Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 Pan Am Games

The Pan Am Games were held in Guadalajara, Mexico with our tournament dates being October 15-October 20th. For some reason, they had the finals split over 2 days, with MD & WD on the day after the semifinals, while MS, WS, and XD were on the day after the Doubles finals. Prior to the Pan Am Games, we had a camp in Vancouver after the BC Open which was held the weekend before. We had some team bonding activities scheduled, but we pretty much canceled due to typical crappy Vancouver weather (*cough* rain). Fortunately, we got a lot of cool Yonex stuff for the tournament, including 5 shirts (3 red, 2 yellowish-green) and 4 pairs of shorts or skirts (2 black, 2 white). We also got a tracksuit and a new badminton bag as our regular bags were not allowed because the Yonex logo was too big and violated the Games' regulations. With new stuff in hand, we all headed out to the airport on Oct 12th.

As most of us have been traveling tremendously, it may possibly be the first time ever that a Canadian team could all hang out in the Star Alliance lounge. We all met up there and enjoyed some salads and spiked coffee, but perhaps it was just me with the coffee ;) We boarded the plane a tad too late so I ended up having to get my badminton bag checked in all the way to Mexico :( Upon arriving in Phoenix, we spent a little time in the lounge there before looking for food, as the lounges there are quite minimal in the US. It was another 2.5 hours to Mexico and we finally arrived around 10:30pm. We picked up all our stuff and were picked up by the Canadian mission staff and were directed to the bus to take us to the Athlete's Village. After a half hour drive, we made it into our rooms and got to bed around 1:30am.

Dinner on a better day :)
The next morning we met up for a team breakfast, but the food was quite sub-par. Alex Bruce even coined the term "Guad-standard" which we used most of the week. I suppose it's tough to make enough food to feed everyone, but it was unfortunate as the food was rather bland, over/undercooked, and simple. The lineups at the cafeteria were quite long at the wrong times, with us having to stand and wait for up to 20 minutes sometimes. The first morning they ran out of coffee, and black tea was constantly the first to go. I guess every athlete is a caffeine addict :)

Our first trip to the venue was for a practice at the main hall. It was raining quite a bit because of the hurricane nearby, but the weather really brightened up significantly soon after for the rest of the week. The practice courts were just mats laid on top of a hard floor and it was leaking a bit. The main hall was totally different though, as there was wood flooring under the courts and it was very nice to play in. We ended with a court in the main hall for an hour that day, although with 8 players on our team, we didn't get all that much practice. The next morning we had 2 hours on a court in the main hall, but that was our only practice that day.

Wooden underlay beneath the main court
Canada had it's flag raising ceremony on one of the evenings, so it was kind of nice to see the rest of the Canadian athletes group together. It was right after we got our clothing as well, and we received a significant amount of clothing for the games courtesy of the Hudson Bay Company, including various shirts, polo shirts, sweat shorts, shorts, pants, jackets, hoodies, and even a travel bag and backpack. Prior to us marching to the flag raising area, we had a little time to explore the International Zone, where they had a Starbucks, Burger King, Dominoes, and other assorted food places at a fair price. While Alex was playing the birthday game, where she would ask people for their birthdays with a really good chance of getting a repeat birthdate after asking about 25 people, I spent some time at the free tequila sample booth. They couldn't sell us any tequila, but they gave us free samples :) The flag raising ceremony happened soon after, finishing with our Chef de Mission enforcing our Pan Am Games Canadian team slogan of "En Garde", which Adrian kind of jumped the gun on (inside joke) :)

The Canadian athletes preparing for the Flag Raising Ceremony 

Joyce and Adrian, not so "on guard", before going to the Flag Ceremony

Opening Ceremonies were the next day, but a lot of us decided not to go because we had to play the next day. They took place in the evening and could take up to 6 hours to finish, so that would be extremely exhausting and definitely not worth going if you had a match the next morning, like I did. However Jeff White and Alex Bruce did go and got to do the march, so that was pretty cool I guess while the rest of us were hanging around the physiotherapy area. I think almost all of us went to visit everyday. Special thanks here to Lois and Laura, our physiotherapists, and Kip, the sports massage therapist we would all line up and see almost every day :)

