The Pan-American games have just wrapped up, after an eventful week in Guadalajara, Mexico. The tournament is highly regarded as the most important tournament for Pan-American players.
The Men’s singles was all about who could get the closest to beating Guatemalan sensation Kevin Cordon. The twenty-four year old Guatemalan rose to fame this year after beating China’s Chen Long and making the quarter-finals of the 2011 BWF World Championships. He went the entire tournament without losing a set, although many came close. The bottom half of the draw was a little more exciting with unseeded players Charles Pyne (Jamaica) and Osleni Guerrero (Cuba) seeming to come out of nowhere to take control of the entire bottom half. Guerrero lead the way by defeating Canada’s top singles player Stephan Wojcikiewicz in three games, 10-21, 22-20, and 21-18. Pyne exploded into the quarter-finals after a close game with second seed Rodrigo Pacheco Carrillo of Peru. The match went the full length with Pyne wrapping up the third game soundly, 21-10. Pyne and Guerrero met in the semi-final, where both were strongly seeking a spot in the final. The match lasted 38 minutes, with the Cuban player coming out on top, 21-18, 18-21, and 21-18. However Guerrero’s luck fell short against Cordon in the final. The Cuban came close to drawing a third but Cordon edged him out in two sets, 23-21, and 21-19.
Canada’s Michelle Li took a page from Kevin Cordon’s book this tournament, winning the tournament without losing a set. In fact, no player scored over 16 points in any game against her. She dominated the top half of the draw, winning her semi-final over Victoria Montero of Mexico, 21-10, and 21-7. Once again, the bottom half of the draw was much more interesting. Second seed Rena Wang of USA, had a surprising upset in the form of Peru’s Claudia Rivero, with the Peruvian taking out the America in the quarter-final, 21-15, and 21-19. But Rivero would not progress any further as third seeded Canadian talent, Joycelyn Ko overwhelmed Rivero in three sets, 21-9, 17-21, and 21-10. The final was all Canadian, with Ko and Li even being from the same province of Ontario. Michelle Li retained her sharp form, taking the Pan Am title, 21-13, and 21-12 in only twenty minutes.
Tony Gunawan formerly of Indonesia, has obtained American citizenship and is now flying the flag for USA men’s doubles, with partner, Howard Bach. Gunawan, who is widely regarded as the greatest front court player of all time, showed complete and utter dominance over his half of the draw, advancing to the final after only three short matches. They defeated the Mexican pairing of Lopez Andres and Lino Munoz, 21-12, and 21-12 in their semi-final. Canada’s second seeded pair of Adrian Liu and Derrick Ng seemed to have their half under control until the semi-finals. Halim Haryanto Ho and Sattwat Pongnairat of USA burst into the final after defeating the top Canadian pair 22-20, and 21-14. The final would be an all American brawl, with Gunawan and Bach displaying their 2005 World Champion form, winning 21-10 and 21-14 in 15 solid minutes.
The women’s doubles would be another battle for supremacy between USA and Canada. Top seeded sisters of Rena and Iris Wang made their way into the semi-finals with two solid wins. They then faced the dynamics of Canadians Grace Gao and Joycelyn Ko. The Canadian pair put up a tremendous fight but ultimately fell short in the end, with the Wang sisters winning themselves a spot in the final, 21-10, 10-21, and 21-12. The bottom half also had an American and Canadian semi-final. Third seeded Americans, Eva Lee and Paula Lynn Obanana led the way into the semi-final, beating both a Brazilian and Peruvian pairing on the way. But second seeds Alex Bruce and Michelle Li would not be far behind, making their way into the semi-final after impressive wins against Mexico and Dominican Republic. The Canadians and Americans clashed in their semi-final; however the Canadian pairing of Bruce and Li displayed a higher level of badminton in the tight third set. The final was another brawl between Canada and USA, with Bruce and Li facing off against the Wang sisters. Michelle Li walked away with her second title of the tournament, when partner Alex Bruce and her defeated the USA pair in two sets, 21-15, and 21-15. The match only lasted a total of twenty minutes.
The mixed doubles was another Canada vs. USA showdown. The top half of the draw featured top seeds Toby Ng and Grace Gao of Canada, facing off against Howard Bach and Paula Lynn Obanana of USA, in a tough three set final. The Americans fought hard, but Ng and Gao had more control in the third game, winning 21-11, 19-21, and 21-14. In the bottom half of the draw, Americans Halim Haryanto Ho and Eva Lee had an easier time finding their way into the final, winning their semi-final against the Peruvian team of Rodrigo Pacheco Carrillo and Claudia Rivero, 21-13 and 21-19. The mixed doubles final was the longest final of the tournament. Ng and Gao had met Halim and Eva in a few other tournaments this year and it seemed to be a pretty evenly set final. The match went to a third game and lasted thirty-two minutes in total. The Canadian pairing came out on top in the end, finishing off the American pair, 21-13, 9-21, and 21-17. This was Canada’s third title, meaning Canadians had won three out of the total five events, while Guatemala and USA only won one title each.