Badminton Life

Howard Bach Interview

Date: 20/7/2012

Howard Bach is a Vietnamese-American male badminton player from the United States. He is known the 2005 world champion in men's doubles with Tony Gunawan.

He was born in South Vietnam on 22 February 1979, Howard Bach came to the U.S. at the age of two, when his father, Cam Sen Bach, emigrated to San Francisco with his family in 1982.

From 1991-1993, he attended Marina Middle School in San Francisco.

When he was five years old, Howard Bach was brought by his father to the Golden Gate YMCA in San Francisco's Tenderloin District.

It was here that over the next 11 years, Howard Bach would be coached by his father in badminton. Bach was a 16-year-old student at Galileo High School when he decided to dedicate himself to the sport of badminton.

During his early years, he was also coached and mentored by USA coach of the year, Dick Ng. At age 16, he moved to Colorado Springs to train at the U.S. Olympic Site.

Bach competed in badminton at the 2004 Summer Olympics in men's doubles with partner Kevin Qi Han. They defeated Dorian James and Stewart Carson of South Africa in the first round, then were defeated in the round of 16 by Jens Eriksen and Martin Lundgaard Hansen of Denmark.

In 2005, Howard Bach partnered with Tony Gunawan to win the final of the men's doubles 15-11, 10-15, 15-11, against the Indonesian pair, Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto. Thus winning the United States's first ever gold at the World Championships. The Championships were held at the Arrowhead Pond arena in Anaheim, California. Currently Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan will be participating in their last Olympics in London 2012.

1. What age did you start playing?

At the age of 5. My dad used to play badminton back in Vietnam. So we started at an early age.

2. Was it your intention to be a professional player from the start?

Of course not, I just played for fun. My purpose was just playing and enjoying the game. I never planned of going to the Olympics until at the age of 13 or 14.

3. When did you become a full time badminton player?

When I was 16, then I moved to the Olympic training centre. Before moving to Olympic training centre, I was training 3 times a week, around 1 and a half hours a day; around 5 hours a week. After moving to the Olympic Training Centre I trained at least once a day. It's still not a lot.

4. When did you realize you were good enough to be a world beater?

When I start travelling internationally. When I was 18 years old.

5. How were you noticed at the national level?

Actually I got invited to the Olympic Training centre because when I was 16 years old I beat this one pair. They are the top US pair, I came in 2nd at the competition, I beaten this top pair in the semi-finals. That's when the Olympic Community notice the potentials.

6. Which year was you drafted into the national squad?

16 years old.

7. Have you ever considered making a name in singles?

Yeah we all started playing singles. When you get to 17 or 18, you have to start choosing which path you have to go. You'll know when you have more talent in singles, doubles or mixed and then you have to specialize on it. In the US you have to play all 3. I stopped playing singles when I was 20 years old or 21 years.

8. Did any of your batch mates made the same grade as you? If not, what was the reason?

Nope, I was the youngest one and everyone is retiring.

9. Is this your last Olympics Games? When do you plan to retire? How many years are you on the scene?

Yeah this is my last Olympics, I'm planning to retire at the end of this year after my contract is over with Yonex. I have no future plans to continue as I miss my family. I have family now, so it's different, it's harder to travel. I'm not young anymore, I'm 33 it's about time. (laughs). I started travelling abroad for competition when I was 18 years old. I would say 1999 until now. So it's around 13 years.

10. On your playing career which was the highlight of your career?

The 2005 World Championship.

11. Which incident would you consider as a low point of your career?

Well I think when a player is injured is the worst feeling ever you know? Yeah I do have some injuries before but luckily there's no operation, but it's the worst feeling. Once in a while, it's not a long period of time. Once in the while, on and off I'll have some knee, elbow, back injuries, shoulders. I'm getting old.

12. How would you summarize your career?

Overall, I think given with the situation, the time; of course it could be better or it could be worst. I think USA Badminton, has been lucky. Like in the past, we don't have quality sparring and then we started having more international players coming.

The timing has been good, so I'm happy overall. I wish I could train more when I was younger. Compare to like people, people train twice a day when they are 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. Definitely I could improve more on my skills but at the same time at least I didn't burnt out as fast.

13. What do you think of the new points scoring system?

I think it's a lot better for TV. In the past, serve to score; you can have so many amazing rally but the score would be still 2-1. I think everybody should get rewarded for 1 point that played well. Doesn't matter, as long as the rally is good somebody needs to get rewarded for a point. So I think it's really good.

14. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene?

Actually when I started out, I used to played singles. So I admire people like Morten Forst, Ardy Wiranata, Zhao Jian Hua.

15. As a player, what was your strength? Weakness, if any?

Of course there are a lot of weaknesses (laughs). For my strength it would be power and speed. For weaknesses it would be probably be control and my touch.

16. Is it important to have a favorite stroke? What was yours then?

Is it important? Yes of course I think so. I think it's good to have weapon. If you're average at everything then no one would be afraid. If your net is really good or good attacking, you got to have something. My favourite stroke was smash and drive because it's easy and you don't have to think (laughs).

17. Can you name a few international players, current or retired, who you regard as best or famous for a specific technique or an area of skills?

Yes of course, there are several of them. For good defence and touch it will be Lee Yong Dae from Korea. For big smashes of course it's Tan Boon Heong from Malaysia and Fu Hai Feng. For good net play it would be like KKK and Tony Gunawan.

18. Who do you regard as the all time best player?

I think overall the most dynamic it would be Lin Dan. As for doubles I would say Kim Dong Moon. Tony Gunawan is pretty dynamic as well. He can win with so many different partners. So I would say Tony Gunawan and Kim Dong Moon.

19. Do good players make good coaches?

Not necessarily. You can be a bad player but you know how to coach. It really depends. I think it's more important, is you got to have a passion. When you have the passion, you don't have to be very good as a player but you learnt how to be coach. You learnt how to teach players how to have vision and you need to be a good communicator. You can be a good player but you can't communicate with players.

20. Are you coaching at the moment?

Nope I'm just training.

21. What are the basic requirements to playing good badminton?

All the basic successful ingredients would be you have to be discipline, you can't give up and a quick problem solver and you got work harder.

22. Howard how does it feel to partner a legend like Tony Gunawan?

It's a very good opportunity, not too many people have this kind of opportunity. He makes the game so much easier too. A good player, knows how settle down and makes the court much smaller.

23. Who do you think is current upcoming players? and why?

In USA, juniors we do. We do have more talents now but they are still young, they are like age 8 to 10 years old. We need a national training centre. As for internationally, Lee Yong Dae is still young. In the new scoring system, everyone has a chance to win.

24. is planning to start a badminton league. Do you think it will increase the level of the players especially the back up players? and why?

Yeah, I think it's important. The more leagues, you'll have more opportunities for players to make money and they'll gain more recognition and exposure. Over all, it's very beneficial.

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