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International Badminton Tournament Comes to Manhattan Beach

Feb 05, 2016 04:52PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Howard Shu of the USA takes on Kari Gunnarsson of Iceland

What sport will be dominating Manhattan Beach this weekend? If you said 'football,' you're only partly right. For the greater part of the weekend, all eyes will be on the badminton court, as the world's most elite badminton athletes battle it out in Olympic qualifying matches at the Manhattan Beach Badminton Club (MBBC).

Athletes representing USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Indonesia, Austria, Cuba, Colombia, India, Lithuania, Iceland, Israel, Brazil, Germany, Suriname, Italy, Finland, Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago, and more will face off on the MBBC's specialized badminton courts. The competitors are vying for Badminton World Federation ranking points to earn a spot in the Rio 2016 Olympics.

To host the event, the MBBC worked in coordination with the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Badminton (USAB), and the City of Manhattan Beach. The city hosted a welcome dinner for athletes on Wednesday night at the Manhattan Beach Fire Department.

"We've hosted a lot of events here, but this is really unique," said longtime MBBC member Kenneth Schwartz. "This is a great opportunity to showcase the community, the club, its history, and our connected relationship with Manhattan Beach."

The club, formed in 1936, is located at 18th and Ardmore, but was actually built before 18th Street existed. It is one of only a handful of badminton clubs that is dedicated specifically to badminton (and not used for, say, basketball). "This floor is specific to badminton with a unique subfloor. Bouncing a basketball doesn't work too well here," noted Schwartz.

Watching the matches in person is quite the one-of-a-kind experience, as the players mix it up with deception, trick shots, and power slams that send the birdie flying at an estimated 200 miles per hour. "You can't explain it to someone; you've got to just sit here and watch it," said Schwartz.

According to Schwartz, the most "stunning" match on the local scene was Thursday night's men's doubles match in which 59-year-old Dean Schoppe and 59-year-old Tariq Wadood beat the top-seeded Mexican team, 21-15,17-21, 23-21 in front of a packed house of MBBC locals. "Dean’s family history at MBBC goes back to the early days of the club, and Tariq Wadood was the first coach of the MBBC Junior program," said Schwartz. "They said they were a shadow of when they played competitively Internationally as a team in the 80s and 90s, but they were pretty amazing [Thursday] night."

If you want to see the matches in person , admission is free to the public for Friday matches (which run until 10:00 p.m.) and $10 for the semi-finals on Saturday and Sunday (Saturday 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.). All proceeds will benefit the MBBC Junior Foundation.

The matches will also be live-streamed and broadcast over the weekend at Shade Hotel, Brewco, Rock'n Fish, and outside Trilogy Spa at Metlox. A live stream will also be available online here.

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