Ho-Shue was 13 then. He remembers placing his racket in his father’s casket, and saying that he wanted to see him at the Olympic Games.
Over the next several years, the Canadian pursued that goal single-mindedly. In his first year of university he worked part-time at a hospital, attended classes, and then headed to training, eventually returning home late at night.
“In my first year of university, I was doing full-time courses. And usually, I would schedule them in the nighttime because I got a job at a hospital doing IT. I think I worked 7am to 3pm and then I went to school right after, and then I would maybe go to training 8 to 10 at night. So it was quite hard. Because I had to do homework at night, too. And then wake up at 5am. So it was really tough.
“I think I did that for almost a year. It was just too hard on me, because I was starting to compete a little bit more often. And I was just constantly tired. I was always, like, had a lack of sleep and just didn’t have enough time to do more training or stuff I wanted to do.”
On the circuit there were expenses to take care of – flights, hotels. Like other independent players, he had to be cautious, only more so.
“Just making sure I got myself a budget, trying to try to find the cheapest flights. Most of us usually don’t stay at the tournament hotel because it’s a lot more expensive than maybe some other local hotels are just a little bit farther away. So we try to find those or Airbnbs. I also played in the Danish league for a season. And using that money towards my Olympic journey.”
It was a grind, but at no point did he want to give up on the Olympic dream, for the context of his promise was different. It had to do with his father collapsing with heart failure on a badminton court.
“When my father passed away… it was quite hard. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue badminton or not. And I remember just thinking about it like, it’s a sport we both really loved and really cherished. I didn’t want to give up on it.”
The day his name made the Olympic qualifying list in men’s doubles (with Nyl Yakura), Ho-Shue wrote on his Facebook: “10 years ago my dad passed away while playing badminton right in front of me. When I picked myself up and told myself I wouldn’t quit the sport, I made a promise to him that he’d see me on the biggest stage. I’m an Olympian now. 10 years I’ve carried this burden and it feels so amazing that I can finally let go of it. See you in Tokyo Dad.”
In fact, Ho-Shue had come close to qualifying in two categories. He was leading compatriot Brian Yang in the Race to Tokyo; the two Canadians met in the final of the Pan Am Championships, their last qualifying event. Although Ho-Shue had hurt his knee in the semifinals, he decided to play the final. After one game apiece, he couldn’t push any further.
The ten-year journey has been rewarded with an Olympic qualifying place. It’s an opportunity many dream of and few achieve; fewer who achieve it in the face of personal tragedy.
“Yeah, it’s been very tough, but definitely it’s been a really good journey. And I’m really happy that I followed through with it.
“I definitely feel like the past five years have really matured me a lot and definitely a lot of lessons learned and kind of glad that I had to do a lot of stuff on my own because, you know, I obviously built myself as a person but it also hasn’t been just by myself. I’ve had a lot of help from a lot of people, my coaches, my family and my association.”