I finally won my first medal but it wasn’t that sweet, sweet gold like I was hoping for. We took home the bronze which was better than 5th place we took home about a year ago at the same competition, but still, I was hoping for more.
This was a tournament sponsored by the local government. Entry fee was only 10rmb a person ($1.75) and included a free shirt, and prizes for the winner. Xiamen city is said to be the number one place in China to play badminton. And Jimei, my district, is the second most popular place in Xiamen to play. Out of six districts, ours has the second most courts and the second most players (several of the top players in the city hail from my district). I think our local government supports badminton more than any other district though which I really appreciate because it means we can have more competitions like this.
Since Jimei district is my home, these people have seen me since the beginning. A fellow university teacher drove me home and he said, “I remember when you and your coach used to train at the university before he opened his gym. You could not play at all then, and now you got third so you’ve really improved.” I didn’t remember this guy at the gym at that time, but I appreciated his words.
Also, as the organizer was putting the medals around our neck, he looked at me and nodded. “Good job Xiao Bing. You’ve improved a lot.” I don’t play often with these people (the competition was at a competitors gym to which I rarely go) and I’m kinda the person they ask how I did and expect a “we lost” answer from. So to be able to say “We got third!” surprised a few people.
But honestly speaking we should have won first. Or at least gotten to the finals. We lost our semi-final game, but we shouldn’t have. They weren’t better than us, but we played poorly. Perhaps bolstered by our big win before (the quarterfinal game we won 21-5) or perhaps bored and too inactive for too long (nobody in our seed showed up so we had to watch all the other seeds play it out over two hours before the quarterfinals) we just didn’t play as good as we should have. And I say “we” but I know it was me.
So I’m vacillating between pride and disappointment. This is not the highest place I have ever gotten (that would be 2nd place at the university competition) but it is the first time I got to bend my neck as someone put a medal on me, and had the placard and had pictures taken. It felt pretty awesome. (Also, as a government event it is going to be in the media and as the lone “laowai,” foreigner, I know there will be at least one picture and mention of me.) And yeah, that shit is fun and validating. Not gonna lie.
And again, going from fifth to third is progress in the right direction. Just shows that I am not the savant or child genius I hoped I was. That I might not leap from fifth to first in a year, but, like the majority of people, I will make continual slow progress.
My all-time favorite moment of the tournament was when we went to play our first game. Since we had no one in our seed, Azhi and I just stole a few moments here and there to practice and play. Because I’m a foreigner, people tend to watch, and several times, especially when Azhi was smashing and I was successfully returning the smashes 3-5 times in a row (then turning it around to an attack), I heard the people watching us gasp and encourage us.
So when we finally stepped up to play, we walked by our opponents. “Gaoshou,” I heard him whisper to his partner. Experts. In truth, the highest level players weren’t allowed to compete in that days competition (they played previously in a team competition) but I loved hearing it.
After all, like that quote from Thomas Cooley,
“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am ”
If I can get more people thinking I’m a gaoshou, fearing me like a gaoshou, then it’s better for me and my own mental psychology.
So onward and upwards. Everytime I play in a competition, and place, I feel both happy and dissappointed. I don’t want to get used to that feeling though and I want just one competition win where I feel like I have played my best and better than normal. I guess that comes with time and relaxing during a competition.
Back to training!