Team Tiger poses with the trophy and Athletic Director Greg Luna and Coach Edwin Luong kneeling in front. From L-R: Kimberly Hsueh, Christine Mao, Elisa Jeon, Jamilah Hah, William Yip (On top), Austin Wong (Bottom), Erin Wang (can only see 1 eye), Jonathan Wong (head mostly covered), Steven Wu, Matthew Tan, Garima Chand, Shane Yu, Athletic Director Greg Luna, Coach Edwin Luong, Kevin Xu, Charles Liu (Top), Stanton Ho(Bottom), Justin Rogando, Andrew Cheung (On floor) Photo by Steve Whitmore

Badminton is being touted as the fastest racket sport in the world. At least that’s what the recently crowned South Pasadena High School varsity badminton CIF-Southern Division 1 champions say. And who is in position to doubt that assessment after the 23-member Tigers team took home the championship trophy Saturday, May 13, when it squeaked out a hard-earned victory 11-10 against Cypress High School.

What’s even more remarkable, according to South Pasadena’s Athletic Director, Greg Luna, is that this is only the fourth year SPHS has fielded  a badminton team. Moreover, the team is the only co-ed competitive sport in CIF, with 11 young women and 12 young men.

“This team is incredible,” Luna said during an interview at the gym where the team practices. “They play so hard and last year they lost to Cypress, so this is a vindication. They are just a great bunch of guys and gals.”

The team’s coach, Edwin Luong, agreed with Luna, but said the biggest challenge was getting his team to listen to his instructions.

“They don’t listen sometimes and that is hard, but when they do listen, they are the best,” Luong said at the gym.

The tournament started Monday, May 7, running through Saturday, May 13, according to team captain 17-year-old Steven Wu, who was ecstatic over the championship.

“I am so excited for this trophy, but it was a team effort,” Wu said. ”We could not have done this without everybody playing the hardest and they did.”

The old adage when it comes to sports or anything in life for that matter is, “practice makes perfect.” And that also became an obstacle that had to be overcome, Luna said.

“It was very difficult to get the gym for practice,” he said. “Other sports, more well-known sports, had the gym reserved. But we found our time and we practiced hard.”

The badminton team came in fourth the Almont League. The top two teams in the league go on to the open championship, which is the highest level of competition. The second highest is CIF-Southern Section and the lowest level is known as the second level tournament.

“We won CIF, we are going to be invited to open next year and we are going to win that one too,” Luna said.

That optimism is shared by the players, such as leading scorer Charles Liu, 16, a sophomore. Badminton scoring is similar to volleyball.

“I can’t tell how grateful I am to be a part of this team,” Liu said as he gripped the trophy. “This is the best feeling in the world.”

And going back to four years ago when the badminton team was trying to get off the ground, it was Team Captain Steven Wu’s brother, Michael  who was leading the charge. Those early tournaments didn’t turn out so well for the badminton team. Practice time was hard to come by. Competition from other more well-established teams proved daunting for the novice team. But all that hard-work paid off as now they are the 2018 CIF-Southern Section Division 1 champions. This was not lost on Captain Wu.

“I’m really proud of this team and proud of my brother Michael for starting it all,” Wu said now clutching the trophy. “We took it to the next level so thank you Michael.”

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the assistant editor for the San Marino Tribune and the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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