Teen Competitor Talks Tournaments

“I will do whatever I can to help increase the popularity of the sport, because I truly believe badminton deserves great recognition.” ~ Alex Cheng

Alex Cheng is a winner. He took home three wins in the U19 category: a second place with his mixed doubles partner Adrienne Lin, and 3/4 in both the Boys Singles and the Boys Doubles with his partner Ethan Wu, at a recent junior tournament. As a 2012 U17 Boys Singles finalist in Junior International Trials and the US Junior National Championship, as well as a U17 Boys Singles bronze medalist at the Pan Am Junior Championship, Cheng is not at a loss for words about the great sport of badminton.

After competing in the 2013 New Jersey Junior Championships Super Regional over Columbus Day weekend, Cheng had time to reflect on his love for the game. It has taken 10 years of both practice and competition to be among a handful of the prime contenders who may represent Team USA in the upcoming Pan Am Junior and World Junior Championships as well as the Junior Olympics.

“Badminton,” Cheng said, “is truly a sport like no other.”

He believes it takes exceptional physical ability and a mental toughness to excel in the sport. Comparing badminton to the game of chess he said it requires: out-thinking your opponent, hiding your strategy, and “ultimately staying one step ahead of your competitor.”

With badminton being an integral part of his young life, Cheng is grateful for the many doors the sport has opened to him. Many of his closest friends are people he met on the circuit, and he admits he might never have visited some of the far-flung places around the globe had it not been for badminton competition. “Being able to enjoy the game with family and friends is truly a blessing,” he said.

According to Cheng, the best aspects of tournament play are both the will to win and the sense of competition; qualities that can be applied to other aspects of life. Cheng said, “At tournaments, everyone is trying to prove that he or she is the best.”

Cheng said, “I love hearing the sounds of quick footwork on the courts and the sound a shuttle makes every time it is hit by a racket.” And it’s not just the mechanical noises of play that make a tournament exciting, it is also the players. He loves hearing the occasional “roar” of a player getting pumped up, or expressing frustration. “Multiply this symphony of sounds by a thousand and you get a badminton tournament,” he added.

Aside from taking home a win, you may wonder what makes a badminton tournament so special to a player. While it is true that each sport has its own unique sounds, there is a deeper, more personal vibe that keeps Cheng in the game.

“Every time I step unto the court, I am stepping into a whole new world and need block myself from the spectators and everything happening around me. I am not only in a battle against my opponent, but also against myself, constantly trying to maintain stability in my thoughts and emotions. Only when I have reached the ‘zone’ can my game truly elevate.”

Coach Andy Chong (left), Alex Cheng (right)

Today, after years of playing the sport and getting in that zone, he said, “I find this to be very special, because I am able to apply this concept to everyday life.” When he feels tired of doing something like completing a school assignment, studying for an exam, or even mowing the lawn, he thinks back to the person he is on the badminton court—one who refuses to give up and who always pushes for more. Cheng believes that his ability to apply the skills he has learned on the badminton court to his everyday life demonstrates the value of badminton and sports playing in general.

Cheng is considering options for his future. Science and technology appeal to him, so he may pursue the field of biomedical engineering. Still, he is keeping his options open but one thing, he said, is certain: “I can safely say that I will definitely stay close to badminton.” He will start a badminton club or team if the college he chooses does not offer one and he wants to help to increase the sport’s popularity and recognition in the United States by helping to create a more prominent nationwide badminton collegiate league, or by coaching.

Like many teen competitors who aspire to be role models for younger players, Cheng’s love for badminton can be summed up in his own words. “I definitely want to pass down the knowledge I have acquired to the next generation of players.”

We say “kudos” to Cheng and his fellow competitors as they continue to prepare for upcoming tournaments.