PARTICIPANTS at this year’s ASEAN GAMES Australia badminton tournament competed on a level playing field, following organisers’ decision to segregate players according to their level of skill. Siti Mokhsin brings you the highlights of this year’s badminton tournament.
For the first time in ASEAN Games Australia’s badminton event, organisers have made a conscientious effort to afford players equal opportunities by separating the competition across two categories – professional and novice.
The professional category was specifically dedicated to players who have had experience playing on a national or international level. Novice competitors meanwhile could still enjoy the sport without feeling too undermatched.
On splitting the categories, ASEAN Games Australia Project Director Denyse H’ng acknowledged that the sport’s professional competitors were “very high level players” and that they wanted everyone to “have an even playing field”.
The decision was well-received and highly commended by participants across the two-day event at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC) last weekend.
One participant who gained advantage with the new arrangement was Liow Yan Min from Malaysia. She emerged as champion in the Novice Women’s Singles after going against Thailand’s Amornratt Saiytong (21-18, 15-21, 21-9).
Liow agreed that the decision to have two categories was a “a good idea” as it would give “weaker players a chance to win at their level”.
“It gives other people the opportunity to play more challenging games,” she said. This was her first time playing in singles competition at ASEAN Games.
Meanwhile, the Professional Men’s Singles in this year’s ASEAN Games garnered the most attention due to the intensity of its matches.
A heated battle between Malaysians Sam Chang and Damian Si took centre stage; the stakes of winning boiled down to the player with more strength and agility.
The competition eventually went to the independent professional player from Penang, Sam Chang, who won two straight sets (21-13, 21-8).
Despite having participated in the Western Australia university games where he grew up, Damian Si accepted defeat, acknowledging his opponent’s exceptional skills.
“It was really hard. Sam [was] really good,” Si said. “I feel really tired. I’m quite old now. The last time I trained was probably about 10 years ago,” said Si, who is turning 27 this year.
But Si was not the oldest player around.
In the Novice Men’s Singles finals, a rough battle ensued between 31-year-old Brian Yong from Malaysia and 38-year-old Anthony Robinson representing Singapore.
In a twist of events, Yong tussled his way to a double-set victory (21-16, 21-13) despite having sprained his ankle midway through the match.
“I was in pain but wanted to finish the game. I was initially concerned with the way my ankle was feeling,” Yong said.
Yong added he wasn’t sure if would be able to compete further but was thankful that “[his] opponent was gracious enough to let [him] get treated before continuing the game”.
Robinson expressed his concern for his fellow opponent, whom he last went against in the finals of the Victorian Teachers Games in 2013.
“The first instant I saw [him] fall, I worried it was quite serious. I have known Brian for a few years and played against him before and no one likes to see player injured,” Robinson said.
“If it was called off, I would have really felt let down.”
Since its commencement in 2011, ASEAN Games Australia has this year reached its highest number of participants across all sports categories. For its badminton event, up to 120 entries were made this year.
The organisers also received more helping hands, with a total of 45 volunteers who aided with registration and officiating.
“We made it more official this year because last year, [we] only had linesmen for the finals only which [was] a bit unfair. Even for preliminary rounds, you should get linesmen by right,” Badminton Director Lillian Toh said.
Furthermore, after an overwhelming response from participants, the prize money also increased this year thanks to the additional support from sponsors.