Cheung defends SOSSA badminton crown
Niagara Christian Collegiate’s Matthew Cheung successfully defended his high school boys singles crown Thursday at the Southern Ontario Secondary Schools Association senior badminton championships at Heritage Christian.
Cheung, who came to school in Fort Erie three years ago from Hong Kong, will be looking to improve on last year’s performance when he heads to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships May 11-13 in Hope. In 2022, the Grade 12 student finished 13th out of 40 competitors, making the semifinals of the B Flight.
Cheung started playing badminton in Hong Kong when he was in Grade 5 and by Grade 8, he was training four times a week, working on cardio, drills, fundamentals, skills and strategy. All that came to a halt when he arrived in Canada.
“My school is in Fort Erie and there was no club where I could train at.”
That didn’t make him happy.
“I miss the training because I cannot improve. I have been stuck at this stage since Grade 10.”
Cheung finds the culture of badminton in Canada much different when compared to his homeland.
“In Hong Kong, it is pretty popular and it is very difficult to book a court,” he said, with a smile. “You have to fight with each other to get a court.”
He is done high school this year and is planning to go to university in Canada. Wherever he lands, he is hoping to try out for that school’s badminton team.
In the SOSSA final, Cheung defeated Saint Paul’s Stefan Candeloro 21-12, 13-21 and 21-6. The match was Candeloro’s fifth of the day but he still managed to give Westlane’s Aaron Nguyen a good battle for the second berth at the OFSAA championships. As the second-place finisher in the high school division, Candeloro earned the right to challenge Nguyen, the open boys champion. Nguyen ended up winning the match 21-16 and 21-17. Candeloro was winning the second game 17-11 before Nguyen rallied for the victory.
“It was really good match obviously,” Nguyen said.
It has been quite the badminton journey for Nguyen, a Grade 12 student. He was first introduced to the sport on March 27, 2022 in gym class at Westlane and joined the school team that year.
“I got stopped at zone so after that I started taking it a lot more seriously,” he said. “I went to the club (Niagara Falls Badminton Club) and started training more with everyone at the club.”
He is excited to be going to OFSAA after bowing out at zones last season.
“I was really disappointed in myself but then I started making a plan to get better. I started playing outside tournaments to get more experience and to get better prepared for this one.”
Nguyen feels his game has improved a lot.
“The difference is that I have put a lot of practice in and I have a lot of passion for the sport. It pushed me to make me want to get better.”
He is a big fan of badminton.
“It makes me feel like I can be me on the court. I can be myself and no one can take that away from me any more.”
His goal at OFSAA is to do his best.
“I don’t want to regret anything from my Grade 12 year.”
This fall, he is heading to George Brown College and he is planning to try out for that school’s badminton squad.
Winning the SOSSA boys doubles crown were Laura Secord’s Felix Chou and Sebastian Miele. A team from Bernie Custers nabbed the second OFSAA berth.