By Ivor Huang
APAC events are a time for athletes to push themselves as hard as they can while making new friends through a common sport. For the competitors of one sport, this opportunity has been cut in half.
Ten schools participated in APAC badminton last year, which provides a large pool of people both to compete against and get to know. However, this year’s APAC badminton tournament, taking place in mid-April, is going the way that APAC events for several other sports have already gone: this year’s tournament will be split into two conferences.
This was due to few schools having a student population large enough to uphold the APAC custom of students hosting visiting students during the events, as APAC badminton is expanding to twelve teams this year.
Amanda Li, a badminton player who, because of the split, has elected not to play badminton this year says that the split was unnecessary. “The majority of schools in the APAC program are able to host eleven schools,” she says.
Ben Zhou, SAS Pudong badminton team captain, disagrees that APAC should even maintain its hosting custom. “We could just sleep at hotels. I don’t think the students would mind paying extra money. Even sleeping in the school’s gym or something is fine, but I don’t know if that’s actually possible.”
Few people would enjoy sleeping in a gym, but the athletes are adamant in their opposition of the split. Both competition and fun matter far more than comfort to the badminton players.
“The split causes a lack of competitors for each division, and in badminton, it’s really clear who’s the weaker ones and the stronger ones,” says Li. “It’s not like a team sport where everyone can work together to make the team stronger so there’s a really large polarization of skill level.”
Not only is the competition level presumed to decrease this year, but the fun as well. Zhou says, “Some people think [APAC]’s boring now and didn’t join the team. There already wasn’t much play time and now there’s even less.”
“Without the split, the matches will not be as stressful as it used to be, but we only have one APAC a year,” says Ada Chen, coach of the badminton team. “We don’t want relaxing games. We want to challenge ourselves and meet strong players. I even have two strong players, the number one girl and number one boy, that quit, and they no longer are participating in varsity.”
Even though some former players decided not to join the team this year, the sport, as Justin Luo, a player new to the badminton team this year, says, “seems more popular than last year.” He quickly adds, “but from what I’ve heard, the team quality has gone down in general.”
Neither Zhou nor Luo believe that any rise in popularity was due to some of the best players deciding not to play this year.
“It’s mainly freshman that joined this year,” says Luo. “Like four or five freshman joined and they’re pretty decent. I guess their year just likes to play badminton.”
The split isn’t all negatives though. “[We’re] probably better because we were put in the weaker half,” says Zhou, who can’t help but include, “even though we lost our strongest guy and girl player.”