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NEWS : Badminton players put on fast-paced show

Discussion in 'General Forum' started by seven, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. seven

    seven New Member

    Aug 13, 2003
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    Computing Engineer
    Toulouse, France
    Badminton players put on fast-paced show

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    By Gary Rotstein, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]John Beale, Post-Gazette
    Ronney Choong, 56, eyes a return in a badminton doubles match at the Cost Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus.
    Click photo for larger image.

    [​IMG] For results visit: 2005 National Senior Games Event Results

    The overhead smashes seemed blinding, the reaction time nonexistent. The exchanges went zpffffff ... whizzzzz ... thwack... zpfffffff ... thwack ... whizzzzz. The speed of the shuttlecock hit across a 5-foot-high net by players about 20 feet apart left no time for heads to turn to follow the action, just a quick dart of the eyes.

    The Senior Olympics 50-54 men's badminton doubles finals would have proven to any doubters -- and there were none inside Pitts' Cost Center yesterday -- that badminton is no delicate, backyard game. It's fast, demanding, relentless and strategic for anyone who takes it seriously, including about 400 participants in the 2005 Summer National Senior Games.

    Play in the three age brackets between 50 and 65 finished yesterday, with four friends who drove up together from Montgomery County, Md., putting on a show in the youngest men's doubles competition. And they symbolized the international nature of the sport, which is generally dominated by Asians in world competition.

    Ronney Choong and Pravit Choonit, originally from Malaysia and Thailand, beat their traveling companions Shean Wu (born in Taiwan) and Bruce Moyer, the one Caucasian on the 20x44-foot court. The four sweaty men looked a little crowded on the court, which is about one-fourth the size of tennis boundaries, but they were used to it after sharing a hotel room for three nights.

    "We drive together, sleep together, snore together," Moyer said with a smile, joking that English is the only language he lets anyone speak in his Honda Accord hybrid so that no one can talk about him behind his back.

    The Choong-Choonit team, made up of a Malaysian embassy staff member and a mechanic, won the championship, 15-8, 15-5, in a half-hour match. The 5-foot-5 Choong, possessing a fit but scholarly look at 56, with eyeglasses dropping low on his nose, repeatedly leapt to slam high overhead smashes that his friends had no chance to return. He also won the singles gold medal for ages 55-59.

    Anyone inexperienced in badminton would have wondered how it was possible for any of the four men to return the hard hits of the others, but Dave Zarco, a Florida competitor who was officiating the match, said the young seniors' shuttlecock speed was just about 60 percent of what it would be among the top national players. Badminton smashes have been timed at 200 mph, faster than a ball hit or hurled in any other sport.

    Pravit Choonit, 64, left, and Ronney Choong, 56, right, have the court covered yesterday en route to a doubles championship at the at the Cost Center on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

    Click photo for larger image.

    Unlike tennis, badminton starts with a little underhand poke serve across the net, then increases in speed through a tight exchange of smashes, lobs and drop shots from titanium racquets with heads much smaller than in tennis. "I consider it the Rodney Dangerfield of all sports. It gets no respect," said Zarco, who teaches and promotes the sport as a "badminton evangelist" seeking out disbelievers. "You try to react to anything coming at you within one-sixth of a second, and that's pretty damned fast. ... You can be sucking wind, from the workout you get in five minutes."

    Jack Harvey, 81, of Spokane, Wash., the No. 1-ranked player in the country in his age group, which starts play today, said it's the most popular participation sport behind soccer in many countries. It's just never caught on in the United States the same way.

    He and others noted the Cost Center isn't a great venue with its stuffy feel and oppressive hot temperatures. Plus the air currents affecting the shuttlecock are uneven and the overhead lighting is tough to look into. But most of those present were just happy to be competing.

    "Above all, it's been fun," Moyer said, despite a loss Choong and Choonit seemed ready to remind him of -- in English, for sure -- on the four-hour ride home.

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