NATIONAL BADMINTON coach Howard Ranger has stressed the importance of his most senior players providing a solid foundation for the team to thrive, as the 26th Yonex Pan Am Individual Championship begins today at GC Foster College.
Ranger is overseeing a 12-person squad which includes the likes of Sam Ricketts and Tahlia Richardson, who both competed at last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. While the team has experience, it is also infused with young talent that will have the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the region.
Ricketts will open his campaign against Peruvian Adriano Aguirre in the men’s singles at 10:00 a.m. while Richardson, who got a first-round bye will open at 6:00 p.m. against the winner of Vanessa Contreras of Mexico and Clarisa Pie of the Dominican Republic.
Ranger said that it will be key for his senior players to set the tone early not just for their own confidence but for the confidence of the young players who will be looking on before bowing into the competition themselves.
“The junior players will be seeing them out there. Hopefully, they will be motivated by what they have seen displayed. I truly expect that we will be going through the different rounds. We know very well we are going to go up against the top 10, top 20 players and the best from each country,” Ranger told The Gleaner.
“It will augur well because most of our junior players will get the opportunity to see where they are and will be basically pushing the individual programmes that they have seeing that we didn’t have a full national training per se.”
The overseas players arrived in Jamaica in time to get in some practice sessions before the tournament. However, the overseas-based players did the majority of their preparation at their respective bases.
While no strangers to each other, Ranger believes that the young players especially will be buoyed by the example that the overseas players are setting in their training.
“The camaraderie is high, and by the time the overseas-based players were able to make it here and train, it got better. Because of some of the work ethic that they developed overseas, they were able to come here and display to the others who are younger,” Ranger said.
Ricketts has been in good form leading up to the championships, winning the men’s doubles title with Koon Fung Kelvin HO in a Badminton World Federation event in Cuba last month. He also made it to the last eight in singles play.
It will be the first time since 1991 that Jamaica will be hosting the competition.
Though the overseas-based players have not had as many sessions at home as they would have liked, Ranger has belief in the players’ abilities.
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