Monday, October 3, 2011

2011 Guatemala International Challenge

Sorry for the delay, but I've been extremely busy this past while with moving stuff back to Vancouver and having to move to a smaller room in my house. I used to have a slightly larger room in the downstairs area, but I needed to move everything to a smaller room upstairs. I also needed to buy and install a new bed and wardrobe from Ikea, so that also took a lot of time in between training. It took a while to install, but thankfully Carmen was able to help me out with the bed. Unfortunately I was on my own for the wardrobe which ended up taking me about 5 hours on my day off. Lastly, I've uploaded at least 20 GB of footage from the tournaments and all the footage is up now on my YouTube Channel (see links to specific matches below). Feel free to comment if you'd like and share it with your family and friends :)

2011 Guatemala International

My new Tokidoki x Marvel Frenzies!
The 2011 Guatemala International took place at the Guatemala National Training Center and we also stayed at the Clarion Hotel in Guatemala City, almost exactly like the year before. We arrived fairly late at night, but were promptly picked up by the tournament organizers. I flew down with Grace Gao as we were both flying from Calgary and met up with Adrian Liu, Derrick Ng, Joycelyn Ko, and Phyllis Chan from Vancouver before our connecting flight in Houston, Texas. Adrian and Joyce had difficulties getting a visa for Brazil, though Derrick managed to convince the Brazilian consulate to grant him one in Vancouver. Fortunately, Adrian, Joyce, AND Grace managed to get their with very little difficulty in Guatemala. Grace had thought her visa was still valid, but when we compared it to Joyce's, it was the exact same... thank goodness that went okay. Maybe it was a bit of karma, but upon arriving in Guatemala City, Grace happened to be the only one who didn't have her badminton bag.

We arrived on the 12th at night, so the following day was Tuesday, September 13th. We had only a single practice time in the evening, so we took the morning off and went to McDonalds for breakfast. The currency in Guatemala is called 'Quetzales' and it was about $1 USD to 7.6 GTQ at the time. Of course, we got ripped off at the airport even though some of us pooled in to get the 'better rate'. We were at about 1 USD : 6.75 GTQ; while the others had a much better rate of 1 USD :  7.4 GTQ at the hotel. Although our practice time was at about 4:00pm, we had to get on a 2:30pm shuttle to get to the venue. It normally only takes about 10-15 minutes to get there, but we were detouring like crazy, dropping people off, picking them back up, driving toward the airport to drop off other people... in the end, the USA team ended up only having half their practice. We were on the bus for almost an hour before we got to the venue. Nonetheless, we had a decent practice, though our shuttles were much too fast that day. Tipping every single feather was still too fast, but we just did the best we could as they didn't have any practice shuttles at the time. That night, I think we went to a nearby mall to eat at the food court. I shared a large Hawaiian pizza with Alex Bruce from their Little Caesars. It was 50 GTQ, which was about $6.67 USD, but since we shared the pizza, it was like a $3.33 USD dinner! Food was definitely cheaper than the norm, so we ate out most of the time.

The Clarion Hotel in Guatemala. I had the sofa bed, while Phyllis and Grace had a bed each in the other room.

The following day was the start of the tournament. There were a few qualifying matches earlier in the morning,  but I believe the Singles draws were Round of 64s. I drew Matthew Fogarty from the USA in my first round MS (yes... I entered Singles!) and I was able to win that match without too much difficulty. I tried to rally quite a bit just to get a little more time on court and to adjust to the shuttles, though they were still quite fast with the new speeds. After my match, I hit a bit more with Grace before heading back to rest for the day. If I hadn't entered MS, I would have probably not played until Friday! The following day were the Round of 32s. It was a little slow at times because we only had 3 courts for the tournament, but I believe we were still able to finish before 9pm, so that was quite impressive scheduling! I had to play the #5 seed, Vladimir Ivanov in the Men's Singles and wow, that was rough. He's super duper tall and could almost take one step to get everything. I kind of figured out some things to do, but it was already too late as he was up about 10 points in the 2nd set. Either way, it was kind of cool to play him, because I don't think I'll ever play someone that tall again in MS. Unfortunately, Stephan Wojcikiewicz had a tough one as well, losing to the home favorite Pedro Yang in a very close 3-setter. After that there would be nobody left in the MS for Canada. Fortunately, the others would soon step in to help out...

Friday was quite busy, but we had a lot of good performances from the Canadians. Joycelyn made it all the way to the QFs in the WS, defeating 2 European players and lost a very close game to Susan Egelstaff of Scotland, while Michelle Li made it through to the semis without much difficulty. Same goes to the MD and XD, though a honorable mention would be Derrick and Alex's close win against Halim Ho/Eva Lee [USA] in 3 sets. The WD was rather interesting, as Eva Lee/Paula Obanana [USA] upset the top seeds Charmaine Ried/Nicole Grether [CAN] in straight sets, while Joycelyn/Grace defeated Alex/Michelle in the QFs in a close 2 set match as well. The semifinals went pretty well for Canada as well, but unfortunately it was a Canada vs. Canada in the XD with Derrick/Alex defeating Adrian/Joyce in a very close 2 setter. The rest of the Canadians made it through their SFs without too much difficulty to put 4 Canadian teams in the Final, with an all-Canadian XD final.

Brief Interview with some Guatemalan players before matches on Wednesday.

