The Orange County Badminton Club was a sea of blues, reds, blacks, yellows, pinks, lilacs, greens, and whites October 17-19, 2008, as the 14th International Friendship Ladies Badminton Tournament took place. Shoes were squeaking, shuttles were flying, screams and shrieks were heard as 471 women in four age groups from Australia, Canada, Korea, the Netherlands, the USA, and Japan determined zone champions, the largest badminton tournament in the United States ever.
After thirteen tournaments in Osaka, the Osaka Ladies Badminton Federation, host of the Friendship tournament, moved the tournament to the USA where the OCBC had been asked to host the competition. The format was a team doubles tournament with 6-8 players on a team. Each team played the best two of three matches in pool play with top teams and/or top two teams moving out to main draw play. Team captains were responsible for submitting rosters to the tournament desk with their line-ups of doubles teams prior to matches.
A and B Zone teams played on Friday, October 17. The A Zone was advanced level for any team wishing to enter the zone with no age requirement. B Zone consisted of all players 55 years of age and under. C and D Zone players competed on Saturday, although a few D Zone matches were held on Friday. C Zone was all players from 56-65 years old, and all players 66 and older were D Zone players.
Friday's play began with Opening Ceremonies recognizing the Osaka Ladies Badminton Federation and staff; the Orange County Badminton Club and staff; Don, Kim and Montri Chew; and Yonex Corporation USA. Matches proceeded with teams furnishing umpires and lineswomen.
Saturday's schedule was the same, but matches were speeded along to accommodate the evening's dinner. Following the matches, the OCBC's ten courts were turned into a 50-table banquet hall. A delicious dinner from the OCBC's Bebe's Café was served followed by thank you's to all those involved with the tournament.
Entertainment for the evening was provided by the players including musical solos; "It's A Small World" performed by Team IBF; a catchy Aussie chorale; a popular Canadian ballad; a hula dance; a Japanese drum team; and a Japanese line dance. But the evening was brought to a close with a surprise performance by OCBC owner and host Don Chew singing, "Dream, Dream, Dream."
Excitement was the rule on Sunday with semifinals and finals on the agenda. Play started at 9AM and continued nonstop until 2:30PM. Which U.S teams prevailed? In the A Zone with six teams, the three U.S. teams took the top three spots: 1st, Pink Ladies (Mesinee Mangkalakiri, Eva Lee, Mona Santoso, Joo Hyun Lee, Grace Peng, Bonnie Wong, Eti Gunawan, and Elie Wu); 2nd, Kawaii (Rulan Yeh, Rulien Yeh, Priscilla Lun, Rena Wang, Susana Zhong, and Beckie Neumann); and 3rd, Mini-OCBC (Panita Phongasavithas, Vimla Phongasavithas, Jamie Subandhi, Joanne Chen, Cee Ketpura, Qiu Ming Wu, and Thuy Hoang). This zone rewarded players with medals and a prize purse-1st, $2K; 2nd, $1,500; and 3rd, $1K.
In the B Zone with 29 teams, three of the twelve U.S. teams came out on top: 1st, PH7 (Joy Kitzmiller, Daphne Chang, MingZi Zhang, Jeannie Yang, Shackerah Cupidon, and Ruilin Chen; 2nd, Team IBF (Monica Ortez, Terry Lira, Wendy Carter, Claire Sharpe, Ann Gonsalves, Mai-Quyen Bui, Gena Fite, and Elke Nijsse-Drews); and 3rd, Super Crew (Sara Vang, Lily Chen, Linda Phan, Connie Hwang, Tanya Lieu, and Elena Dumitriu).
The C Zone with 26 teams had three U.S. or U.S./Canadian teams but the Japanese teams came out on top-1st, Kirakukai; 2nd, O.B.B.; and 3rd, Tokyo B. D Zone with ten teams, 2 U.S. or US/Canada, had three Japanese teams prevail, although Team 66 USA won their way to the ¾ playoff. D Zone winners were: 1st, O.B. Pals B; 2nd, Endless; and 3rd, Freesia. B, C, and D Zone winners were presented medals.
It was three days of smiling faces, making new friends, hand-shaking, photo-taking, gift-giving and receiving, bowing, paper-rock-scissors, cheering, and playing hard. Japanese teams were fit, energetic, well-practiced, and relentless in returning shots. Rallies were long, and points were well-earned. It was a great experience for all those on the courts!
Many thanks to the Osaka Ladies Badminton Federation and their staff; the OCBC and its staff; Bebe's Café Thai Restaurant; K&D Graphics; USA Badminton; Yonex Corporation USA; Don, Kim, Montri, and Gus Chew; Tim and May Mangkalakiri; Cai Zi Min; Halim Haryanto Ho; Michiko Watanabe; Monica Ortez; Frances Fujinami; Panita, Vimla, and Anoma Phongasavithas; and Tournament Referee Elaine Kong.
As Miyoko Emura, President of the Osaka Ladies Badminton Federation, stated in her President's Message in the program, "There are no borders in sports, nor does age present a barrier. For those who love badminton, to get together with others from all over the world, have fun, competing at their sport is a wonderful way of making international friends."
Instructions at the Opening Ceremonies were to have fun and make friends. Mission accomplished by all Friendship Tournament players!