Canada and other countries getting ready for the Opening Ceremonies

Play began shortly, with me up against the future Pan Am Games Men's Singles champion Kevin Cordon. I only entered to get some more court time in the main hall and in this case, just a little bit more court time :P My mixed doubles was also a little sluggish to begin with, but soon I was able to get more comfortable playing there. The crowd was quite enthusiastic especially when Mexico was playing, so we thought it would be a good idea to try to give some free Canadian stuff (pins, mini flags, etc.) to random people in the crowd and it definitely made a difference in the end! We were able to get the crowd to cheer for us most of the time, especially in the many Canada vs. USA matches that happened throughout the tournament. As much as they were loud, the crowd was also respectful and applauded the winners of each match, whether the crowd-favorite or not. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Mexican crowd for being such an enthusiastic bunch :)

The crowd. Seats were only available on one side at the venue though.
The other weird thing that happened was that there were a lot of moths in the venue. Especially during the day of the finals, we had many moths fly around the court. I don't know if any rallies were interrupted, but we did have to delay the start of a few rallies to clear the court of moths once in a while. Actually, in the XD semifinal against Howard and Paula [USA], there was one moment in the 3rd set that Howard told Grace there was a moth on Grace's shorts, and then she looked at it and screamed. The crowd thought it was quite amusing and started clapping :) What a crowd! ;)

Court layout for the Finals
The podium

Canadian mini Medal Recognition Ceremony
Overall, Canada did really well, especially in the Women's events. Actually, I guess Canada got Gold in all the Women's events, with Michelle Li winning the WS and WD with Alex Bruce, while Grace took the XD. The guys... well, I guess I was the lucky one in the XD haha... Adrian and Derrick got a bronze in MD after being upset by Halim and Sattawat from the USA and Stephan fell to the unseeded dark horse of the tournament from Cuba unfortunately. Either way, it still may have been one of our better Pan Am Games performances for Canadian badminton! I guess that's a start and I hope we all continue to move forward together :)

Athlete's Village - Dorms for the other countries near the Canadian building

Adrian wearing ALL of our medals :)
Unfortunately, due to Canada Olympic Committee regulations, I don't think I'm allowed to post any of our footage from the Pan Am Games :( Maybe what I will do is try to take some screen shots from my camera, but that's pretty much all I can really do. Don't worry, I'll have new footage of us really soon, as Puerto Rico International is happening this week!

Thanks for reading my blog! Enjoy the rest of the pictures I took and I'll do my best to attach relevant news articles or websites with more media about our 2011 Pan Am Games journey!

Hope to see you all next time!

- [OLYMPIC.CA] - Schedule, results, and team profiles

- [OLYMPIC.CA/news] - Check out the Badminton Photo Gallery, the Daily Update: Oct 20 & 21, and the Photo Gallery: Oct 20 for more pictures and articles!

Lois, Alex, Grace, and Jeff with the PAG mascots!
- [CBC.CA] - Article on Alex and Michelle's WD

- [GLOBEandMAIL.COM] - Article on the Oct 21 Finals (WS & XD)

- [BADMINTONLIFE.COM] - Article on the final results.

Derrick and Ram with the mascots
- [BADZINE.NET - Oct 18] - Article on the QF matches by Don Hearn.

- [BADZINE.NET - Oct 19] - Article on the SF matches by Don Hearn.

- [BADZINE.NET - Oct 21] - Article on the final results by Don Hearn.

Alex and Michelle against the Wang sisters in the WD Final
Michelle and Alex warming up in the WD final

Alex and Michelle interviewed by Canadian media with Alan taking pictures of Michelle ;)

If I ever get a copy of a team picture (got one!), I will attach it as soon as I can :P That's all folks!

Courtesy of Jeff White!

P.S. Happy Birthday Michelle Li! ;)

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