Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Badminton Story

I was 8 then one summer I first got hold of a badminton racket. I was hitting the shuttlecock quite well when an older man (in his 20s) played opposite me. The wind was against me and I had to hit the bird harder. Then he stretched forth his racket hand and smashed the bird towards me. All of a sudden, the world turned black. The shuttlecock went straight into my right eye. I thought I was going to be blind. I cried. And for days, I vowed revenge. But I could no longer remember his face, for it was the first and only time I saw the guy.

Badminton was just either a backyard or a street game for me back in the early 90’s. Neighbors played in their yard or in the streets with cheap rackets. Girls, including the maids, loved the game. They think it was so sissy of us to play with them. No jumpsmash, no drives, no tricks. We were just hitting the cheap plastic bird to our delight. It was fun.

Then the boys started to play the game, outnumbering the girls. We hit the bird hard, and tried every smash and every trick. The goal was to keep the bird within the boundary and to hit the opponent very hard. So I mastered my defense, having experienced the pain of being hit in the eye a year before. We also improved our lift, lifting the bird higher than the coconut trees. It was really, really fun.

Now came the school intramurals. With only my knowledge in street badminton to back me up, I joined the badminton competition. Nobody in school thought that I could play. They thought I was only good at academics. I was out to prove them wrong.

So, what is it in the street game that helped me improve my game? Control. We were playing with an imaginary net. The street lines served as our boundaries, so we had to control the shuttle to keep it in. Drives. In an open space, sometimes we played against the wind. So we had to hit the bird hard. Lift. Aiming to hit higher than the coconut trees strengthened our wrists. Smash. To be able to hit our opponents, we had to smash them hard and in the area where their defense was weak. We usually target the backhand side. Defense. To defend ourselves from those killer drives and smashes, we had to be on the proper stance and racket position. I knew what it is to be hit on the eye. Footwork. We kept on running in our imaginary court. The right footwork made it easy for us to cover all corners. Placing. Since my opponents ran faster than me in an open field, I had to properly place my shots to all corners to get that precious point.

That year, I beat the favorites, topped the competition and represented the school in the district tournament.

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