Updated: Jan 6
I can’t believe how fast time flies… It’s exactly 5 years ago I won the Pan Am Games here in Toronto!
When Toronto won the bidding process to host the 2015 Pan American Games, I immediately made it a goal for myself to reach the top of the podium here in my hometown! I was thrilled about the possibility of competing at this event in front of my friends and family, and I was prepared to give everything to make this new dream of mine come true.
During my years in badminton I have played in a variety of tournaments around the world. From fancy, to exotic, to culturally unique… I have experienced a lot in my career. However, outside of being on tour and competing in other high caliber tournaments, the Pan Am Games will always be an event I prioritize and cherish. I take pride in being from the Pan Am region, because despite all odds I believe we can excel in a highly Asian and European dominated sport. For this reason, I want to make sure I am putting on my best performance during this event to showcase everything I work hard for and am capable of.
The badminton event for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am games took place from July 11 to 16 in the Markham Pan Am Centre. Many of you already know I’m a Markham girl; so the venue was just 12 km from my house. It was literally playing at home. 😀
Special feeling to play the Games in Toronto
It was a once in a life time opportunity to play such a big event as the Pan Am Games in my own city. Some people never get this chance and I know I will not get this opportunity again in my career.
Obviously, it was a special feeling to enter the court for my first match at the Games. I had played in the Markham Pan Am Centre many times before. However, stepping out on court, officially in front of all my childhood friends, family, teachers and anyone who has always known what I did but never really had a chance to see it for themselves… there was no doubt a mix of excitement and nerves inside me. I was ready! But I was scared too.
For once almost everyone I knew and everyone who has supported me could come out and show their support. Even my dad, who hasn’t watched me compete since I started travelling at 17 came out to see how much I have grown. Elementary and high-school teachers who knew I missed class all the time to compete overseas were here to see for themselves what I have been dedicating my time to. Friends that never really understood the sport came to support me with signs and show their love. I obviously didn’t want to disappoint.
I won my first three matches in straight games and had a hard fight in three games in the semifinal. But I won it. I was in the final.
In the final I was up against a close friend, a teammate, a training partner and fellow Canadian. But no matter how you are related, whether you’re family or friends - or even enemies - we have to put that aside when entering the court because once the match begins, only one thing matters: Your performance and doing your best to win every point down to the very last second.
A dream come true
I still have flashbacks of the moment I won the last point inside my head. Even though I had a good head-to-head with my opponent, this match and this win was different. It meant more because it was the Pan Am Games at home. We rarely get the chance to have a high caliber tournament at home, let alone in Canada. I was extremely happy and proud! I had been preparing for this event since finding out Toronto won the bid for the Games. And when I was finally standing there with the gold medal around my neck in front of my friends, family and all the spectators from home, it was a mini dream come true… and I could finally breath again.
Sometimes the toughest battle isn’t our opponent, or our ability on court… It can be simple conditions like where the tournament is held, the people in the audience, the expectations and pressure of people close to us. It isn’t till we have to face it, we truly understand how tough it is to balance the simplest of matters with still being able to perform.
Outside of capturing the gold medal at this event in front of my loved ones, I gained so much more than that. I experienced and learned to recognize how I reacted and dealt with pressure. And I learned how I need to prepare to perform especially when the expectations of myself are higher than usual. I didn’t want to disappoint everyone who has supported me since day one, and I knew it would not have been easy.
Needless to say, I’m of course happy things turned out in my favor on that day 5 years ago… 😉