It was the third and final Badminton Single’s match of the POL-ITE league.
Our player, Junjie, had not trained as much as he wanted to due to his internship. He was up against an opponent who was en route to “going pro” from RP. There was an air of nervousness, even resignation, among TP’s other squad members.
Junjie loses the first set with a discouragingly wide margin. “It was something like 21-10″, says Justin Lim, the team captain.
The POL-ITE games is an annual sports league conducted between the five polytechnics and ITE. It is one of two major competitions, the other being the Inter-Varsity Polytechnic games, which involve the universities as well.
Games during the POL-ITE are competed through a “league” system – each win or draw earns you points, and the team with the most number of points after all matches are concluded wins.
The TP Badminton team had been dominating the POL-ITE games for the past few years prior to the 2012 games – five years, in fact. With each year’s victory, the pressure on the next team mounts. But it was the 2012 POL-ITE that would prove to be the most exciting year of them all for our TP Badminton team.
At the start of the second set, Junjie’s opponent pulls ahead with a few early points. But Junjie’s form returned and he defied all expectations by taking the second set 22-20, a nervously close margin.
The tension in the third set was almost tangible. Each and every point mattered. Both players fought hard, knowing what was at stake. While RP still had one game in hand, this was TP’s last chance to win the title. Victory was everything.
The final score? 21-19… to TP.
Just hearing this account from Justin and Michael Chandra, the captain and vice-captain of the TP Badminton team, was enough to give me goosebumps. “We all rushed in and grabbed him!” said Justin, with pride in his eyes. The imageRY was vivid – after a hard fought competition, it came down to the wire… and TP persevered. It would be our sixth POL-ITE championship title.
The TP Badminton Team wasn’t a particularly large one. It has around 35 actively playing members, and for POL-ITE the total squad size is around 10 players, including reserves. Internal competition isn’t particuarly strong though, according to Justin and Chandra. Players train to the best of their ability, and support each other whenever necessary.
There is both a Boys and Girls squad – the latter led by Tan Ping Ping and Aurkarn Vatanapoon. The Badminton Girls’ team did well too – in 2012, they were the Runners-Up in the POL-ITE league.
As a competitive sport CCA, the team stringently selects and trains only players who have a history in Badminton. Justin started in Primary 5, and played for in Anglican High, his secondary school. Chandra is an Indonesian who came to Singapore five years ago, studying in and playing for Monfort Secondary School. He started in Primary 4, influenced by his father who had a passion for the sport.
The competitive scene, however, was not necessarily a predictable or kind one. TP had expected to soundly win the second Double’s match in 2012, but lost it to RP in a surprising upset. The opponent Junjie was up against was actually playing with an injury, and it was clear to everyone that he was in pain for most of the match.
“But he insisted on playing, and pushed himself hard,” Justin said, with more than a hint of respect in his voice. It was the spirit of the game – win, or go down fighting.
But what makes a champion? It’s a simple question with sometimes vastly different answers. For our Badminton Team, though, the answer was straightforward.
Commitment. Hard work. Experience. Passion. Talent.
The team trains three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, increasing in both intensity and frequency when competition season comes along. The coaches, Mr Wong (girls’ team) and Jonathan Tang (boy’s team), both require discipline and focus in their squads. The entire team is bonded, something the captains encourage as much as they can. The ties that bind them give them support.
Inspired by reading a bit too much manga, I did ask a slightly random question. “Just out of curiosity, is there any squad member who’s… particularly talented? Does well even though he doesn’t train as much?”
Justin and Chandra looked at each other and laughed. “Junyang!” came the unanimous and simultaneous reply. They joked about how he had problems making it for morning training sessions, and enthused about how he still played really well. “We’d clap when he appeared for morning training.”
This year, they’ll be once again defending their championship and setting their eyes on the seventh title. The POL-ITE 2013 games are scheduled to happen in October and now more than ever before, we want to be there by the sidelines, cheering our teams on.