USA Badminton Talent Pool Increases Significantly as the United States of America adds Three New Citizens

Sept. 30, 2011, 5:27 p.m. (ET)

For Immediate Release

September 30, 2011

USA Badminton Talent Pool Increases Significantly as the United States of America adds Three New Citizens

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The depth and experience of talented international badminton players available to represent the United States of America at the sport’s pinnacle, the Olympic Games has increased significantly over the last five months.  Between May and September of 2011, three USA Badminton elite athletes have received their U.S. citizenship and more importantly the United States of America has gained three quality citizens.  A native of the Philippines, Paula Lynn Obanana (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn./Mountain View, Calif.) received her U.S. citizenship in May 2011.  Originally from Indonesia, Halim Haryanto Ho (West Covina, Calif./Milpitas, Calif.) earned his U.S. citizenship on August 19, 2011.  Most notably and most recently, Tony Gunawan (Los Angeles, Calif.), also a native of Indonesia, was sworn in as a United States citizen on September 6, 2011.  Obanana, Ho and Gunawan will all represent the United States of America at the upcoming Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, October 14-30, 2011.

Gunawan is the most decorated of the three new U.S. citizens in terms of international badminton accomplishments.  He won the Olympic gold medal in men’s doubles with partner Candra Wijaya for his native Indonesia, at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.  In 2001 Gunawan paired with fellow Indonesian native Halim Haryanto Ho to win the gold medal in men’s doubles at the World Badminton Championships in Seville, Spain.  Gunawan immigrated to the United States following the 2000 Olympic Games to begin a coaching career.  In 2005, Gunawan teamed up with Howard Bach (San Francisco, Calif./Orange, Calif.) to win the first-ever World Championship title for the United States in the sport of badminton.  Their accomplishment put USA Badminton on the map and also earned the two the coveted United States Olympic Committee Team of the Year Award for 2005.  What made the moment even sweeter was the fact that they were able to accomplish this feat in the United States as the 2005 World Badminton Championships were held in Anaheim, Calif. at the Arrowhead Pond, just down the road from the Orange County Badminton Club where Bach and Gunawan both trained.  Gunawan is hoping to continue making history for USA Badminton when he and Bach strive for gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.

Similarly to Gunawan, Halim Haryanto Ho first immigrated to the United States of America to pursue a career in coaching.  Besides winning the gold medal in men’s doubles with Gunawan at the 2001 World Badminton Championships, Ho won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals for Indonesia at international events until resigning from the Indonesia National Badminton Team in October 2004.  He immigrated to the United States of America in the fall of 2004 and began coaching at the Bay Badminton Center in Burlingame, Calif. upon his arrival in the United States in late 2004.  He has reached the highest level of coaching certification in the U.S. as a Level 4 Certified High Performance Coach for USA Badminton, while remaining competitive on the international level as a player.  He primarily competes in mixed doubles with 2008 U.S. Olympian Eva Lee (Orange, Calif.).

Obanana, a member of the Philippine National Badminton Team from 1997-2005, immigrated to the United States with her family in 2005, settling in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. area.  She moved to northern California to pursue her dream of coaching and playing competitive badminton again.  She helped coach the U.S. teams that competed in the 2009 and 2010 Pan American Junior Badminton Championship in Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, respectively.  The team also went on to compete in the 2010 World Junior Badminton Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Competitively, she primarily plays women’s doubles on the Badminton World Federation circuit with 2008 U.S. Olympian Eva Lee.

Having earned their U.S. citizenship, Obanana, Ho and Gunawan have all cleared their most formidable hurdle to making the 2012 United States Olympic Team.  They are currently in the midst of the 2012 Olympic qualifying season which began on May 1, 2011 and concludes on April 30, 2012.  Participation in the Olympic Games is solely determined by an athlete’s international ranking.  The 2011 Pan American Games is a critical event during this Olympic qualifying period for USA Badminton athletes, especially to improve their ranking within the Pan American region.  Five badminton events will be contested at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England; men’s doubles, women’s doubles, men’s singles, women’s singles and mixed doubles.

For more information, please contact Cecil Bleiker, NGB Media Services Director for USA Badminton at 719-330-2062.  This press release is also available on the USOC’s media specific website at PRESSBOX.TEAMUSA.ORG.