Junior International Badminton Championships

Locals excel in world’s fastest racquet sport

Manhattan Beach Badminton Club members and gold-medal winners Isabel Zhong, Susana Zhong and Beckie Neumann join Monyata Riviera, right, of Barbados after the 18th Annual Junior International Badminton Championships.

Scores of young athletes competed at the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club last week, thriving on international competition while demonstrating that the sport is much more than a recreational activity played at picnics.

Eight countries were represented at the 18th Annual Junior International Badminton Championships – Wes Schoppe Memorial tournament that featured many local winners. Many competitors from other nations – which included Barbados, Mexico, Guatemala, Taiwan, Peru, Chinese Tapai and Vietnam – stayed with host families from the MBBC.

The tournament is named in honor of Wes Schoppe, father of current tournament director Dean Schoppe. According to Dean, Wes became involved with the sport of badminton in the 1950s and founded the U.S. Open tournament in the early ‘80s prior to the MBBC Junior International Tournament.

“Badminton is still a minor sport as far as the professional level goes,” Schoppe said. “But the growth has been driven by second-generation immigrants. In the 1970s, there were only two private clubs west of the Mississippi River. Now, in the Bay area alone, there are 19 clubs with 500-1,500 members each.”

Schoppe, a former world-championship player, said the growth of badminton in America has been slower that he would like to see.

“It’s a slow process since the United States has not had a medal winner in the Olympics,” Schoppe said. “But the game is increasing in popularity, particularly in South America.”

According to Schoppe, the conditioning of badminton players is among the top of all athletes and has been proven at the U. S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“I once ran two marathons in one week – without training – just to prove the point,” Schoppe said.

Beckie Neumann, one of Manhattan Beach Badminton Club’s top players, can attest to the importance of physical conditioning. She and her partner Susana Zhong finished first in the U22 Girls Doubles competition.

“It’s absolutely true that you have to be very fit to compete at high level,” Neuman said. “You’re primarily concerned with things like jumps and lunges, moving corner to corner efficiently, and being able to change direction quickly, but in singles especially, stamina is crucial. You see a lot of games where the players have equal skill levels and they are neck and neck in the first couple sets, but if it goes to a deciding third set, the outcome might be completely lopsided because one player simply can’t keep up that level for a long period of time.

“Being away at college all year, I haven’t done as much training as I used to. I thought I would be fine since I play for my school’s club team and competed in collegiate nationals this past spring, but at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for sheer number of hours spent and shots hit, and I really feel the difference on court. It definitely wore me out and gave me sore muscles much more this year than in past years. Technique will get you pretty far, but you need a great deal of fitness to back it up in a tournament environment, where you need to continually play at a high level on multiple days back-to-back with several matches every day.”

Mira Costa’s Isabel Zhong was a three-time winner at the tournament, capturing the U19 Girls Singles title, the U19 Girls Doubles championship with partner Aileen Chinas of Mexico, and the U19 Mixed Doubles crown with Shem Scantlebury of Barbados.

Shirleen Chen also was a triple winner, taking top honors in the U13 Girls Singles competition, winning the U13 Girls Doubles with Disha Gupta and the U13 Mixed Doubles with Daniel Duncan of Barbados. Chen medaled in each of the five events she entered.

Chad Naramore, a member of Mira Costa’s badminton team, won the U17 Boys Doubles with Shawn Whong and the U17 Mixed Doubles with Monyata Riviera of Mexico. Whong captured the U17 Boys Singles title.

Russell Kong won the U11 Boys Singles title and the U11 Boys Doubles championship with Brad Kong, and Nadia Susanto team with Amanda Haywood, of Barbados, to win the U11 Girls Doubles championship. ER


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