Eleven years of training, 220 career wins over the past five years, and a ranking of 32nd in the world in men’s doubles – Ontario-born and raised badminton player Jason Ho-Shue is heading to the Tokyo Olympics with several achievements already under his belt.
The 22-year-old athlete and first-time Olympian has been training and competing all over the world in the five-year, extended Olympic cycle. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ho-Shue travelled internationally to compete. For the past five years, the young athlete has trained two to three hours a day.
Now, he has qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and will be competing in the badminton men’s doubles division.
“It was a lot of pressure for the past five years, putting out hope just to try to make it to the Olympics. I’m just really glad it worked out,” Ho-Shue, who is based in Markham, Ont. told CTVNews.ca Thursday. “I’m excited for the experience. There’s going to be crazy turnarounds, but I just can’t wait to get there.”
Ho-Shue started playing badminton recreationally with his family at a young age. By the time he was 11, he began training and competing in tournaments as a hobby. When he started winning titles at provincial tournaments, it piqued his interest in competing at a higher level.
‘HE WAS MY FIRST COACH’
With his dad as his first coach, Ho-Shue spent a lot of time training and playing badminton with him. But, things changed in 2011.
When he was 12 years old, Ho-Shue and his dad were playing badminton at a local community centre when his dad had heart failure and later died.
“My dad was the first person to introduce me to the sport. He was my first coach,” Ho-Shue said. “It was really painful to keep going and keep playing for me after what happened.”
But, Ho-Shue said that he wanted to keep improving and competing for his dad.
A few weeks after his dad’s death, he competed in the provincial championships and won the tournament. He later went on to compete in the junior national championships and secured another victory.
“It was something that we both really loved and something I didn’t want to give up on,” he said. “I just wanted to do my best for my family and for him.”
From there, Ho-Shue began to focus all of his attention on his training and competing so that he could one day qualify for the Olympics in honour of his dad.
In late June, he did just that.
“It is a dream for all athletes to qualify for the Olympics, however, not everyone is able to reach that level. Jason has exceeded my expectations,” said Jason’s mom Jenny Ho-Shue, noting that he treated it as more than a sport.
“After his daddy unexpectedly passed away when he was 12, I could see how serious he suddenly became about the sport. I knew that he was going to go very far to make his daddy proud.”
TRAINING DURING THE PANDEMIC
Due to the pandemic, training centres and clubs weren’t open in Ontario, so Ho-Shue had to adjust his routine and do conditioning, weight training, cardio, and agility training independently at home.
As businesses reopened, he was able to train one-on-one with his coach, but he said that going to international tournaments was extremely difficult due to the two-week quarantines, which shortened the amount of time he had to train before a match.
“I would go to a tournament, come back, and then for two weeks I wouldn’t be able to do anything. Then maybe a week later, I’d have to head out again for another tournament,” he said.
“The thing is, just because of all the rules of the quarantine, I couldn’t really prepare properly for the tournaments,” said Ho-Shue, who said he had a grade two MCL sprain on his knee at one point because he wasn’t able to get enough training before a competition due to the quarantine rules.
He also explained that with COVID-19, there was a lot of uncertainty around what tournaments were going to be held and which ones he would be able to attend.
“It was really hard because we didn’t know which tournaments were going to be held because it all depends on how their country’s government would react to COVID,” he said. “We just didn’t know when we were going to these tournaments, so we had to be ready to go anytime.”
JOURNEY TO THE OLYMPICS
With his intensive training schedule and international travel, Ho-Shue said that he had to make some sacrifices, including spending time with his friends and even putting his studies on pause.
“I think I’d be out of the country more than I’d be at home…I’d go away for two weeks to go to different countries, come home maybe for a couple days to a couple of weeks, then head out again,” he said.
Despite these sacrifices, Ho-Shue said that he couldn’t have done all of this without the support of his family, friends, and team.
Efendi Wijaya, Ho-Shue’s coach at E Badminton Training Centre who has been coaching him for 11 years, said that he started seeing his potential when they first started training together in 2010.
“I knew that he will make it. I already enjoy the whole process and every step that he made,” Wijaya told CTVNews.ca. “Making it to the Olympics is great, but the journey to the Olympics is the most important.”
Wijaya said that in all these years that he’s been coaching Ho-Shue, he’s seen him grow – not just physically, but his maturity as well.
“Since his dad passed away, the whole situation made him more independent and more mature to make up decisions, so he has been growing since that day,” he said. “I see his mind is growing stronger than his body.”
Ho-Shue will be competing in the men’s double division with his partner Nyl Yakura. The two have been competing together for the past five years, but Ho-Shue said that being partnered together was by coincidence as the two didn’t even train at the same club.
Ho-Shue and Yakura played in a tournament together five years ago and after they won a senior national championship, the two decided to continue to compete as a team.
Ho-Shue will be heading to Tokyo in two weeks to prepare for the Olympics, and after the Games, he says he plans on taking a break, finishing his studies, and possibly try to qualify for Paris 2024.