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FOODIE RUSTICA: AUGUST 2008

Beijing or Bust: USA Badminton

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(Aug. 8, 2008)—Since 2000, the USA Badminton team has trained in an unassuming venue in the city of Orange – a couple of miles east of the Honda Center and Angels Stadium of Anaheim. With outside signage promoting a Thai restaurant and the Orange County Badminton Club in one building, one can’t help but wonder what it’s like within those walls.

With five U.S. badminton players competing in this year’s Summer Olympics, what we will learn is how hard work has manifested itself at that 12-court facility.

The O.C. Badminton Club formed in 1996, when Don Chew, founder and owner of the family-operated print shop K&D Graphics, envisioned a place that would serve as a hub for a junior training program while offering coaching services and hourly court rates for recreational players.

Chew’s vision has served him well. His strategy of hiring the best coaches and outfitting his center with courts built according to international standards has gone a long way to help the team win an Olympic gold medal and, this year, turn out the most qualifying players in any Olympic event since 1992, when badminton became an official sport in the games. Also, while the sport is mostly popular in Asian countries such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia, and a few European countries, Chew has put Orange County on the map for badminton fans worldwide.

“The O.C. Badminton Club has 200 members, including our Olympic players, and we attract about 10,000 players each year,” says Chew.

The O.C. Badminton Club also has helped draw crowds in adjacent Anaheim. In 2005, the club hosted the World Championship at Honda Center. It was a historic event, thanks to two U.S. players – Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan – who won the competition in men’s doubles. The event attracted about 8,000 people per day, with a $75 ticket price for the finals.

And 17 countries competed this month in the U.S. Open at the club on Main Street and Katella Avenue.

But now for Chew, whose family has invested about $1 million to support the players in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games (K&D Graphics is an official sponsor), it’s Beijing or bust. The U.S. players are Bob Malaythong, Eva Lee, Howard Bach, Mesinee (May) Mangkalakiri and Raju Rai.

While the USA Badminton Team is primed to win, Chew expects the host country of China to be the strongest competitor: “The Chinese are good, because they are professional.”

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