Over the weekend of April 1st, the RSEQ (Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec) held their collegiate provincial championships for badminton in Sainte-Foy. Although it was an event that primarily involved the league’s Division 1 teams, a few players from Division 2 were able to participate. Among them was Dawson’s Marina Nguyen who competed in the women’s single’s portion of the tournament. Representing the Blues and the South-West region of Quebec, she fought her way to a well-deserved bronze medal.
Marina started playing badminton nine years ago. As she recalls, her love for the sport all started in her backyard, where her neighbour and her would exchange shots. It was merely an innocent moment, but she showed enough interest for her parents to sign her up for badminton at a nearby sports centre. From then on, Marina was able to grow into the talented player she is today.
Despite her skill and years of experience, Marina only joined Dawson’s Badminton Team this winter semester. Prior, she only participated in Badminton Québec events. It was first time she ever participated at an RSEQ Provincial Championship.
Road to the podium
The format of the tournament was a round-robin that spread twelve players over three separate pools (four players per pool). Each player had the opportunity to play three matches, one against every player in their respective pools. The ones with the best records moved on to the quarter-finals where they would face each other in bracket-style elimination. In both settings, the first player to win two games takes the match.
Marina, having won two of her three matches in the round-robin, played well enough to earn her ticket into the quarter finals. There, she faced off against her former doubles partner from Cegep Outaouais, Valerie Tessier.
“I did not expect to play against [Valerie] at all,” said Marina. “It was something I found out only 30 minutes before the game. It’s funny because we were actually speaking before that, asking each other who we would play against. I never considered her as an option.”
In her first game against Valerie Tessier, Marina came out strong. She had a comfortable lead over her former doubles partner and was a point away from winning the first game as she was up 20-13. However, many missed opportunities and unforced errors on Marina’s behalf allowed Valerie to not only get back into the game, but to tie it as well.
“[Marina] can make a lot of unforced errors at times,” said Anthony, one of the two Dawson Badminton coaches. “[From that], her opponent caught up to even the score at 20-20, making it quite intense.”
Despite the misplays, Marina was able to pull through thanks to her persistence. She won the next two points to take the first game 22-20. From that moment on, Marina never looked back. She would take the next game 21-9, allowing her to move on to the next round.
Although the outcome of Marina’s quarter-final match could have easily been different, her biggest challenge came in her semi-final, when she had to play against Brebeuf’s Alyson Ruan, the first seeded player of the tournament.
“No one wanted to play against Alyson,” said Marina. “She’s very tall and you have to play a certain way to beat her, which kind of forced me to change my strategy.”
Marina, who represented the Blues, and Alyson, who represented Brébeuf, were far from being strangers. Not only did they face each other a couple times at Badminton Québec, but they often met each other in the RSEQ as Dawson and Brebeuf are in the same division. Most games ended in Alyson’s favor. Nonetheless, Marina felt ready to face her: “At this point, I was getting used to it since Alyson and I are in Division 2. However, considering it was the last time we were going to play each other, I felt like I’d perform well. I was still nervous for sure but I was more open to the possibility of beating her.”
Marina eventually lost in two games, but it was far from being a one-sided match. In the first game, Marina only lost 21-17. In the second one, although she dropped the game 21-18, she was leading 11-7 at the interval. She managed to out speed her opponent, something Alyson noticed and personally let her know after they played each other.
“At the end of the match, I just collapsed on the floor,” recalled Marina. “I was so tired that I needed time to catch my breath. That was the closest I got to winning against Alyson.”
Despite not being able to compete for a gold medal, Marina still had the chance to bring home the bronze. The player she had to play against was Jiawei Tu from Marianopolis, another friend of hers. This match, however, Marina had two opponents: one was Jiawei; the other, her exhaustion.
“I felt like my legs refused to move,” said Marina. “It’s something I didn’t notice until I was halfway through the first game. I was letting shots go more often than I would like to.”
In terms of results, Marina’s match against Jiawei was the closest one. Marina won the first game 21-17. Jiawei would fire back in the second one and take the game 22-20. Thankfully, in the third and deciding game, despite the fatigue, Marina was able to hold everything together and took the set 21-18.
“I was so happy [after winning the bronze],” said Marina. “It was something that I really fought for. [In the Regional Championship], as a team, we were not able to get a medal, so I was hoping I would get one this time around.”
A great experience
Being the sole representative of a school at a tournament can quite intimidating, especially if most of the other players had their teammates to support them. However, this time around, the environment was different.
“It doesn’t happen often that I do a school tournament,” said Marina. “It was nice seeing an environment of teams cheering for each other. There was a lot of noise. The only other time I experienced that was at Jeux du Québec.
Marina’s participation at RSEQ’s Collegiate Provincial Championship for Badminton was officially the last badminton event for the Blues. In the regular season, Dawson’s Division 2 Badminton team was able to finish in third place. Although they were not able to win a medal in the Regional Championship, the team should not be discouraged.
“It was a good season,” said Anthony. “Many rookies improved a lot throughout the season. The only expectation I have for the next one is for everyone to do their best and improve.”