‘Big Teams Are Taking Us More Seriously’

In Part 2 of the interview, Canadian mixed doubles duo Joshua Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu speak about the change in attitude of the top pairs towards them, and what their success means for Canadian badminton. (Read Part 1 here).

You are pushing the top pairs. Do you feel you’re getting closer to that level?

Josephine: Every match this year we’ve gone close, although honestly we’ve had some bad games in there as well, but the ones where we actually played our level, we’ve gone close. But I feel we’ve lacked experience, like when the game is close, what kind of tactics should we use. Sometimes we tend to go for too much, we’re too desperate for that first big win. We can make all these excuses, but it’s all on us to handle it.

What aspects of your game do you need to improve?

Josephine: Speed, strength, overall decision-making. Every venue is different. So there’s drift going one way, or side drift… or the bird’s slow or fast, so to me it’s learning to adapt to those things. I feel I have trouble adjusting to the venue.

Joshua: You can see that each venue is different, no two tournaments are the same. Maybe the lights are weird, or maybe it’s darker; some venues the wind is blowing in different ways. You can’t play the same way and expect it to work.

Considering there aren’t many strong mixed doubles pairs in Canada, how do you manage your sparring?

Joshua: We don’t train together. We kind of do our own thing and come together only during tournaments. For me to get to her place is a four or five-hour flight.

Josephine: We find other countries asking us to spar with them, which is really nice. Before, no one knew who we were, but now we’re starting to make connections and we’re consistently meeting in top tournaments, and they’re asking us to spar.

What does it mean to be a pair from Canada doing so well?

Joshua: It’s very interesting. Against the big teams, when we were on the circuit for the first time, no one knew who we were, they kind of looked down on us, and when they played us, they started to take us a bit more seriously. That happens during the game, and it makes us feel good. At the beginning they were messing around with us, and then they take us a bit more seriously, that’s a good feeling.

Josephine: Even though we’re from Canada, and we’re less privileged, I don’t want to see myself as less than anyone else. I feel like I have got more attention from people in Canada. I’m not satisfied just yet, still chasing, still learning, trying to do my best.

What’s the run-up to the Olympics looking like?

Josephine: That’s the hard part of planning, especially without a coach or physio, it’s hard to play so many tournaments at the same time. I felt we need experience against the top guns, that’s why we kept entering more tournaments. For three-four months, we played four tournaments in a row, and we had a break for a week, and then four months in a row, and then we burnt out in the end. Now we’re more mindful of that.

This is a good period in Canadian badminton, with strong prospects in all five categories…

Joshua: I think it’s a record for Canada for the number of people qualifying in badminton. There are seven of us.

Josephine: Our country has really evolved. You notice it at the junior level. Michelle Li has proved she can make it out there, even not given all these subsidies that other countries give. She’s a really good role model for the juniors. Everyone’s pushing their level up.

Joshua: At our clubs, a lot of kids ask me to train with them, and they say they watch me on YouTube. When I was growing up, I didn’t have someone who was a role model, because there was no one doing what we are doing.

Once we actually make the Olympics, we will have a bigger impact at our clubs.

Josephine: A lot of younger people are asking me for advice, and asking me for a plan. It’s kind of cool that a year ago I had none of this experience, and now I have all this insight.

Also read: ‘She Thought I Was Joking About Pairing Up’

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