Northeast Region’s Juniors Compete in Summer Pan Am Championship

Junior competitor Nicholas Waller (MA-U19) has a lot to say about competing in the XXII Pan Am Junior Championships, having travelled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for this summer’s competition where Team USA took home 40 of the 75 medals.

Impressed by the international flavor Waller said, “At the Pan Am games, there is the added fun of having players and fans from all over the Americas.”  Each of the 17 participating countries’ team has their own national style: “some are loud and boisterous, some very sedate, some have their own special songs. There are different kinds of noisemakers. It's very colorful,” Waller added.  He says there is “something really special about playing for your country rather than playing for yourself alone.”

Left to right back row: Nicholas Waller (MA), Clayton Cayen (MA), Raymond Chen (NJ), Timothy Shee (MA), Alan Shekhtman (MA);

Front row: Evelyn Zeng (NJ) and Don Averia (MD); Darren Yang (not shown)

American competitor Timothy Shee (MA-U13) chose another way to describe the experience of international competition. He said, “My recent experience at Pan Am put me in touch with many kids from different countries. It was interesting to meet these kids as most of them don't even speak English!” The experience showed him that kids from various cultures can get along and it also allowed him to improve his Spanish. An added bonus was the enthusiastic support of his fellow teammates.  Shee said he felt rejuvenated when, “I repeatedly cheered for all my friends and they returned the favor. During an intense match against Peru, every single person I cheered for—shouted for me!” With that support, Shee added, “I won that mixed doubles match after three games and will greatly treasure this memory of victory.”

Northeast Region Winners:

U11     BS       Don Alvernia (MD)    1st

          GD      Evelyn Zeng (NJ)      2nd

U13     BS       Clayton Cayen (MA)  1st

           BD       Clayton Cayen (MA)   1st

                    XD      Clayton Cayen (MA)  3rd/4th

                   XD      Timothy Shee (MA)  3rd/4th

  U19      BS       Alan Shekhtman (MA) 2nd

              BD      Alan Shekhtman (MA) 2nd

One particularly exciting matchup was one between Brazil and Canada in women’s singles. Shee suggested that the intensity most likely stemmed from each player knowing that she was representing her country. Both players fought extremely hard, he said, but it made for competition so intense that relief was palpable when it was finally over, with the Canadian winning.

Sometimes winning can mean ousting your own teammate. That’s what happened when Clayton Cayen (MA-U13) won the Boys Single match against American Karthik Kalyanasundaram in what he said was "one of most difficult matches I ever played.” The two had been trading wins all year. In the Pan Am championship, however, Cayen said, “The first game I won 21-16. The second game I was down by about 6 points with one point left in the game. I caught up, but lost 22-24. As soon as this game was over, the lights went out.”

Watching the match, Maria Waller (Nicholas’ mother) described the scene. “So once the lights came back on and play resumed, the momentum had shifted a bit. Towards the end, Clayton was one point away from winning the match (20-14) and then lost a few successive points, making the game terribly close (20-19). There were some crazy-long rallies and dives on the floor, but in the end, Clayton won (21-19). Even the post-match moments were dramatic with one boy being thrilled and relieved and the other exhausted and devastated,” she said.

"I finally got the last point and won the match!  I was so happy and so tired," said Cayen.

One of Cayen’s favorite parts about the tournament is at the end when players trade shirts with ones from other countries. “You get to meet people from all over the world. I saw the friend I made from Ecuador three years ago! I also saw the boy from Peru who I exchanged team shirts with two years ago," he said. This year, he traded with players from Mexico and Guatemala.

We asked Waller what he’d tell a friend who has never been to a badminton tournament before. He replied, “Watching badminton is super-exciting and addictive. It's a very fast game and so often you see the different personalities of the players laid bare. It's great. I also really enjoy the way a tournament setting becomes its own little world.” 

Waller especially enjoys the time not only in competition, but also simply eating and hanging out together. But, he explained, it can be hard to return back to your everyday life afterwards.