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Badminton clubs believe scandal won't mar sport
August 03, 2012, 01:00 AM Julio Lara, Daily Journal Staff
The saying goes that the only bad press is no press.

As the sport of badminton finds itself in scandal during the Olympic Games, local badminton clubs that specialize in teaching the sport are looking at the positive.

"People come to Affinity, to learn to play badminton,” said Eleen Chen, a coach at Affinity Badminton Club in San Carlos. "I think badminton in the Bay Area is very popular. I think a lot of people come here to just learn to play and think that badminton is a lot of fun.”

"There's never really been a scandal like this so we don't know what it's going to do for us,” said Jane Fong, an employee at the Bay Badminton Club in Burlingame. "We hope that it'll be good for us. September is when we get a lot of new students, so, we'll see. We hope [to see a growth].”

The sport, known mostly as a recreational activity and for its strong and loyal following among its more avid consumers, is in the spotlight right now because of the Olympic games in London.

Four women's doubles teams were kicked out of the competition Wednesday after allegedly losing a match on purpose to secure a more favorable draw in the medal round.

The doubles teams — the top-seeded pair from China, two pairs from South Korea and one from Indonesia — deliberately conceded points in an apparent attempt to lose their round-robin matches so they would face easier opposition in the knockout stage.

With the scandal bringing negative light to the sport, places like Bay and Affinity remain focused on teaching the next generation of players and turing the negative into a positive.

At Affinity, Chen said they are expecting an influx of new players following the games — a wave that can see their number grow to about 800 visitors and students from ages 7 to 17.

At Bay, Fong pointed to their training academy, now three years old.

"We are trying to grow the sport,” Fong said. "That's the reason why we're here. We have the school, we have adult training, youth training which we are actually doing very well on. Interest is growing. The owners are really die-hard badminton people. They're players, they're still competing. The whole point of this club is to grow the sport of badminton.”

Students at the Bay academy range from ages 5 to 20 and train anywhere between six and hours a week.

"It's a very serious training,” Fong said. "We are hoping to produce an Olympic contender who will actually bring home a medal for the U.S. That I can tell you is a goal.”

The Peninsula has recently proven to be a hotbed for great young badminton talent.

Candy Zhang, a freshman out of Aragon High School, won the Central Coast Section individual title and she was just a freshman. On the boys side, Jan Banquilles got to the CCS final and is two-time Daily Journal Badminton Player of the Year. He's going into his junior season at Burlingame High School. Schools like Crystal Springs Uplands in Hillsborough and South San Francisco have also produced solid badminton prospects.

"There many clubs that have a serious training program,” Fong said. "We're really hoping that we will make a change — a very positive one.”

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