When Matthew Chan’s win broke Douglas College’s eight-year team-winning streak at PacWest badminton tournaments last month, he was the last to know.
Chan was undefeated in the men’s singles event, helping to secure Langara’s team victory at the PacWest tournament. As this is his first year playing for Langara, he had no idea about Douglas’s undefeated record.
“The team was excited,” Chan said. “I thought they were just happy for me, but I guess it was a big team thing and everyone let me in on how big it was.”
“Most of us just screamed for joy really,” said assistant coach Bonnie Cheng. “We’ve been waiting for a while to break that streak.”
Chan is rated as one of the top men’s singles players in the province by PacWest. Cheng calls him Langara’s “singles specialist.”
“He’s hard working, focused, and he knows what he wants,” she said.
Training is as important as competition
For the 21-year-old business student, every day starts or finishes with badminton.
He begins most days at 6 a.m., training at ClearOne badminton centre in Richmond before class. In the evenings, if he’s not practicing with the Langara team, he’s coaching or training with three-time national champion and Olympian coach Darryl Yung.
Chan said what he loves most about badminton is the speed.
“The top guys in the world are hitting over 400 kilometres per hour,” he said.
Speed, endurance and power, coupled with a strong mental game, are the makings of a great badminton player, according to Chan.
He would love to play at more international tournaments to see how he stacks up to the competition, but funding is a big concern.
“A professional career in badminton is really unlikely for a Canadian player,” said Chan.
Teammate Nathan Choi thinks Chan has the talent to compete at an international level but said professional badminton players in Canada need their own funding. He also said studying gets in the way of training time.
“His talent is there,” said Choi. “You just need time and money.”
Even if Chan can play well enough to cover his expenses, he still needs to consider his life after badminton. That’s one reason he studies accounting at Langara, despite wanting more time to train.
Many Canadian players move to develop a stronger career. Chan has considered moving somewhere like Korea or Denmark, where badminton is more popular, but is still unsure.
“I love Canada and I don’t think I would want to leave here.”
Reported by Amy Jones