Commonwealth Games Blogs

My last match for Canada

I won't lie, when I woke up two days ago on the morning of what could be my last match I felt the emotions creeping in.

"Not now. Not yet," I told myself. There was still work to be done; I still had to fight for the win and the chance to reach the medal rounds over world No. 3 and local superstar Saina Nehwal.

A few days earlier, Saina and I met at centre court in the team event and I was surprised how well I felt against the '"Indian Sensation." It had been well over a year since we'd played one another and Saina's results since then had gone through the roof. I lost the match in two solid sets, but I held my own against my friend's sharp attack and dangerous net play and was also able to get her to play my style of badminton: long, physical rallies of attrition.

Heading into our quarter-final encounter I felt excited, but there was one big variable I could not predict: would I be able to run?

The reason for this uncertainty was the fact that in the days between the team event and the individual tournament, I (like so many athletes in the relatively confined space that is the athletes' village) caught a pretty bad chest cold. Thankfully, I wasn't pushed too hard in my early singles rounds, so I was hopeful that my body would recover in time for the Saina showdown.

The tournament organizers wanted our match to be the last of the night, a welcomed rarity in the world of badminton, and sports in general for that matter. It's usually the men's events that are chosen above the women's to keep the audience in their seats 'til the end. But the winds of change are picking up in India and it's now a woman who has become one of the nation's favorite athletes.

"SAINA! SAINA!" the full stadium of 5,000+ adoring fans chanted in unison as we took to centre court. Of all my years in badminton, I'd never played in a setting quite like this. I was about to be the hated Drago to their Indian Rocky.

I knew I had to come out strong if I was to have a chance to shake Saina's confidence, but at the first-set interval I was down 11-3. Not quite what I had visualized happening. But it wasn't the score that I was frustrated with, it was my body. I was not recovering between rallies and my lungs were simply not keeping pace.

National team coaches Jeff White and Ram Nayyar (who, I must add, have been awesome throughout this entire event) came on court to give me some great strategic advice. But it was no use because I simply could not implement the strategy without my endurance.

To make matters worse, Saina was playing perfectly, proving exactly why she's become among the best handful of players in the world.

As the match took it's painful course, the Canadian badminton team as well as other members of the Canadian team in attendance never stopped shouting and cheering for me.

When it was over, I took a deep breath and knew the next few hours were gonna be tough. I resisted the urge to fight the tears and I let my emotions out.

Disappointed. Relieved. Ashamed. Excited. I felt them all.

There was no logic to the feelings but I let them come and go as they needed while I spoke to the media and took pictures with the team to mark the occasion.

And of course, like a bad joke, I got selected for drug testing just as the last bus drove off from the venue, which meant the entire team had to wait and we didn't get back to the athletes village for dinner until well after 1 a/m.

So what does life have in store for me now?

Well, I must admit I'm very excited for the year ahead.  I'll still stay involved with badminton as a private coach and training partner in Vancouver. It would break me to go cold turkey.

But what I'm most excited about is my new role as communications director for a small and amazing Vancouver-based charity called Choose Again. This organization helps youth and adults overcome major life obstacles such as depression, addiction, eating disorders, relationship problems or other issues preventing a person from being truly happy and realizing their full potential.

As a badminton player, Choose Again really helped me in recent years, enabling me to become a better athlete. So when the opportunity to work with the organization arose, I jumped at the chance.

Now it's time to visit the Taj Mahal and party like this is the last tournament of my career.

Oh, wait. It is.