10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SERIES – Tales from the mixed zones, Part II

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This is the second instalment of our series where we hear the best memories from the amazing volunteers who have used their personal time to write, shoot photographs, and report live from badminton competitions in the 10 years since Badzine went international in the autumn of 2006.

Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto and Gerald Jew

It has been 10 years since Badzine went international and in this series of articles, our volunteers share with you their best memories of their experience writing, photographing, and interviewing to bring the world of badminton to the screens of our readers over the last decade.   This week, we hear from three talented individuals who have all been indispensable members of the Badzine team.

Yves Lacroix, Badzine Correspondent since 2006 (Badzine Québec founder and Badmintonphoto photographer since much earlier!)

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Even though most of my involvement on the international circuit is with Badmintonphoto as a photographer, I am also a journalist for Badzine.  Two of my fondest memories on the international circuit are related to the latter media.  My first fond memory happened in 2011 when I was covering the Japan Open as a photographer for Badmintonphoto.  My friend and colleague, Emzi Regala, arranged an interview with Peter Gade.  The Danish superstar courteously accepted and asked if he could be interviewed in the Players’ Area because he wanted to keep an eye on a team-mate’s match.  Not long after the interview started, a security guard came over and asked Emzi to leave the area because she did not have the proper accreditation required to be in the Players’ Area.  Gade, who was obviously enjoying his conversation with Emzi – who wouldn’t? – stood up to converse with the guard.

At that time, I was close enough to catch Gade’s interaction with the security guard: “Listen,” Gade said. “I’m the one who asked her to come here and I take responsibility for that but please give us 5 minutes so we can finish the interview.”

I was amazed by Gade’s professionalism and his willingness to step forth to avoid Emzi being held accountable for something he felt responsible for.  Respect, Gade.

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Being a journalist for Badzine also gives me the chance to talk to players before they become well-known badminton stars.  One such occasion arose at the 2011 Canada Open where I noticed a very young and talented player.  She stood out from the rest of the players due to her amazing skills and spirit and her small stature – she was shorter than the net.  Her name was Nozomi Okuhara.

“Damn, she’s very good,” I told coach Kanako Yonekura before asking if she could act as my interpreter to interview her young protégée.  Kanako graciously agreed but my assumption that Nozomi could not speak English was wrong.  Nozomi’s English was slow and limited but she insisted on answering all of my questions without her coach’s help.  Even though it was far from being my best interview – as my colleague Don Hearn could testify – I would like to believe that I was the first non-Japanese journalist to have interviewed the future Olympic medallist.  It has been on my mind to ask Nozomi to confirm this fact but I never got around to doing so.  Am I too afraid to discover that some other foreign journalist actually have beaten me to it?

Gerald Jew, Badzine Correspondent since 2009

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Although I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing and awkward moments while covering events for Badzine, one encounter with Thai badminton star Boonsak Ponsana sticks out in my mind.

I believe it was in 2011 that I covered the finals of the All-Thailand Championships, the tournament where all the Thai players were in the hunt for national titles.  Anxious to get an interview with some of the star players, I spotted the heavily-favoured Boonsak, who was warming up for his men’s singles final against Suppanyu Avihingsanon.

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I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn’t disturb him while he’s preparing for his match, but also thought that it may be the good time to try and talk to him while he was alone.  So I walked up to him, and asked him if he could spare a moment to talk.  Obviously perturbed that I was interrupting his pre-match routine, he curtly replied, “Not now, maybe later,” and I walked off feeling shunned and slightly embarrassed that I had disturbed him.

Ponsana went on to lose the match, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe I was partly responsible for his loss.  Knowing how superstitious many players are, and how they seem to be singularly focused while preparing for a match, I couldn’t help but think of the possibility that I had completely thrown him off his pre-match routine, and ruined his mental preparation and train of thought.

Not knowing if I was part of the reason for his loss, I avoided Ponsana after his loss as I wasn’t sure if I would incur his wrath, or worse.

By the way, since that day I’ve had many interviews with Ponsana, and he is one of the most accommodating and nicest players I’ve had the pleasure to meet.  He always goes out of his way to say hello and talk with me, and is most generous with his time.

Nevertheless, I learned never to interrupt or ask for an interview while a player was preparing for a match, and have never done so since that day.

Serla Rusli, Badzine Correspondent since 2006

I did not sign up for this.

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When I spoke to Raphael for the first time, I only wanted to write for Badzine so that I could get closer to my teenage idol at the time, Fu Haifeng.  I didn’t plan for this to be a huge part of my life – something that would last for a decade, and longer than my highly justified crush on the then newly crowned World Champion (which in itself lasted for a few years).

I still remember my very first big assignment – I had to interview Wong Choong Hann over the phone.  I was halfway through a football practice, and I had to excuse myself and sit nervously at the corner of the field to give Wong a call.  It was my ‘test’ before I was sent to cover my first major tournament, Singapore Open 2007.

Fast forward to nine years later, I have covered countless tournaments live in Singapore, Indonesia and Denmark.  I have been at the front-seat of some of the most exciting badminton matches.  I have interviewed many of the world’s best shuttlers, acted as a translator for some of the biggest Indonesian badminton names and even rubbed shoulders with royalty when I bumped into the Crown Prince of Denmark at the Copenhagen Masters.  I have made lifelong friends with current and former Badzine staff.  Most importantly, I have also found my passion in writing and journalism, which I am now pursuing professionally.  All these would not have been happened had Badzine not given this crazy teenage fangirl a chance.

It has been ten years of exhilarating adventures.  This was definitely not what I signed up for.

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