Monday, July 16, 2007

What a racket!

I was privileged to get an interview with several members of the USA badminton team and their coach today at the Main Press Center.

Howard Bach and Bob Malaythong are the top US men’s doubles team. They are the guys featured in the ad with Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears and David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.

Howard said he didn’t even know who these guys were when they started the shoot, but then he was like “wow, those are some really big dudes.” But the opportunity was great for badminton.

Apparently – according to Howard, Brian Urlacher is a badminton freak. He even plays it in the Bears’ locker room.

“He told me has has a couple of sports they mess around with in the locker room,” Bach said. “So you see a lot of big, tough Chicago Bears football players in the locker room, and they were kind of hitting the birdie – playing badminton in the locker room, so that was pretty neat.”

Turns out Howard Bach also speaks Chinese. He was born in Vietnam and his parents emigrated to San Francisco. His father was the one with the passion for badminton, and kind of did the Broadway mother thing – passed on his dream to his son. Badminton is huge where these guys are concerned.

Bob is from Laos, but his parents emigrated to California as well. He learned the sport from his uncle. He’s also the one who gets the shuttlecock stuck in his leg in the vitamin water commercial.

I also interviewed Eric Go, who was born in the Philippines and plays singles. He was cool – much more rock star like than like a jock. He was more laid back and not so much “all about the sport,” even though he moved to Colorado Springs when he was just 14 to train.

I also interviewed Eva Lee and May Mangkalakiri of the women’s team. Eva was bron in Hong Kong but May was born here. They have two chances to make the Olympics – both in women’s doubles and in mixed doubles – Eva is Howard Bach’s partner and May teams with Bob Malaythong.

The neatest thing was when I talked to the USA Badminton Coach, Cai Zi Min. He was struggling to speak English but when I asked him to answer the questions in Chinese, he smiled a big smile and seemed relieved.

All of this will probably play pretty well with VOA’s language services. Indonesian, Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, Chinese can all make use of theseinterviews. So that’s a big coup for your erstwhile reporter.

It was rainy here today and that kind of put a damper on things. But getting the interviews was great. I hope to do the same with weightlifting and judo tomorrow. If I can get fencing or shooting before I leave, that will be cake.

Three more days of work and I’m leaving. I’ll be glad to be home.

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