Aug 22

Here’s an article I saw today on the OC Register regarding the men’s doubles match yesterday. Interesting read…

Gunawan, Bach make dream come true

They become the first American International Badminton Federation world champions.

MARCIA C. SMITH MARCIA C. SMITH
Register columnist

masmith@ocregister.com

ANAHEIM – Bear with me. This is important. Significant. And it’s good even though it is BADminton, which – groan now, if you must – has as about as much cache in the American sports landscape as competitive foosball.

Tony Gunawan and Howard Bach, two steely-nerved shuttlers from Orange County, did something historic Sunday night at the International Badminton Federation World Championships men’s doubles finals at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.

First, they played in it – an American achievement akin to penguins making the NFL as nose tackles.

Second, the 13th-seeded U.S. duo beat the second-seeded Indonesian duo of Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto, 15-11, 10-15 and 15-11, in a thriller that brought everyone here to their feet for a final, heart-attack point then had them rejoicing in tears when Bach rounded the arena carrying the American flag as John Mellencamp’s “R-O-C-K in the U.S.A.” poured from the arena’s sound system.

“Never in a gazillion years did I imagine anything like this could happen,” Bach said. “I felt like I was watching ‘Gladiator’, the way people were out there appreciating badminton.”

Gunawan and Bach bowed their heads to accept a gold medal and opened their arms to receive a bouquet of orchids. No American team had won a medal since the World Championships were introduced in 1977. No American team had even reached the quarterfinals in any event.

Just as with the postmatch speech of the night’s Indonesian men’s singles gold medalist Taufik Hidayat, translation might be necessary to understand the significance of Gunawan and Bach’s triumph.

This was a victory like the Cinderellas who dance through the NCAA tournaments, like the Angels who did the impossible with their 2002 World Series crown and like the Mighty Ducks’ climb to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals.

The other 13 Americans in this premier competition have all fallen in the second round or earlier. Only Gunawan and Bach, the personality doubles of Sampras and Agassi, remained to play the world’s fastest racket sport with the skinny-shafted Yonexes and the goosefeather shuttlecocks that jet over the 5-foot-high net at 160-plus mph.

On Sunday night, a largely Asian-American crowd of more than 7,500 spectators unfurled American flags, raised red, white and blue posters, uncovered their painted chests and banged ThunderStixx adorned with advertisements for Kimlan soy sauce and the Chinese Daily News and chanted “USA” for the pair that had gone where no Americans had gone before.

Gunawan, 30, of Fullerton, faced backcourt-savvy Wijaya, his partner with whom he won the 2000 Olympic men’s doubles gold medal for Indonesia, and his former Indonesian national team coach.

Gunawan and fellow Indonesian national teammate, Eti Tantra, left Jakarta in 2001 for the United States, got married in Las Vegas, settled in Fullerton and teamed with Bach last year for this last-hurrah of competition.

Bach, 26, of Orange, looked to forecourt-master Gunawan as his mentor for the last year of their partnership and 5-day-a-week training sessions at the Orange County Badminton Club.

To march into Sunday’s final, they upset the eighth-seeded Malaysian duo of Choon Eng Chew and Tan Fook Choog in Thursday’s round of 16. Then the trim, 5-foot-7 Gunawan and beefy, 5-5 Bach stunned the top-seeded Denmark pair of 6-3 Jens Eriksen and 6-1 Martin Hansen Lundgaard with a 15-9, 15-10 victory in their quarterfinal Friday.

Consumed by the emotion of beating the team that ended his 2004 Olympic run in the second round after only four points and 21 minutes, the fiery Bach embraced Gunawan after the match, then kneeled on the court and kissed it.

“I’m making history,” the Vietnamese-born Bach shouted as he walked off the court, his face wet with sweat and tears.

On Saturday, their 15-9, 15-13 semifinal victory over a young but third-seeded Indonesian pair Luluk Hadiyanto and Yulianto Alven took the Americans the longest – 55 minutes.

But that was nothing compared to Sunday’s three-game match that stands to be American badminton’s finest hour and eight minutes.

In Game 1, the Americans trailed, 7-6, before Gunawan smashed deep and down the line for consecutive points to take the lead. Bach vaulted high to swat at a rising birdie, lifted deep by his off-balance opponents, then clobbered it violently to the floor and shook his head like a crazy man, fueled by his 10-7 lead.

In a Game 2 full of racket wizardry, the U.S. team fell behind and never recovered. Gunawan and Bach trailed 9-5, when Wijaya smashed birdie at 188 mph just out of the lunging reach of Gunawan. Gunawan struck back swiftly with a smash off a lift from Wijaya’s behind-the-back shot to make the score, 10-6. Budiarto returned a shot by placing the racket behind his split legs, and Gunawan gunned the birdie to the floor for his team’s last point in the 15-10 loss.

The Americans led Game 3, 5-2, then fell into ties at 5, 6, 8, 9 and 11 before taking a 12-11 lead.

Within three blinks, the U.S. duo was on top, 14-11. A long rally anxiously passed as much of the crowd stood, gasping with each player’s lunge, with each furious stroke, with each shot – all before Bach smashed the shuttle down the line and Budiarto attempted a behind-the-back return and buried the return in the net.

“All the years, all the money – almost $10,000 a player every year from my company, K&D Graphics – to sponsor plus pay for the travel, and now we have something like this,” said a joyous USA Badminton president Don Chew, 64, who owns the 12-court Orange County Badminton Club where 11 of the 15 U.S. players in the World Championships had been training for free.

