Most notably Anson Chen (U11 Boys Singles) is bringing home a bronze medal, while Kiren Deraj (U19 Boys Singles) won his first match before bowing out, and Elliott Beals was learning lots along national team coaches at his first Jr Pan Ams!
The event brought together athletes from North and South America, including players from Canada, the US, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and more. Canada performed well at the games, winning gold in 4 out of 5 events in the U19 and U17 categories, sweeping the U11 categories and winning a gold in the U13 and U15 categories. Canada also beat USA 3-0 in the final of the team event to clinch a second consecutive gold medal. We caught up with Manitoba’s best to hear about their experience at the 2019 Jr Pan Ams.
Anson Chen, age 9, received a bronze medal competing in the U11 Boys Singles category. He beat Sebastian Callo (Peru), 22-20, 11-4 (retired) and then lost to the eventual silver medallist John Fu (Canada) 21-14, 21-9. Anson got into the sport two years ago and started at the Winnipeg Winter Club, where he began playing with his family. It was his goal this year to make it to the Games, where he wanted to try his best and hopefully receive a medal. His training consisted of 4-5 hours of on court sessions with coaches Elliott Beals and Thien Vo. With the help of his parents, brother and coaches, he was able to make it to the semi-finals. Although Anson said it felt amazing to win a bronze, his goal “…going forward is to make it to the national team again and win the gold”. His favourite experience was meeting new players and making friends.
Kiren Deraj, age 17, made the round of 16 in the U19 Boys Singles Category. He beat out Bryan Rodrigo Roque Caycho (Peru) in two sets of 21-19 21-18, but was sadly defeated by Rafael Faria (Brazil), 21-16 21-13. Deraj, who still has another year to compete in the U19 category, began playing squash at the Winnipeg Winter Club in 2011 and eventually switched over to badminton in 2014 and has been focusing on badminton ever since. Making the Jr Pan Ams was his goal for the last two years, meaning that his success this year made it all the more special. Leading up to the games, Kiren followed a rigorous training plan: 2 hours of on court per day, working out and running twice a week, with only one rest day per week. He trained under Thien and Eilliott and played with numerous other athletes, even waking up at 6 am to beat the morning rush, proving his dedication to the sport. Going into the Games, he felt a mix of nervousness and excitement, as he and Anson were the only two Manitobans to represent Canada as athletes. Citing provincial pride Kiren said, “I would wear the team Manitoba Sweater… most of the time [he was there]”. Kiren was unsatisfied with his performance, however it has only made him want to work even harder to accomplish his goals, including medalling at the 2020 Jr Pan Am Badminton Championships and making the world junior team for next year. He would like to thank his parents, his siblings, his coaches and everyone else who helped him on his journey to the games.
Elliott Beals, a native of Nova Scotia, moved to Manitoba a year ago to take over the position of head coach at the Winnipeg Winter Club. A year later, and he was selected to coach the Canadian team at the Jr Pan Am Championships. He has been coaching for around 20 years, and like Anson and Kiren, this was his first time attending the Jr Pan Ams. Elliott was very proud of having two of his athletes from the Winnipeg Winter Club representing Canada, being his first year as the head coach. He was especially glad he was selected to be a coach for Team Canada, so that he could support his players. His focus for his athletes leading up to the games was to “… try to represent themselves as best as possible, play as well as they can no matter what the outcome was - when they left the court they knew, I put my best effort forward.” Elliott thought his athletes handled the pressure well, considering that it was both of their first times there. His goal going forward as a coach is to have another athlete win a national championship (following in the footsteps of Thien) to have more Manitobans represent Canada at the Jr Pan Ams, and finally to have one of his athletes represent Canada at the World Championships. Although Beals has ambitious goals, he understands that it will take time to achieve them and that it will require patience and planning. One of his stand out experiences was “being able to sit with the national team coach and coach with him”. Elliott looks forward to coaching Team Canada again in the future.