By Adam Segal
It was a match-up that showcased skill versus make-believe talent, a battle between someone who knows the game and someone who knows how to criticize those who play the game.
I am, of course, referring to the highly anticipated badminton game between yours truly and Ryerson varsity team player, Long Quan.
Quan and partner JoAnne Wong, were the top team in OUA mixed doubles this year. But despite their success they did not go to the playoffs because Ryerson’s team, as a whole, did not qualify.
I challenged Wong to a game in the RAC, just a few days after his season ended with Ryerson athlete of the week honours and his third OUA medal in five years on the badminton team.
As we made our way onto the court, Quan let me in on a poorly kept secret.
“On the court, I like to go all out,” he said. “I don’t want to hold back.”
“Good,” I responded, faking a smile.
Bad, very bad, I thought. After a 15-minute warm-up and a lesson on the boundaries and rules, I felt worried. Quan looked ready.
The fifth-year architecture major has been playing badminton since he was 12 and recently landed a racket sponsorship from ToroTalbot Rackets. I had played tennis before, but never badminton.
My confidence was given a boost after the first rally though. After a few exchanges, Quan smacked the birdie into the net.
Aha! He’s in for a fight, I thought. It was my turn and I figured I better give the birdie a hefty whack, because I wasn’t sure how many more serves I would be delivering. The serve was clean and returned easily by the champ.
We became entangled in a rally I can only describe as extreme neck strain. Quan would send the birdie high and deep into the court, and I would lunge after it, as if a chain was pulling my neck in the birdie’s direction.
This pattern continued until the score was 5-0 for you-know-who.
With my neck in knows, I suggested Quan show me his smash, the overhead shot his coach, Joe Zavier, considers most effective.
The intention was to send the birdie to me at waist level. But Quan’s smash, which involved a two-foot leap in the air followed by a downward swat, meant the birdie simply hit my waist: 6-0.
Pitying his opponent’s smash deficiency, Quan resorted to striking the birdie, so that it landed as far away from me as possible, but inside the court.
This was a strategy he had warned me about in our pre-game interview. “I try to move the other player around as much as I can to get them tired,” he said.
And tired I was. Actually, I was exhausted. As the sweat poured down my forehead and the score was 11-0, I realized my only hope was intimidation. “I’m going to get at least one point this game,” I announced to him.
But Quan’s athletic instincts oozed from his racket. He responded to my vow, not in words, but with perfectly placed shots. I was trounced 15-0.
Despite the loss, I am happy to say I learned a lesson: Sports journalists should stick to squaring off against badminton players in the locker room, not on the court.