Canada Open at Winsport an Olympic warm-up for Martin Giuffre
Finals set for Sunday afternoon
Before going for gold at the Olympic Games in Rio later this summer, Calgarian Martin Giuffre has one small order of business to take care of — competing in this week's Canada Open at Winsport.
"Two of the biggest tournaments that are in the summer, one being the [Canada] Open... and then next week the U.S. Open in L.A., those are two great opportunities for all athletes who have qualified to see where they're at and look to see what they need to improve on," he told the Homestretch.
"The goal is to peak in Rio but all of us are looking to keep going up toward the Games, and I definitely have the desire to win here."
Qualifying for the Rio Games was a "long process," he said.
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"For badminton, the qualifying process is a full year so I've been competing since last May until this May, basically needing to try and keep my world ranking within the Top 70," he said.
"There's only 35 guys that qualify so for me it came down to the last few tournaments of this qualifying period."
Making it to his first Olympic Games was a dream come true.
"This is every athlete's ultimate goal and dream to represent their country in such a prestigious event," he said.
"For me this is the icing on the cake."
Zika virus concerns
Some high profile athletes — including golfers Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh and basketball player Stephen Curry — have withdrawn from the Rio Games citing concerns over the Zika virus, but Giuffre said it's not a huge concern for him.
"For a sport like golf, those athletes, whether it's a practice day or during the game day, they're going to be outside for six hours plus so the risk is a lot more," he said.
"You just do all you can in terms of doing your own precaution, wearing bug spray and trying to be indoors as much as possible. Lucky for me, badminton is an indoor sport."
Some of those he'll be up against in Rio will be competing at the Canada Open, with the finals set for Sunday.
"You're getting players from Asia, from Europe, from the Pan-American region, from the Oceania region, there's such a diverse amount of athletes here and this is such a great opportunity for Calgarians and Canadians to come out and see what this sport is all about," he said.
"You're going to see how fast-paced this game is and how competitive it is and it will be exciting for people to see some Olympics athletes in action before the Games get underway.
Started at a young age
Giuffre began competing in badminton at the age of six.
"With badminton being a lower profile sport in Canada I was lucky to grow up at a club in Calgary where when I was a little kid and growing up as a junior, that's where the national training centre used to be situated, so I got to see what badminton was like at a high level," he said.
"That was inspiring to me and that's what lead me to ultimately quit hockey when I was 13 and make the decision to compete in badminton full-time."