In Badminton shines in Brazil. And “the Game Sublime” has a following in Rochester, including Rajesh Barnabas and New York State Assemblyman Mark Johns, we reviewed badminton’s past and present in Rochester.
So I was excited when Rajesh alerted me to the October 30th 6th Annual Rochester Open, sponsored by University of Rochester badminton club and held on campus at the Robert B. Goergen Athletic Center.
And what better time for the debut of our ZOOM H4n Handy Recorder kindly given by my sister as a birthday gift. As few weeks earlier, Rajesh rightfully pointed out the magazine’s wholly inadequate audio equipment — as in none.
Hence, it’s very fitting that Rajesh, followed by his father, were ZOOM’s first interviewees.
As explained by Richard Kao and Rahman Ejaz, the UR badminton club formed in 2003. In 2011, the club sponsored the first Rochester Open. Six years later, the tournament is thriving, attracting 112 players from throughout the northeast, including college teams from RIT and SUNY Oswego. The level of competition was the highest to be found in western NY and southern Ontario, outside of Toronto. The strongest players were in their early 20s but all ages were welcome. Previous Rochester Opens
The UR badminton club is quit popular year round. Over the course of a year, Rahman says maybe 100 people attend at least one event, about 75 are periodic participants, and between 30 and 40 are regulars. Most people have relatively little experience — maybe playing in high school PE classes — but they quickly take to this the worlds’ fastest racquet sport. Rahman says a few members of the tennis team join the games from time to time.
Once people see how removed real badminton is from the outdoor picnic version with too high nets and heavy plastic-tipped shuttlecocks, they get hooked on what I call, “the game sublime.”
Rajesh’s interview spans his time playing as a youth on the 9th floor of the State Street Kodak Building to the current games at the Town of Webster Recreation Center. Rajesh mentions the 2016 Rochester Open was his first competitive tournament since playing in Canada as a 12 year old. Although at 40 Rajesh is a little old in badminton years, he gave the college boys a run for their money.
Also interviewed was Sam Barnabas, Rajesh’s father. The two were doubles partners in the tournament. Sam has deep roots in the Rochester badminton community and its history. Also at the Open was Erica Bryant, Rajesh’s wife. She played Mixed Doubles with Sam (though not in victory).
Photographs where noted from Ramakanth Desani.
Rajesh Barnabas, 10/30/16
Sam Barnabas, 10/30/16
Sounds of the game sublime
At one point, Rajesh and I volleyed. I hadn’t played competitively since the 1999 University of Rhode Island Intramural Tournament (third place finish and t-shirt). A few years ago when I was a PE substitute teacher at East High, I played badminton with some girls who didn’t like basketball and also was soundly dismantled by East’s PE teacher Michael Militello.
But just one or two serves and volleys brought back the adrenalized memory rush of those hundreds of thousands of badminton strokes over a lifetime. The timing was off, but all my instincts they returned. Volleying was like dancing with a fond long lost friend at a college reunion. A couple of awkward clumsy steps on the toes and then the years melt away and the ballet begins anew. The light joy of knowing it’s still there.
In “the Game Sublime”, Rajesh calls badminton “this magical sport” whose poeticness surpasses every other racquet game. And so we felt its spell at the 2016 Rochester Open.
OTHER SPORTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER