By: Lucas Uggenti
Over the Feb. 16-18 weekend, Ryerson University played host to this year’s 2018 Ontario University Athletics Badminton Championships. This tournament showcased some of the best athletes each university had to offer.
Fortunately for McMaster, this tournament went exactly as planned, earning a silver medal amongst intense competition. This was a considerable upgrade from last year’s bronze medal finish.
The tournament was comprised of 10 events divided into three specific categories: Men’s, Women’s and Mixed. Each university was allocated 16 open spots that have to be split evenly amongst men and women. McMaster battled hard all tournament, eventually defeating a difficult Waterloo team in the quarter-finals, en route to their second straight semifinal appearance.
The Marauders were able to squeeze by the Western Mustangs in the semifinal matchup with a final score of 6-4, keeping McMaster’s gold medal dreams alive. Unfortunately, the Toronto Varsity Blues were too much to handle, as McMaster was defeated soundly 6-2, capturing a silver medal.
“The game ends when the first team gets to six,” said coach Jason Sun. “Ultimately, if the game was played out, it would have a much different score line.”
Sun, who began his playing career at McMaster University five years ago, began playing for the program when it was just a recreational sport. His first two years saw him face many challenges, as he was named the team’s head coach. It was tough for Sun to find the balance between being both a player and head coach.
Ultimately, in his third year, he recognized the talent the badminton program had and decided it was in his best interest to step down as a player and begin coaching.
“The amount of talent this team had was unbelievable,” Sun said. “I wanted to help these guys get better and become successful, and I knew it would not be possible if I was both playing and coaching”
Although a tough pill to swallow, the championship defeat did not affect the outlook on a positive season. McMaster did well in all pre-tournament events, which are held by each university in preparation for the final OUA tournament.
McMaster had exceeded expectations, which were created by the previous success of this program in the OUA tournament.
“We had very high expectations this year as we had a good mix of returning veteran players and rookies,” explained Sun.
Badminton is an increasingly rising sport that holds some of the best athletes that universities across Ontario have to offer. The number of university badminton programs has already increased since Sun’s first year, adding two more teams this past season.
McMaster’s badminton program has developed some extremely talented athletes, one of which has been formally recognized by the OUA on numerous accounts. Jacob Kao, who is a fifth-year student, was once again named an OUA All-Star following his dominate performance at the championship weekend in Toronto.
Kao, who was talented enough to be named an OUA Most Valuable Player during the 2015 campaign, notched his second-straight All-Star appearance. Kao was also named McMaster’s Pita Pit Athlete of the Week, which he can now add to his already impressive résumé.
McMaster has earned their spot to challenge some of the best teams in Canada at the University National tournament. Although this tournament is not sponsored by the OUA or U Sports, Badminton Canada has created this tournament to showcase some of the best badminton players across the country.
This tournament will be held on March 9 at Laval University. Sun and the Marauders will be sending a total of 10 athletes to the competition, consisting of six males and four females. McMaster will be looking to maintain form and finish the tournament with a medal, which would be the first national badminton award in McMaster history.