Before I talk about the finals, I would like to address the smaller things that don't get mentioned outside of personal Badminton blogs. Unfortunately, most of my paragraphs about our badminton can almost be recreated using a copy of the tournament results, so I would like to share some finer tournament details. On Saturday, it was Adrian's birthday. Since we only had to play in the morning, we finished quite early and had time to go out to eat. We ended up eating a really late lunch as the matches finished around 2pm, so we went out as a small group later in the evening to celebrate Adrian's birthday. We wanted to eat at this restaurant that had a bakery, but they were closing at 8:30pm (we arrived at 8pm). Fortunately we were able to buy a cake and went out to a nearby Applebee's. The weather wasn't the best the whole week, as it rained quite consistently, but it was okay when we went to the restaurant. Adrian picked a Chocolate Oreo cake and we went to eat at a pretty empty Applebee's, with Joycelyn, Michelle, Alex, Andy Lam in his first International tournament, Derrick, myself, and also Hugo Arthuso from Brazil, as he was training at ClearOne in Vancouver for a little while previously. We enjoyed a pretty average priced dinner (probably about the same prize as the average American Applebee's) and had to pay extra for them to serve us cake! As outraged as we were for a very brief moment, we realized it was less than a $0.50 USD charge, so I guess it was okay... but then they didn't sing a song for us like they did with this other table... anyway, we sang a song, had some cake, and headed back to the hotel. Unfortunately, the rain came back and got even harder, so it wasn't a pleasant walk back. Some people had hoods so it was okay, but Michelle and I were out of luck. We kinda ran back first, but we were probably the most drenched anyway... but maybe the rain somehow helped us out the next day... ;)

Not so rainy on the day of the finals :) Oh, and the tournament shuttle (i.e. police school bus)

On Sunday, we started the finals with XD first and I'm sure you know the results already, as they're on the internet on various sources. My XD match against Derrick was pretty close at first, as we've never played each other in the respective team pairings, so we were really feeling each other out for the most part. At the end it came down to a couple of lucky shots and mistakes and Grace and I were able to take the first match. The shuttles were much a lot slower for some reason that day, so we had some longer rallies that we both expected a few times. Regardless, the match is up online and you can check it out for yourself. This marks the 2nd time Grace and I won the XD in Guatemala! The Men's Singles was after us, which went quite long even though it was an all-Russian final. Fortunately, it gave me time to do some stretching and get ready to tape the other matches. Michelle was up after the MS, and she did not disappoint. She took leads in both games and kept it all the way to win in straight sets to win her first of, I'm sure, many more International WS titles! Special congratulations to Michelle for breaking this milestone and I really hope she will build from it and continue her progress and really start representing Canada on a higher World stage! :)

XD Medalists

WS Medalists

Women's Doubles followed, with a rematch between Eva Lee/Paula Obanana [USA] and Joycelyn Ko/Grace Gao [CAN] from the 2010 Guatemala International. Ironically, these teams met in the FIRST ROUND in 2010! It was a good start for Canada, but they couldn't close it in the 2nd. I think they got a little nervous and a little too rushed in the 3rd set and started the set with a terrible deficit (11-2). They kind of picked things back up toward the end, but since because of the weak start, it made a huge difference at the end of the game. Lastly, it was the MD final featuring the returning 2010 Guatemala MD Champions from Canada, Adrian and Derrick. The Russians were quite intimidating and Canada couldn't really get into the game at the beginning. Rallies were short and fast, with Russia winning the majority of the points. The second set was a little better, but in the end, Russia triumphed, taking the match in 2 sets.

WD Medalists 

MD Medalists

MS Medalists

That night, the Canadian team was treated to dinner by one of the tournament sponsors to his Chinese restaurant! We had a fantastic dinner with authentic Chinese food and it was nice because none of us really had any real Chinese food the entire week. We had the chance to meet his family and chat about badminton and life in Guatemala. It's kind of scary because there are a lot of guns in that country and you don't want to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time... regardless, we were well taken care of by our host and got a ride back to the hotel even. We took a group photo, though mine was kind of blurry because some people STILL don't know how to take a picture with a digital camera (press HALFWAY to FOCUS... THEN press down fully... arrghh). Check it out below:

Our generous host, Julio on the far left, with his daughter (front left) and son (front right). Thank you!

We all left on Monday, though some of us earlier on an American Airlines flight to Miami, then to Sao Paulo for the Brazil International, while I flew with the Vancouver people and Grace back up to Mexico City, then to Sao Paulo on Aero Mexico... but I will leave the airport stories to the next section... anyway, it was quite a simple day minus the fact we suffered a few earthquakes! They were relatively minor and some went unnoticed, but some were actually quite strong enough to feel, as we were on the 13th floor. We saw doors wobbling and some other things, but nothing major. Good thing we left pretty soon after that o____O

Canadians in Guatemala, including the Head Referee Jeff Bell from Alberta!

Full Results of the 2011 Guatemala International: [TournamentSoftware]

Matches via YouTube:
WS SF: Michelle Li [CAN] vs. Susan Egelstaff [SCO] (HD 720)
Game 1
Game 2
Game 3

Toby Ng/Grace Gao [CAN] vs. Derrick Ng/Alex Bruce [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2

 Michelle Li [CAN] vs. Jeanine Cicognini [SUI] (HD 720)
Game 1
Game 2

 Eva Lee/Paula Obanana [USA] vs. Joycelyn Ko/Grace Gao [CAN]
Game 1
Game 2 & 3 (single file)

Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov [RUS] vs. Adrian Liu/Derrick Ng [CAN]
Game 1 (missing a few points at beginning)
Game 2

Thanks for visiting!

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