New Year, New Tournaments!

I was too sick to play badminton on Christmas, but I rallied for New Years because I had tournament to play on New Years Eve day. A Team tournament. And I was chosen to be captain again!

This tournament was organized by my friend, and I hope I’m not outing anyone here, but in my head I called it “My Big, Gay Badminton Tournament” because, well, for obvious reasons. It was also almost all guys, only me and one other girl (both of us are friends with the organizer so he asked us to join) and even though Azhi isn’t gay, as my partner he was allowed to play with me.

There was almost 100 people from all over China that came to play in this tournament. And before you start thinking it was some “sissy” tournament these guys played an incredibly high level. So much so that my team was completely outclassed and needed a handicap.

It was also a unique style tournament that was self reporting. Let me try to explain.

My friend didn’t want people to come all the way to Xiamen, play one game, lose, and sit out the rest of the tournament. He wanted everyone to play all day long–really get their moneys worth. So, instead of a win/lose tournament, it was a points tournament.

Each team has 5 pairs (all males doubles except me–the other girl is an incredibly strong female player, one of the strongest in the city, so she played men’s doubles). Each pair was ranked with team one being the best, team two second best and so on. As a mixed doubles team I was at a severe disadvantage so I was ranked 5th in my team.

So the #1 team in my group played with the #1 team in all the other groups. The #2 team played with the #2 team in all the groups and so on. There was 9 teams total so each group got to play 8 games.

We went team by team, so my team would play all five games with another team before moving on to play with the next team.

Since there was no referees, each team had to keep track of their own scores, writing them down on a piece of paper the organizer prepared. Then, when the five games were finished the team captain (that would be me) compared their records with the other team captain. The scores should have been the same and then each team captain signs the other team captains paper saying they both agree.

This is a total mess and maybe you can’t tell what is going on, but this was our final scorecard.

Then the organizer took the scores and the team with the most points won. Get it? Its a bit hard to explain and it took me half the morning to understand what was going on, but it worked out quite well and I liked how each team got to play all day long. It took us about 6 hours to play all the games with a 30 minute break for lunch.

Like I said, these guys were awesome. My team was made up of serious players who train and we were completely out of our league. We were so disadvantaged the organizer gave the first three groups in my team an eight point lead. Eight points in a 21 point game! And no one complained or thought it was unfair, so everyone knew how much better they were than us.

As Azhi and I were the 5th pair in the ranking, we didn’t get the 8 point advantage. The benefit to us is that the 5th pair on all the teams were the “worst” pair. But even the lowest level players were all a very high level and being a mixed doubles team playing against all men’s doubles it was rough for us.

And yet somehow we pulled off three wins (out of eight) which was better than a few of the men’s doubles pairing in my team. Even with the 8-point advantage our #2 team only won twice. Without an 8-point advantage Azhi and I won 3 times. So boo-yah!

Since we knew we were the worst team we had low expectations. During the lunch break the organizer added up all the points and we were where we expected to be: dead last.

One of my team members mock cries as he points out our scores on the board. We were at -74 points where the winning team was at +74 points. Yikes.

But as we started playing the afternoon games, a small rumor reached our ears that it was possible for us to get second to last place. The team that was closest to us had lost big in one game, and we were losing, but our point difference was smaller.

Some of my teammates lost huge, like 3 to 21, and I was sure we were going to come in last. But one of the organizers, who was paying attention to everyone’s scores, said the other team was still losing bigger. And we also had some wins (Azhi and I won two of the afternoon games) which helped our score. Our group was one of the first to finish so we ended up going home first without knowing everyone’s final scores.

As we were getting ready for the big group dinner, the results of the competition came out….we had gotten 8th place out of 9! We beat another team! Even though it sounds super lame we did better than expected. So in our minds we were champions! We ended up -136 points where the worst team ended with -145 points. (The winner got +118 points). It was a victory for us! So proud of my team!

The dinner was super fun. Honestly, as a straight woman I would never join a gay tournament in America. It would be disrespectful and I would open myself up to a lot of criticism. But being gay in China is still seen as a shame, and even people that accept it, don’t treat it as normal. They giggle, or act embarrassed around gay people. But I couldn’t care less what a persons sexual orientation is and I don’t see gay players as any less manly or less of an athlete or a person. Gay guys and white women are natural allies, right?! And as the only white women in attendance I became a bit of a mascot as the night wore on (and everyone got drunker) with people asking to take their picture with me, hug me, and blowing air kisses to me from across the room. It was awesome.

Perfect way to ring in the new year!





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