Chew and 15 family members watched the action from a luxury suite at the Pond. Two of his grandchildren, Phillip, 11, and Cee, 12, are already elite players.

“This kind of success,” Chew said, “has always been an American dream for me.”

And for Gunawan and Bach too.

Aug 21

The US won the men’s double match! It’s like the first win or something in a major badminton competition since the 50s. I was definitely surprised! They ranked no. 13 and managed to beat the no. 1 and no. 2 teams consecutively. You could really tell from today’s match that they were going to win it. Right from the start they were on fire and it wasn’t going to be extinguished by the Indonesians.

Hopefully this will have a big impact in the US.. just like women’s football. Maybe it’s finally going to be aired on tv.. like ESPN2 or something. Maybe I can finally find a badminton court to play in for free around here pretty soon. lol!

No pics to upload since my camera died right after the competition ended.

Aug 20

Peter Gade

I went to the semi-finals today by myself. I got my front row tickets so that was good. Unfortunately, Peter Gade lost after a great match against Lin Dan. Even if Peter lost it was still a great match because both of them played really well. It was really close.. final score is 15-9, 13-15, 15-11. With Peter gone, I don’t think there are any Danes left in the competition =( Too bad since I was planning on going in my full Danish gear tomorrow.

Danish Fans

More pictures later. I’m too tired to do anything. I went to Juno’s place after the competition to play badminton, which really killed me. I could barely lift my right arm after playing and that made driving home a bitch. I’m also worried that I’m going to lose my voice after all that shouting from this afternoon. 😀 Let’s go Danmark, let’s go!!

More stuff on Peter’s match here (sorry no english articles yet):
Lin dan nok en gang for stærk for Gade
Heroisk fight ikke nok for Gade

Aug 19

Gade’s match is at 2.20pm tomorrow and the excitement is going to kill me. I need to go out tomorrow afternoon otherwise I’m going to be stuck in front of the computer kicking and screaming watching the live scores slowly roll in.

Please please.. Gade needs to win!!!

Also I should have seen it coming but, today Kenneth Jonassen lost to Taufik Hidayat, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist. Seems like Taufik isn’t a washout either… this is going to be exciting!

— Update —
I suddenly have the urge to watch the semi finals tomorrow. If I go alone I’ll be seated in Section 208 (centre court) row R. But if I buy 2 tickets, I can get section 222 (centre court) row A!!!! Basically I need 1 other person to go with me! The ticket is $50 if I buy it online, $40 if I buy it at the gate (that is if it’s still available!!!). Anyone?!?! If you wanna go, email me!

Aug 19

Peter Gade i VM-semifinalen

Danskeren sikrede sig karrierens tredje VM-medalje med en sikker kvartfinalesejr. Kenneth Jonassen slået i tre sæt af den olympiske mester.
Af Søren-Mikael Hansen Send artikel Print artikel
Han har en bronzemedalje fra 1999 og en sølvmedalje fra 2001, så Peter Gade lægger ikke skjul på, hvad målet med VM i badminton er denne gang. Og foreløbig holder han kursen: 15-13, 15-4 over kineseren Chen Hong sikrede den 3. seedede dansker en plads i semifinalen.

‘Chen Hong er altsÃ¥ en farligere spiller, end cifrene i andet sæt antyder. Vi spiller sÃ¥ tæt pÃ¥ linierne, at det er et spørgsmÃ¥l om centimeter, der afgør pointene. Og i dag var jeg bedst til at kontrollere boldene’, sagde Peter Gade efter sejren.

‘Det koster kræfter at vinde sÃ¥dan en kamp, men slet ikke sÃ¥ mange, som man kunne have forventet. Derfor har jeg et overskud, som jeg forhÃ¥bentlig kan fÃ¥ gavn af i semifinalen’, fortsatte Peter Gade i forventning om, at han skal møde topseedede Lin Dan i semifinalen.

‘Og selvfølgelig gÃ¥r jeg efter det hele’, lød meldingen.

Seks bolde fra en medalje
I sin kvartfinale så Kenneth Jonassen unægtelig ud til at følge sin træningspartner ind blandt de fire bedste i verden. 15-3 vandt han første sæt og førte 9-5 i andet, indtil den olympiske mester Taufik Hidayat fandt sit elegante bevægelige spil frem og vendte kampen.

‘Ved 9-5 i andet sæt sÃ¥ jeg gløden i hans øjne, sÃ¥ jeg tænkte aldrig pÃ¥ noget tidspunkt, at sejren var hjemme. Jeg synes, jeg fulgte den lagte taktik, men fik mÃ¥ske slÃ¥et lidt for hÃ¥rdt nogle enkelte gange – det skal man ikke i vinden’, sagde Kenneth Jonassen efter at han for tredje gang i karrieren havde tabt en VM-kvartfinale.

Kvartfinaler i lodtrækningsrækkefølge
Lin Dan, Kina (1) – Lee Hyun Il, Korea (13) 5-15, 15-7, 15-8.
Peter Gade, Danmark (3) – Chen Hong, Kina (7) 15-13, 15-4.
Lee Choong Wei, Malaysia (5) – Bao Chunlai, Kina (4) 15-5, 15-7.
Taufik Hidayat, Indonesien (6) – Kenneth Jonassen, Danmark (2) 3-15, 15-10, 15-7.