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05-17-2007, 07:25 PM #1
Bach and Malaythong up against the odds
Bach and Malaythong up against the odds
By Vicki Michaelis, USA TODAY
ORANGE, Calif. — The Orange County Badminton Center sprawls, warehouse-like, within walking distance of the Honda Center, where the Anaheim Ducks play.
The OCBC is 73,000 square feet, big enough to hold a Thai restaurant, an expansive printing business, the USA's premier badminton facility and an against-all-odds dream.
Here, Howard Bach is training with partner Bob Malaythong for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Here, over a Thai dinner, owner of the OCBC conglomerate and U.S. badminton benefactor Don Chew calls Bach and Malaythong's ambition to win an Olympic medal "an impossible goal."
Bach differs. "Nothing's impossible now," he says. "That's the wrong word to use."
In 2005, Bach did the unimaginable. He won a world title in doubles badminton partnering with Tony Gunawan, a 2000 Olympic champion from Indonesia. Before Bach, no American had ever made it to the quarterfinals of the world championships or the Olympics.
To repeat the feat in Beijing without Gunawan, who won't obtain U.S. citizenship in time, will be more unimaginable. Home team China has won 19 badminton medals since the sport gained Olympic status in 1992. Only two non-Asian countries have won an Olympic badminton medal; Denmark has three, the Netherlands one.
Asked about the USA's medal chances in Beijing, U.S. coach and former Chinese national team player Cai Zi Min says: "I think, frankly, it's very hard."
Bach and Malaythong's mission improbable begins today, at the Pan American Badminton Championships in Calgary, their first opportunity to earn Olympic qualifying points. They're ranked 32nd in the world.
Bach, 28, will return from Canada in time for his graduation from Cal State Fullerton on Sunday. Bach took seven classes this semester in order to finish his bachelor's degree in business.
"I will devote my heart to badminton once again," he says, "because I know what it takes to get to the top."
Bach also knows hope can be found even in the slimmest of chances. A month before the Athens Olympics, where Bach partnered with Kevin Han and made it through one round, his uncle called to tell Bach he needed to take an unexpected trip to Vietnam.
Bach's father, Cam, was in a diabetes-related coma. Doctors gave him a 20% chance to live. The coma lasted three weeks. As he came out of it, he was giving his son badminton pointers.
A year later Cam, a Vietnamese national badminton team player who immigrated to San Francisco during the Vietnam War, was in the stands at the Honda Center, watching his son win a world title.
OCBC owner Chew also was there, beaming.
Both Chew and his wife, Kim, were elite-level badminton players in Thailand before immigrating to Southern California in 1972 in search of economic opportunity. They learned the print business and, in 1981, began operating a print shop out of their garage on a used press.
K&D Graphics is so successful today that Chew has a love-or-money dilemma: He needs to add more printing machinery, but to do so he would have to take over more of the badminton courts that he installed in 1996 purely because of his passion for the game. He already has taken over six; 12 are left.
The majority of U.S. team members train at the OCBC. Chew, a former USA Badminton president, estimates he spends at least $250,000 per year in sponsorships, coaching salaries and upkeep.
Gunawan immigrated to Southern California in January 2002 to study computer science. Chew gave him a job as a coach and Gunawan began competing with Malaythong. Two years later, when Han retired after Athens, Gunawan and Bach became partners.
"Before we met Tony," says Malaythong, a 26-year-old native of Laos who grew up in Rockville, Md., "we had no confidence in ourselves or ability to play against international teams. I feel this has helped us a lot. Whether we win or we lose, I feel we're going in with the best chance of winning."
05-17-2007, 08:35 PM #2
nice read...thx cooler
05-17-2007, 08:36 PM #3
Interesting article..thx for sharing..
IMO, eventhough they might not have enough training time but the upcoming Sudirman Cup in Scotland, as well as the rest of the tourneys this yr, should give us some indication as to where they stand on their chances for next yr's Olympics..It might not be totally feasible, but IMO, Bob and Howard need to play more outside of the U.S.
05-18-2007, 03:32 AM #4
Impossible is the wrong word....ok I'll pick another word.....near to impossible how is that?? come on Bach wake up!!!!! u won because u partner Tony!!!!!
05-18-2007, 03:36 AM #5
i think as mentioned, it will be a very difficult task. but not impossible.
i was chatting with Tony when he was up here coaching for the team trials. Tony said that Howard and Bob has a lot of potential, now when that's coming from Tony, that holds a lot of weight. Tony said during training matches, Howard and Bob are able to beat him and Halim. yes. TONY and HALIM.
what Tony said they are lacking is the mental, and the believe and confidence that they can WIN. granted yes, mental maybe the most difficult aspects for the professional level. they still have time to train and if they work hard, they will have the opportunity to go and try it out. if they don't even try and give up now, they will for sure not going to achieve anything.
05-18-2007, 06:27 AM #6
Nice article, thanks for sharing cooler!
I agree with Bach's statement. It's nowhere near impossible, Bach himself being the world champion 2005. It will be very difficult without Gunawan, though, but I don't think this pair has been able to unleash their true potential yet, it might as well happen in the OG.
05-18-2007, 12:04 PM #7
well, having said that, Howard and Bob just lost to a Canadian pair in the Pan Am Open.... hm...
05-18-2007, 12:29 PM #8
They need mental experience. No doubt they can win Halim and Tony in practice sessions. For example Kendrick vs Ronald Susilo, Kendrick always wins during practice but when come to the real deal.. he always lose to Ronald. Same goes to Bob and Howard during the tournaments, they might crumble under pressure. I'm sure they will make it big again one day. Nice read btw.
05-18-2007, 12:32 PM #9
The problem is, imho, the training in US ground is not nearly as tough as (or as good as) the training in, say, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. The lack of sparring partners is also a big issue.
I believe the environment would make or break a champion - without positive reinforcement and support structure it would be improbable for any US players to compete succesfully in international arena.
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