‘The Break is Nice… But It’s a Little Too Long!’

Like many of their peers elsewhere, Canada’s Joshua Hurlburt-Yu and Josephine Wu – Pan Am’s best mixed doubles pair – are currently training independently at home. At No.14 in the Race to Tokyo, the Canadians were well placed to qualify for Tokyo 2020 but with the circuit suspended, have had to modify their plans.

Hurlburt-Yu and Wu spoke to BWF about what the lockdown has meant for them and how they are adapting to changed circumstances.

How are you managing to train during the lockdown?

Joshua: Because we’re not allowed to use our facilities, we use what we have outside of that. I don’t have weights, so I go outside for runs. I do a lot of bodyweight stuff, or maybe even put stuff in grocery bags and use that as weights.

I have ordered some adjustable weights online, hopefully they’ll come in soon. I want to be able to maintain or even push myself.

I stay indoors as much as possible. Badminton Canada is arranging for coaching online and I’ve asked them for appointments. For the most part I’ve been doing what I was doing before the lockdown.

Josephine: I’m working out at home, doing physicals outside when the weather’s nice. My city (Edmonton) had snow until two weeks ago. Now it’s warmer, so I can take my training outside.

Lately, Badminton Canada has been reaching out to us with a physical trainer who has been guiding us in our workouts, but mainly we’re still doing our own. I try to incorporate my normal workouts. I’m lucky I have some equipment at home, it’s better than nothing. I train at least two-three hours every day.

Have you been getting any badminton practice at all?

Joshua: I’ve been using a heavy racket and hitting against the wall. When I’m inside I always have it next to me, I always swing it when I’m bored.

Josephine: In terms of badminton, we’re on full lockdown, there’s not much I can do.

Considering how busy you were while trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020, are you happy with the rest you can get during this period?

Joshua: I think for Josephine and I, it was tough because this was our first year coming up and we were trying to get a good ranking so we had a lot of tournaments back to back, and we didn’t have much rest. So it’s nice that we are getting a break now, but I think this break is a little too long!

Josephine: This break is working out in other ways, definitely. I’d earlier mentioned how I felt burnt out, so I think now we get a break, physically and mentally. And then there’s this chance for the injuries to recover.

Do you watch badminton videos to pick up some skills?

Joshua: I’ve been watching mid- to late 2000s, watching older players play and it’s been refreshing to see Koo Kien Keat, Tan Boon Heong, Lee Yong Dae, Jung Jae Sung, and Hendra (Setiawan) with Markis Kido, and Nova Widianto and Liliyana Natsir.

I’ve also been watching Nathan Robertson, he was all control, he could control the pace of the game, no problem at all. You don’t really see a Nathan Robertson type of player today. It’s so cool to watch.

Josephine: I watch a good variety, I like to watch mixed doubles, men’s doubles, and also singles. Rather than individuals, I look at the team dynamics and styles. I like Huang Ya Qiong and Zheng Si Wei as a team. I also like to watch Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying and Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung. Zhao Yunlei and Ma Jin are my favourites of all time.

How challenging is it mentally to get through this period?

Joshua: I tend to adapt to whatever is thrown at me, so I’m not too sad about it. like I’m just trying to enjoy my alone time. Of course most of the time I’m thinking about badminton, but I think it’s okay, like everyone’s feeling the same way, they want to go on court and stuff, but we can’t do anything about it. We just have to make do with the situation we have, just trying to take the more positive side of it.

Josephine: I miss playing badminton very much. I definitely think it’s a huge concern, I’ve seen that some countries have started to go back to training. So it kind of worries me. In Canada we haven’t reached the peak of the pandemic yet. So I don’t know when we’ll be out of this lockdown. We have flu season in October, and this whole thing might act up again, so potentially we might be in this situation again. So now we can only focus on maintaining our physical and mental well-being.

Apart from badminton, are you using this time to develop other interests?

Josephine: I have a schedule. I do yoga in the morning, which is new for me. Then I do a short workout. Then I study Japanese, which is my new hobby at home. And then if it’s Monday, Wednesday or Friday, I go for my run. I’m cooking at home, experimenting, doing some baking, helping my grandma with her grocery shopping.

I studied Korean initially, and I have conversational skills, and Japanese was on my list, so I took a Japanese class in university, but because of badminton I couldn’t take more classes, so I want to further those skills, now’s a perfect time to do it.

Joshua: I’m very competitive so I’m playing video games competitively, just to get the competitiveness out of me because that’s quite strong feeling that I have. So I try to let it all out when I play video games.

How has the lockdown affected your long-term plans?

Josephine: For now, I have to put my work plans on hold. Initially it was hard for me to accept the situation, but now that it’s been a couple of weeks, I’ve got into a routine, so it’s not that bad.

Joshua: Right now, the focus is on making the Olympics. Once I get over that hurdle, I will start seeing what I want to do outside of badminton, but right now, who knows – after the Olympics, I might stay in badminton, might keep playing, I might do something badminton-related. Right now, I don’t want to think about those things, just want to put my 100 per cent into trying to make the Olympics.

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