By Christin Tsai
For the biggest tournament of my career so far, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Although everything started off a little shaky, things eventually began to look better. Leading up to the competition, which happened to be held in my hometown, Taiwan, I was feeling confident with my condition. I spent the weekend before up in Prince George helping out in clinics and doing exhibitions with Anna Rice, as she assisted me in improving my game when there was spare time. Her experience on court is definitely gold and I learned a lot last minute before having to go to Taiwan. The trip also allowed me to take my mind off of pressured thoughts for the upcoming tournament.
The first two days I landed in Taiwan, I spent visiting family and relatives from the very South of the country to the very North. It was wonderful to see everyone again, however my fitness just dropped to a whole new level. Well, at least it gave me some time to get used to the heat! When the team met the day before the team competition at the venue for a practice hit, I could feel my nerves pinning me down. The hall looked gorgeous and stunning… yet it was terrible to play badminton in. There was a vast draft that made all the shots either go out, or impossible to hit the far end line, and the background was just too complicated and colourful to see the shuttle clearly. Since it was such an enormous hall, it was hard for me to hear my own shots and it messed up my timing by quite a bit. In general, it was a pretty ruthless place to play in… or I’m just a little too picky! But I would say that it was seeing the players from the other countries play was what really made the strands of hair on my arm fly up. Everyone seemed to have the perfect form, the perfect shots, and the perfect footwork. I would not be surprised if the majority of the Canadian team were thinking the same thing. Not only were their skills so defined, the discipline they had was just incredible. I believe that is definitely something us Canadians players have room to work on… or perhaps it’s just me again.
The team competition commenced the next day and unfortunately, Team Canada did not have the best start. We lost to Denmark and Netherlands in our pool, which was for sure disappointing for all of us. But as what Ram, our coach had said to us; it was more about overcoming our own fears and winning a battle against ourselves more than anything. Although Canada eventually placed 19th in the team event, we earned the respect of everyone at the tournament. We had the ability to beat any of the teams there, regardless if it were the Danes or the Netherlands, but fear held us back and it cost us a place in the top 8 or top 16. But that did not really matter to us. We left our hearts out on the court and fought our hardest to win every single point. If we lost one match, we lost as a team. If we won a match, we won as a team. There was never “me” or “I.” That is what’s so great about Team Canada… we are a real team.
As the team competition came to a close, we had a one day rest before the individual competition would begin. I took the train and underground subway from Taoyuan (where the tournament took place) to tour around Taipei city. The underground subways are always packed with people, and coincidentally, I clashed into Nathan Choi and his family as they were also going to Taipei to shop at the night markets there. At the night markets, the food was way too delicious and the merchandises were way too cheap. But surprisingly I had no appetite, which is extremely unusual for me. If you knew me personally, you’d know how much I LOVE to eat. However the food just wasn’t very tempting … that’s when I realized that I’m really getting anxious for the competition.
The following day, I had my first singles match in the morning against Chloe Birch from England. Being that it was my first match in the individual event, my hands were very unsteady and there were butterflies in my stomach. I stepped onto the court with a confidence level of a bagel. But with the encouragement and guidance of Jeff White (he arrived in Taiwan on the last day of the team event to coach us for individuals), the match went quite smoothly and I stepped off the court with slightly more confidence. In the afternoon I was up against Laura Wich from Germany for round 2. She was small, but very agile around court and a very good fighter. Luckily, I had the most consistent shots that match, which was particularly unlike the normal me. So that went fairly decent as well. Adrianna and I had to play Sophie Brown and Holly Smith from England as our opening round for doubles. We lost 19-21 and 26-28 to the English pair; the four of us are very close friends off court, but both teams on court grinded and struggled for a place to compete in the next round. Too bad luck just wasn’t on our side for this one. For mixed doubles, Nyl and I defeated a Japanese pair in two straight sets. I was honestly satisfied with the way we played, considering how much that draft was affecting the game, as it changed from day to day. We eventually failed to upset the ¾ seeds from Malaysia in 3 tight sets… but we certainly made them sweat! In the end, singles was the only event I managed to survive in.
My third round of singles against Chinese Taipei took practically every breath out of me. I was drenched and lifelessly tired at the end of the match; I thought there was no way I could play another singles match later on that day. Yet I had no choice… so that afternoon I took on Neslihan Yigit from Turkey. The first 11 point interval of the match, I was literally daydreaming. My legs would not obey my commands and my brain felt dead as if it ran out of batteries. But reality finally smacked me hard in the face and I instantly got back on the game. My body was truthfully exhausted and beat, but I wanted to win it so bad. I guess determination does take you to places. Along with the cheering from the Canadian team, including the parents, I ended the game in two and advanced into the quarter finals.
It felt overwhelming to be able to make it to the quarter finals of the World Junior Badminton Championships. It was the goal my coach, Sandiarto, had set for me since two years ago, and I couldn’t believe that I actually made it. All those years of hard work … it’s finally paying off. My quarter finals match was against the number one seed and two times World Junior Champion, Ratchanok Inthanon from Thailand. I knew that my chances were awfully slim, but I also knew that no matter what happened on court against her that day, my family, coaches, teammates, friends, sponsors, and supporters will still be proud of my accomplishment. I had no pressure and nothing to worry about, only to try my best and learn from the experience. I played, and I lost. It marked the end of my journey… for this tournament. It was an unforgettable memory that will follow me for the rest of my career, if not for the rest of my life.
All in all, I am satisfied with my performance this tournament, but will continue to work hard to improve myself even more. It was amazing to be able to represent Canada, and compete against countries all around the world with my teammates. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of badminton; something I never thought existed when I first started playing with my brothers out in our backyard 6 years ago. I entered the tournament with a confidence level of zero, but left with a ten. I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better… only a chance to go at it again next year.