By TY FERGUSON
While many rang in the new year with the same old chilly weather, the NAIT Ooks Badminton team escaped to Hawaii.
From January 1st to the 11th, the badminton team spent their time on the island playing in the annual Hawaii Aloha Badminton Tournament and bonding as a team. The international tournament that took place from the 4th to the 6th brought strong competition and even stronger results from the Ooks.
Samantha Hsu and Eyota Kwan captured gold in Women’s Doubles while Tyler Walsh secured bronze in Men’s Singles. Kwan also secured silver in Women’s Singles and a bronze medal in Mixed Doubles alongside Jeff Ko.
The competitive experience gained from the tournament was not the only reason for the trip.
“The trip is a great facilitator for team comradery, giving them time to bond,” said Sinead Cheah, Head Coach of the Badminton team.
Between scuba diving, sandbar volleyball and just hanging out in their hotel, the team spent a lot of time together.
“Really it was all about the team being able to bond – building relationships that last for life if not just the school year,” said Cheah.
“You really get to know each other,” said Ryo Kuramochi, a fourth-year player and Business student, “It makes us more like a family.”
Cheah explained that badminton is not like other sports such as basketball or hockey where there is a lot of team travel during their season.
“Individual events [for the team] can lead to them feeling somewhat separated,” she said.
The NAIT Ooks Badminton team have been taking annual team trips for more than ten years – since before Cheah was a student-athlete herself. It isn’t every year they go to Hawaii, but this trip marked the 12th time the team has attended the Hawaii Aloha Badminton Tournament since 2000.
Playing against teams from Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines paid off for the Ooks. They came out in first place in their second ACAC tournament of the season immediately following their exhibition trip.