We won! We won, we won, we won, we won!! Second place in women’s doubles at the university competition.
I’m not gonna lie though, we should have won first. Our final opponents were good, PE teachers and lifelong athletes, but not dedicated badminton players (I heard volleyball was their specialty). I should have been better, it was a small tournament. But I choked. I didn’t choke major, but I choked just enough to make sure we didn’t win.
My partner was Bai Laoshi (we played previously in an all women’s competition but didn’t place) and our first game we killed it. Score was 30:8. I felt equal parts proud and kinda guilty.
“I kinda felt like a bully,” I whispered to my coach after the game. He showed up late and missed the actual game, but the score told the story well enough. “Was it rude of me to smash them and give them back of the courts serve because I knew they couldn’t return them?”
“Nope,” my coach said nodding. “During a competition you need to play to the best of your ability no matter what.”
Our next game was neck and neck for the first dozen points before we found our groove and we overtook them 30:21. During the first half I could see my coach and my friend Azhi behind the court, cheering us on. I’ll admit I feel a lot of pressure when my coach is watching me and maybe that’s why we didn’t pull out ahead until the second half. (After 15 points we switched sides and my coach was behind me so I could easily forget him.)
The third game was the final game. There was supposed to be 8 teams, and 2 seeds of 4, but two of the teams in our seed didn’t show up. So we had to wait for the other seed to finish and the final was against them, the highest seed in their group, and us the highest seed in ours.
I started off okay-ish and by the halfway point we were down 15:9, nothing too big to overcome. But I lost confidence, lost my concentration and just couldn’t pull it together.
I could also see my coach during the second half, and once it was clear we couldn’t make up the point difference he stood up from his chair and started pacing. That only made my confidence plummet more, because I knew he was mad at my mistakes and if we were in his gym, he’d be yelling at me.
After the game as we walked back to my stuff he walked with me. “We got second,” I said hoping to deflect his immediate criticism.
“You did,” he said giving me a high-five. “Good job.”
“But you lost confidence,” he added. “You thought they were experts and better than you.”
“Well, they’re PE teachers. They’re athletes. They play together all the time and me and Bai Laoshi never play together. Of course they are better than me.”
“That’s why you lost,” he said.
So my victory was tainted a bit. I tasted that sweet, sweet first place win in my mouth before it was ripped away from me.
But there are many positives. I got second place and we won 500 yuan ($74). And this was a competition I wasn’t even allowed to enter a year ago because I was so bad.
And not only did I get second, but I had a few offers from other players to be on their team next year. (And these are the dreaded University teachers which have been so mean to me previously. This time they were nice.)
So it’s a step in the right direction.