Around 2010 before I left the Philippines, I joined a badminton tournament. I played on both Level A men’s doubles and mixed doubles. I had to play twice the normal number of matches. We won every game to get through to the finals despite the odds, but not without taking a tow on my body. We were outmatched in many of the prelim matches, and I was forced to use 150% of my capacity to win. Soon enough I also suffered an injury on my right shoulder joint, so painful that I cannot even pour water onto my own glass without dropping the pitcher. I woke up at night in pain whenever I unconsciously turned over to the right.
I had to undergo physical therapy, hoping for my injury to improve, but it can only do so much. I was plastered on my back, and while it made me feel more comfortable, I know that I will not be able to smash. Come the championship, my back was still plastered. 1st match was a tie breaker (round robin twice to beat). I tried to play and it really didn’t go well. There was no way for me to even the odds with the plasters. So I was in a dilemma of whether to fight like this, lose the game by default, or risk removing the plasters and continue the game.
I decided to remove the plasters. That time, what I was thinking was “We have come this far, I am already in pain. I am already hurt, I will not lose without fight.”
During the men’s doubles finals, probably I can say that I was only fighting at 60% of my potential, but at 120% of my current capacity. I compensated my inability to smash with faster footwork (some people would call “flash step”). But even with that I missed some critical points, and swept the court with my shirt. It was even a harder blow on my body, and much as I would like to scream out of sever pain, my mind kept pushing to go on. It was a good game, but at the end, we lost.
During the mixed doubles finals, the flash step has also strained my body. My legs started to get stiff but I kept on going. I continued playing until my legs totally cramped out and I fell on my knees in the middle of the game that the umpire had to suspend the game for a while. I have clearly gone beyond my physical limit. I remember my very concerned partner telling me that it’s ok for her to stop the game so that I wouldn’t have to injure myself further. And all I can remember was telling her that “no, if we must lose, then we will lose with honor.” With the last of my strength, we continued the game. I , being the weaker link, was the easier target and as expected, we lost by a fair margin.
My opponents won fair and square. The only three losses we had in that whole tournament, were during that fateful day. It was stressful both physically and mentally.
I had my shoulder massaged almost every week for 6 months, but only helped a little, I still cannot pour water to my glass. I cannot even plug my charger to the wall.
Good thing a friend recommended that I try acupuncture in Singapore. 14 needles were struck into my shoulder. Every time I inhaled, I felt the needles sinking deep to my bones. It was probably the longest 20 minutes of my life. After which the doctor pulled the needles all at the same time, asked me to punch towards the roof, and in some sort of miracle, I was finally able to rotate my shoulder, and the pain was almost gone. At times when my shoulder is stressed (push-ups, wushu training) I still feel a sting. I know that it will never be as good as it was. It was something I had no regrets on, but I promised myself never to abuse my body like that again, as I may no longer be as lucky the next time around.
And this is why I have stopped joining tournaments, and have declined most of the other invitations. At times I would join just to see whether I still have “it”, but I have no plans to win championships anymore.
I went home with two medals, a broken shoulder, sore legs, and a body that feels like all my appendages felt like being ripped out of my torso. But later on I realized that it was the most satisfying moment in my short badminton stint.
It is easy to win when you are playing in your home court, mismatch of opponent’s skills, or training period. But what satisfaction can one derive as an athlete, when all odds are in your favor, when you already know for sure that you will not lose?
Looking back, I realized what that the real spirit of sportsmanship was all about. It isn’t about winning for its own sake– it was about challenging yourself to become better.
Would we have won if I wasn’t injured, I don’t know, but I know that my greatest opponent, was not them–it was me.
On that day I didn’t give in to my weakness. I battled with my own pain. I did not make excuses. I conquered myself. I was brave enough to challenge my own limits. I won–maybe not against my opponents, but against myself. And I left the stadium a better man than who I was when I first walked in.