Qualifiers. They didn't have the best start in their match, but they really picked it up to take the second. The final match wasn't too bad, as it was pretty close most of the way through, but they couldn't finish it in the end. A good attempt nonetheless and though they lost their match, they were technically the only Canadians at the tournament to play and win a match! After their match, we were scheduled to go to the Welcoming Dinner, hosted by the tournament. They had some of the star players all dressed up in traditional Indonesia wear, but since the dinner was outside and they were on stage, we noticed that Lee Yong Dae was a little uncomfortable as he kept fanning himself on stage. The dinner was just a standing style buffet dinner, but the food was excellent with plenty of variety. The memorable moment of the dinner came at the end (memorable to some, embarrassing to others...), where they were doing draws for door prizes. Usually door prizes aren't really anything special, but they actually were giving away 2 Samsung Galaxy Tabs O___O One person won in the draw for names, but they ran out of names to draw. Seems like you had to register for the banquet but nobody told us that. Anyhow, a bunch of us ended up going up on stage to uh... 'dance' for the prize. Even though I wasn't drunk, I wasn't particularly thinking too much, other than "Samsung Galaxy Tab = $600 = get up there and win". Long story short, it felt like an episode of the show "Dance 360" as the bboy (breakdancer) loses to a girl with boobs (Lotte Jonathans [NED]). I don't feel like elaborating as I'm not too fond of reliving the moment, but Grace did take a video... so perhaps it will float around. If you do happen to watch it, I can almost guarantee that you'll definitely crack a smile, unless you're already laughing yourself out of breath. Remember, I did it for the money... hahaha what do you expect? I'm a Canadian badminton player

The pool decorated with balloons of countries during the welcome party

Let's just skip to the next day... where Grace and I play 2010 World Championship Finalists from China, He Hanbin and Yu Yang. Well, it was going to be a tough match, but it certainly felt better than Singapore. We only had a couple of longer rallies, but that was because we had a tough time getting through the first three shots. Their serves were quite good, meaning I wasn't able to hit the greatest serve returns. My serves weren't so great as well, as they kept clipping the tape and landing short. There was a little wind as well, which made us hit out the side a few times, but nothing close to as bad as Singapore. Overall, I do say I enjoyed the experience playing them and hopefully it will motivate us to work a little harder. It's not like we felt we had no chance whatsoever which is a little inspiring. Little by little, then we'll see where we are at next time!

The venue

The country flags. More were inserted at a later day. This picture was taken on the Qualifying Day

After we lost, we went for a practice with the rest of the Canadians. It was nice to see everyone come out and play and we had some intense 3 v 3 games, with one set going to 24-22 when we were supposed to just play to 11 points. Everyone was pretty much set to leave after, so we all spent the rest of our time there practicing in the afternoons, watching in the early evening, and going out for dinner at night. Alex and I had the chance to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe in Jakarta, while the other night I went to California Pizza Kitchen with Adrian, Joycelyn, Derrick, and Michelle. Grace and I were set to leave with a flight out of Jakarta at 6:25am, so we had to leave the hotel at about 3:00am that morning. Unfortunately, we waited around and nobody showed up, despite us registering for transportation and that they called to confirm with us earlier the other day. We were able to call one of the tournament organizers and get to the airport, but we left almost an hour later, but that was pretty much the end of our troubles. We flew to Hong Kong and waited about 7 hours to our flight to Vancouver, then headed back to Calgary shortly. All technically in the same day o___O

Pastries at the hotel bakery which was 50% off during Happy Hours (after 6pm).

Shanghai style fried noodle at the Chinese restaurant in the hotel

Nasi Goreng at a restaurant at Plaza Indonesia Shopping Mall

Hard Rock Cafe Jakarta

Shopping mall in Jakarta

'Pecking Duck' Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen at a mall in Jakarta

View from the airplane over Hong Kong 
It's been a great tour nonetheless, with a win in the Maldives and some valuable experience in Singapore and Indonesia, not to mention some great matches we saw. It was also nice to get to know some of the other Canadians better and function more or less like a team. Perhaps it may have been different before, but I'm hoping we're on the right track. Thank you all for checking out my blog and enjoy the videos attached below! =)

Full Results (via
[Indonesia Super Series Premier]

Matches (via YouTube):
WD Qualifier R1: Alex Bruce/Michelle Li [CAN] vs. Annisa Saufika/Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja [INA]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

MD Qualifier R1: Ricky Karanda Suwardi/Muhammad Ulinnuha [INA] vs. Adrian Liu/Derrick Ng [CAN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

WS Qualifier R1:
Adrianti Firdasari [INA] vs. Michelle Li [CAN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

WD Qualifier R2: 
Imawan Gebby Ristiyani/Nuraidah Tiara Rosalia [INA] vs. Alex Bruce/Michelle Li [CAN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

Game 3 (HD 720)

XD R32: He Han Bin/Yu Yang [CHN] vs. Toby Ng/Grace Gao [CAN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

And... here's a little bonus for checking out my blog! I recorded two matches which were not on any camera courts. Enjoy! =)

MD QF: Mohammad Ahsan/Bona Septano [INA] vs. Koo Kien Kiet/Tan Boon Heong [MAS]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

Zhang Nan/Zhao Yun Lei [CHN] vs. Tao Jia Ming/Qing Tian [CHN]
Game 1 (HD 720)

Game 2 (HD 720)

That's all folks! My next two tournaments will be US and Canada Opens! Stay tuned...