Iris Wang – America’s young globetrotter
Tuesday, January 03, 2012 - Story by Don Hearn | Photos by BadmintonPhoto
Pan Am Games silver medallist Iris Wang of the United States is beginning this year the same way she finished the last, with a very taxing tournament schedule.
Iris and her older sister Rena played in 22 tournaments altogether in 2011 and each played singles in most of those as well.
“It’s been a long year. Playing so many tournaments is very tiring, especially when we’ve had three or four in a row,” says Iris. “We’ve watched a lot of movies on all the flights. We’ve been playing so many tournaments that we haven’t really had enough time to train.”
Normally, Iris trains in the club where she began playing badminton as an eight-year-old, the San Gabriel Valley Badminton Club in California. She and her sister are coached by former World and Olympic champion Tony Gunawan, whose own duties as a player prevent him from accompanying the girls to every tournament or from being courtside during their matches.
Unlike many of their opponents, who are supported by and travel with a national team, the Wang sisters take their road trips with one or both parents.
“It would be nice to have a team’s financial support and to have a whole team travelling together. But I think when the associations are paying for you, they decide on what tournaments you play so there’s more freedom when you go alone.”
For elite athletes though, so much travel doesn’t mean they are getting the best opportunity to see the world.
“Usually, at tournaments, right after we lose, we just go. We don’t stay and sightsee,” says Iris. “But sometimes we’ve been able to do some sightseeing, though, like in London and France.”
For Iris, the highlight of last year was the silver medal that she and her sister won at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara. But the pair are currently neck-and-neck with two other pairs in the rush for the Pan American women’s doubles spot for the London Olympics.
“I think if we want to make it, we need to train more so we have to choose our tournaments wisely so we have time to train and still play the tournaments we need to get the points.”
At a mere 17 years of age, Iris Wang is in her last year as a junior. In addition to qualifying for the Olympics, before she’s through, she hopes to add a Pan Am gold medal to her collection.
As for their Victor Korea Open, anOSIM BWF Superseries Premier event, campaign, after each sister suffered a respectable, straight-game loss in qualifying in the face of some strong Hong Kong opposition, together they are set to face the mighty Wang Xiaoli / Yu Yang of China in the doubles first round on Wednesday.
“We’re just going out there to play,” says Iris. “When we play against someone a lot better than us, we choose something we want to practice, so if we want to practice defense, then we just keep on lifting and defending.”