Youthful Thomas and Uber Cup Teams Grow at Pan Ams

March 26, 2018, 11:52 p.m. (ET)

Jamie Subandhi

 

In February, the United States Thomas and Uber Cups teams each took home silver at the Male and Female Pan Am Team Continental Championships 2018 in Trinidad and Tobago. While both teams came up just short of representing North America at the next Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Thailand, the players and coaches were excited about play of the young U.S. players.

The Thomas Cup team featured one of the most promising juniors in the United States right now, Ricky Liuzhou, along with 2016 Rio Olympians, Phillip Chew and Sattawat Pongnairat, as well as Ryan Chew and Calvin Lin.

“As this was my first time participating in the Pan Am Team Event I felt like first, the tournament was very well organized,” said Liuzhou. “The facility and the hotel was really nice, and overall it was a great experience.”

The men cruised through the group play at 3-0, as they defeated the Dominican Republic (4-1), Trinidad and Tobago (4-1) and Jamaica (3-2). Behind the strength in men’s doubles, the U.S. made it to the championship match after defeating Peru, 3-2. The men combined to go 8-1 in doubles matches and won 16 of the 22 games played in those matches. The lone doubles loss was to Canada in the championship. 

“Of our five team members, only one athlete was a singles player when we had to play three singles matches and two doubles matches in every match,” said Phillip Chew, who was 4-1 at men’s doubles in the tournament.

“Unfortunately, two of our singles players got injured, so we had to use the double players to play singles,” added Thomas Cup coach Ignatius Rusli. 

The United States Uber Cup team was even more dominant than the Thomas Cup team. The U.S. women were nearly flawless in group play, winning two matches, 5-0, 5-0, and didn’t drop a game. As impressive as that is, it’s even more impressive when you account for the fact that the five-person team was comprised of four juniors: Natalie Chi, Jamie Hsu, Lauren Lam, and Angela Zhang, along with 2016 Rio Olympian Jamie Sunbandhi. 

“It was a great opportunity to share my experiences on the international stage with the younger generation so that they could be more prepared as they stepped onto the court,” said Subandhi. “I was happy to connect with the younger athletes in a mentorship role and to, hopefully, positively influence their athletic journey.”

The women defeated Peru, 3-0, in the semifinals, again without dropping a game. In the finals, the team dropped three very close matches, two in women’s singles and one in doubles, to fall to Canada, 3-0.

Despite the fact that the Thomas and Uber Cup teams ended the tournament with a loss, there is plenty of hope for the future of badminton in the United States.

"I feel that the U.S. team players worked well together," said Uber Cup coach Andy Chong. "They had great practices together and helped each other with strategies."

“I definitely think that people are more interested in the sport of badminton today than before,” said Liuzhou. “I think that USAB has definitely been one of the major causes for that.”

“It’s great to see juniors having an interest in higher level competition and I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the future,” added Subandhi. “It's an exciting time for USA Badminton.”

The U.S. will compete again at the XXII Pan Am Individual Championships in Guatemala City from April 26-29.