Sun | Sep 15, 2019

Badminton players continue Olympic chase in Carebaco Open

Published:Wednesday | August 21, 2019 | 12:12 AMDaniel Wheeler/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica’s badminton players will have little time to dwell on their Pan American Games experience.

Gareth Henry, Samuel Ricketts, and Katherine Wynter, who all competed in Lima along with Alana Bailey, look to increase their chances of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games, when they compete in the main draw of the Caribbean Regional Badminton Confederation (Carebaco) International Open in Barbados continuing today through to Sunday, August 25.

Henry will begin play in the men’s singles against Kari Gunnarsson of Iceland at 10:30 a.m., while Ricketts will open against the winner from qualification match five from yesterday at 11:00 a.m. Bailey, who was not in Peru, will start action in the women’s singles at the same time against Haiti’s Alanda Baptiste, while Wynter will begin her campaign at 1:00 p.m. against Krystal Clarke of Barbados.

President of the Jamaica Badminton Association Nichole Case is hoping for good performances all-round, especially from Henry and Ricketts, who will team up in the doubles event.

“Garth and Sam are the top seeds for the men’s doubles in that event, so we do expect a gold medal for this event and [to] hopefully make up some more Olympic qualification points,” she said.

The team is seeking to earn valuable points in its quest for qualification to the 2020 Olympic Games, which Case has stated is still possible by playing enough tournaments to accumulate the points required and substantial funding to play in said tournaments.

“Olympic qualification is still attainable if we can garner enough funds to play enough international matches to get the points needed and if both gents remain healthy. Gareth has had some injuries that have affected him, so we have to watch that closely,” she explained.

Improving results

The players are targeting improved results from their Pan American Games campaign. Henry was defeated in his round-of-32 singles encounter with Guatemala’s Rubén Castellanos in straight sets. Ricketts fared better, advancing to the round of 16 before falling in straight sets to Kevin Cordón, also of Guatemala. In doubles, the pair of Ricketts and Henry made it all the way to the quarter-finals before being dispatched by Cuba. Wynter, who is coming back from an injury sustained in the Jamaica International Open held in Kingston earlier in the year, progressed to the round of 16 before being beaten in straight sets by Iris Wang of the United States.

Case is confident that the team can bounce back and strengthen their chances for Tokyo with good performances in Barbados.

“Every loss brings a lesson learned so they are energised to take gold at the Carebaco Championships in Barbados this week,” she said.

One of the promising stories from Peru is the play of Jamaica’s top junior player, Tahlia Richardson. Although she came up short against Barbados top singles champion Tamisha Williams in the round of 32, her impressive play attracted the attention of the Pan Am confederation development team. They have since extended an invitation to her to participate in an elite player-development workshop. According to Case, she will be one of the major building blocks for the 2024 Olympics.

“Tahlia Richardson gave a competitive performance in the ladies’ singles. As our top junior, she showed great promise against seasoned players on the circuit,” she said.

Case, who was re-elected as president of the Badminton Association in late July, has outlined the agenda that her administration will undertake, which includes youth development and increasing the level of sponsorship in order to make it to the Olympics.

“[We want to] build our juniors through the Chinese exchange and other opportunities for top talents – as they are the future of the sport, improve our indoor facilities by collaborating with other indoor sports that have similar challenges to get funding, and improve our national training programs for sustained podium results so we can get continued funding and support,” she outlined.