Helen Roome and Steve Weir pose for a picture at the 2015 Yonex Canadian Masters Badminton Championship.

Helen Roome and Steve Weir pose for a picture at the 2015 Yonex Canadian Masters Badminton Championship.

Weir, Ly a formidable duo at Masters

Steve Weir and Lena Ly represent Prince Rupert well at the 2015 Yonex Canadian Masters Badminton Championship

Steve Weir found himself on the badminton court in a mixed doubles match in Edmonton with two Americans and a player from Trinidad and Tobago.

This wasn’t a traditionally international competition. Weir was competing in the 2015 Yonex Canadian Masters Badminton Championship – an open tournament anyone from Japan to Australia could sign up for.

“We’re playing the Canadian national masters and I’m the only Canadian on the court,” laughed Weir last week, recalling his week of racquets and shuttlecocks (badminton birdies).

So went the open event, which featured past and current world champions and even Olympians during the week of April 20 – 25 in Alberta’s capital.

Weir, a Prince Rupert resident and a member of the badminton elite circuit here in B.C., travelled with Lena Ly, another Rupertite and his mixed doubles playing partner since 1999, to Edmonton to take part in Ly’s first nationals. Weir has attended before. Rupertite Chris Beattie was also set to take part, but fell ill just before the event.

“It’s a very interesting tournament,” said Weir, who was also awarded a gold medal from his earlier B.C. provincials performance in March.

“It’s open to all countries. There were actually more players from Japan than there were from Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined. [There were] players from Great Britain, Australia, Peru, Pakistan, Japan and lots of Americans come up to play in Canada because [the sport] is bigger in Canada than it is in the States.”

Weir and Ly got into things early Monday morning after a practice session Sunday allowed for players to try out the court and catch up with one another.

They faced fellow Canadian mixed doubles duo Duey Hume and Susan Fong and emerged champions in a long, 44-minute bout that saw Weir and Ly topple the two in two tightly-contested games 26-24, 24-22.

“Our first mixed doubles match, Lena and I went down to play in the [age group] 40s. In masters, you can play down, but you can’t play up,” said Weir.

Immediately after their win, the two faced ranked opponent and Pakistan citizen Nadim Ishaq Mir and his Canadian partner Sarah Khoo. They fell to the powerful Middle Eastern opponent and Khoo 21-17, 21-9.

“[Ishaq Mir] was a mixed doubles specialist and it was really good experience. I know Lena would love to play against him again, even by the end of the tournament, because every tournament you grow a little bit and you’d like to have another shot at that team, that’s for sure,” said Weir.

The duo split up after that match. Weir played with his usual elite circuit mixed doubles American partner Helen Roome against another ranked team, Canadians Christopher Wayne Dalin and Reesa Lea Valenta and lost 21-9, 21-16.

Ly played with Suzanne Vallis and beat Canadians Susan Fong and Brinda Narayan 21-17, 21-11. Ly and Vallis then played top-ranked Xinyong Peng and Vicky Zheng and fell 21-11, 21-11.

Weir and Roome went 1-2 following their loss to Dalin and Valenta together, including a win against Canadian team Martin Albert Gerard and Akiko Ogata and a loss versus Trinidadian Virginia Chariandy-Balwant and American Garth D’Abreu.

Ly rounded out her tournament playing with Yu-Hui Kiang in two women’s doubles matches, but fell to two more Canadian teams.

Altogether, Weir finished 3-5, having lost to No. 1-ranked singles men’s player Yves Proulx and then a close singles game to John Xinghua Liu. Ly finished 2-4.

The two helped coach each other as well, but it wasn’t easy. Players only have a minute between intervals to hydrate, refocus and listen to pointers from their coaches and supporters. You can’t shout at them while the game’s being played and they can’t leave the court.

“When you’re on the court, you don’t necessarily see what your opponent’s doing to you, so its nice to get a different perspective,” said Weir.

It’s tough finding quality minutes in B.C.’s north, but Weir, who’s played on the elite circuit for three years, manages.

“It’s difficult because … singles, doubles and mixed doubles are three very different disciplines. It’s like comparing cross-country skiing with downhill skiing and ski-jumping. Yeah, there’s skis involved in all of them, but they’re very different disciplines. So it’s hard to play mixed doubles up here. There’s another couple from Prince George that will travel down and play [Ly and me],” he said.

“It’s hard to get good, high-quality court time.”