WORLD CHAMPIONS, OLYMPIANS IN THE HOUSE!
The 2005 World Champions, Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan, along with Olympians Gunawan, Bach, and Bob Malaythong were the featured players at Mayor Daley's Sports Festival held at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, Saturday, December 27, and Sunday, December 28, 2008. Admission was free, and about 85,000 visitors were in attendance at the Festival.
Badminton was a featured sport as a result of the 2016 Olympic initiatives. Held in the North Hall, Yonex sponsored six international tournament courts for the clinic and exhibition held over the two days. The Chicago Park district organized a CPD youth tournament on the Yonex courts, and three additional courts were available for fun activities.
The joint efforts of BadmintonChicago.org (a Chicago non-profit organization), World Sports Chicago (WSC), USA Badminton (USAB), Midwest Badminton Association (MBA), and Yonex offered a rare but exciting opportunity for Chicago and Midwest badminton enthusiasts. Yonex and the USAB sponsored four elite US national players including Tony Gunawan (2000 Olympian, 2001 and 2005 World Doubles Champion), Howard Bach (2005 World Champion and 2008 Doubles Olympian), Bob Malaythong (2008 Doubles Olympian), and Howard Shu (Thomas Cup Team Member and promising U17 prospect).
A free high school/junior clinic was offered on Saturday with twenty-five high school and/or junior players having an opportunity for on-court instruction from the elite players. Three Chicago families hosted the four elite players on Saturday evening with informal welcome receptions so community members could meet these world-renowned athletes. Hosts included Sukit Surapiboonchai of Orland Park, IL, sponsor of Tony Gunawan; Harvey Look of Palatine, IL, sponsor of Howard Shu; and Jackie Conley of Chicago, IL, sponsor of Howard Bach and Bob Malaythong.
Sunday brought the badminton exhibition featuring the four elite national players and top-ranked Midwest players sponsored by the Midwest Badminton Association. Those players were Ben Hussey of Charleston, IL, and Gediminas Andrikonis of Naperville, Illinois; Sandro Rossi of Madison, Wisconsin; and Hagen Hentschel of Troy, Michigan, in the men's events. Female players were Erin Hois of Downers Grove, IL; Tiffanie Kimura of Glenview, IL; Shannon Pohl of Arlington Heights, IL; and Celine Thum of Chicago, IL.
Matches were scheduled from 11:30 to 2:30 with a mixture of national and Midwest players involved in men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles. Amazing shots and daring gets were rewarded with applause and photo- snapping from the thrilled crowd. Autographs and photos with the athletes were easy to get, and many players were signing the corks of used shuttlecocks. Players left with a feeling of a job well done, and audience members were reliving meet-and-greet receptions, on-court advice and tips, and unbelievable footwork, strokes, and fitness as they departed.