BURLINGTON, Ont. - The Waterloo Warriors will look to defend their title when the 2016 OUA Badminton Championships begins on Friday at the David Braley Athletic Centre (Sport Hall) on campus McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.
Action gets underway Friday, Feb. 19 at 9:00am and concludes on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 4:00pm with several teams from around the conference hoping to upset the Warriors and hoist the OUA championship banner.
Since the OUA championship moved to a team format in the 1996-97 season, Waterloo has won the title on four separate occasions. Prior to that the Warriors were crowned men's champions in 1978 and 1979, while the women won the title in 1974.
Led by 2015 OUA Coach of the Year Maurice Lee, Waterloo enters the tournament as the team to beat with a roster that features three OUA all-stars from a season ago. The Warriors could become the first time to repeat as champs since the Western Mustangs did so in 2011 and 2012.
As a rookie last year, Clarence Chan (Richmond Hill, Ont.) was named an OUA all-star after he finished second in men's mixed doubles with partner Wesley Marr. Chan will have a new partner this time around as Marr has since graduated.
Anthony Ho (Scarborough, Ont.) and Nicolas Hon (Richmond Hill, Ont.) paired up last season and finished fourth in men's doubles at the OUA championship. However, this time around, the duo will have their eyes set on a podium finish.
Fifth-year computer engineering major Nathan Leung (Markham, Ont.) returns for the Warriors and will be out for gold in potentially his last OUA championship with Waterloo. However, in the ultra-competitive men's singles competition, that might mean squaring off with teammate and 2015 OUA all-star Cliff Tuen (Markham, Ont.). Last year, the third-year statistics student-athlete, finished fourth in men's singles.
While last year's women's MVP Surabhi Kadam is not back to defend her women's singles or mixed doubles titles for the Warriors, the deep Waterloo roster contains several podium threats. Judy Tan (Scarborough, Ont.), a second-year kinesiology student-athlete, finished third in women's doubles last season with former Warrior Adrienne Goldsworthy.
A pair that does remain intact for the Waterloo women is the women's doubles team of Emily Lam (Toronto, Ont.) and 2015 OUA all-star Carrie Law (Scarborough, Ont.). Lam and Law finished fourth last year behind teammates Tan and Goldsworthy. In her fifth season in black and gold, Law, a biotech major, will look to improve upon her fourth place finish in women's singles from a year ago and finish on the podium this time around.
Jack Hall (Toronto, Ont.) and the Western Mustangs will head to Hamilton this weekend with one thing on their mind: reclaiming the banner. As a rookie last year, Hall finished second in the men's singles competition but a gold medal winning performance this weekend would go a long way to helping the Mustangs win their eleventh OUA title since 1997.
Bryan Jok (Toronto, Ont.) and Adrianna Giuffre (Calgary, AB.) will both be looking for new partners this year as Aisyah Latib has graduated. Jok and Giuffre both won silver medals at the 2015 OUA championship with Latib in mixed doubles and women's doubles, respectively. With the departure of Waterloo's Kadam, Giuffre, a third-year kinesiology major, will be focused on gold in women's singles on Sunday after finishing second last year.
The host Marauders finished third behind Waterloo and Western last season but with home court advantage this time around, McMaster could win their first team title in program history.
Third-year computer engineering major Jacob Kao (Hamilton, Ont.) was named an OUA all-star and MVP last season after he won gold in not only men's singles but also in men's doubles with Muhammad Kamarrudin (Kuanthan, Malaysia). Both players are back and looking to defending their titles at home. Kamarrudin, who was also named OUA Rookie of the Year a season ago, finished fourth in mixed doubles with partner and OUA all-star Sashini Senarath (Nepean, Ont.).
Senarath, a third-year electrical and biomedical engineering major, along with Joletta Cheung (Nepean, Ont.) will provide some much needed veteran leadership on a women's team that features four rookies. In her rookie season, Cheung reached the round of 16.
If there is a serious threat to title hopes of Kao, Hall, Leung or Tuen, it has to be University of Ottawa Gee-Gees standout Andew D'Souza (Ottawa, Ont.).
D'Souza is Canada's top-ranked male singles player and the 2015 Canadian champion. The third-year human kinetics major, competed at the 2011 and 2012 BWF World Junior Championships. In his first year at the senior level D'Souza was selected to represent Canada at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. At the 2015 Canada Games, the Ottawa, Ont. native represented helped Ontario win team gold while winning silver in men's singles.
If their performance at the Toronto Open is any indication, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues are poised to improve upon their fifth place finish last year.
The young Blues are led by a pair of first-year kinesiology majors in Rachel Honderich (Toronto, Ont.) and Brittany Tam (Markham, Ont.). Honderich captured gold in women's doubles, silver in women's singles, and a bronze in mixed doubles while Tam claimed gold in mixed doubles and bronze in both women's doubles and women's singles
On the men's side, second-year statistics major Andrew Wilkinson (Toronto, Ont.) is back in the fold once again for the Blues. Wilkinson, the 2011-12 OUA rookie of the year, represented Canada at the Summer Universiade.
Joining Wilkinson is fellow veteran and 2012-13 OUA rookie of the year Jackie Yeung (Toronto, Ont.) Yeung, who was on the Blues when they last won the title in 2013, will provide the knowledge and experience necessary to help Toronto get back to the top step of the podium.
Toronto head into the OUA championship with a new bench boss as Stéphane Cadieux hopes to lead the Varsity Blues to another top five finish. Since 2013, Cadieux has served as a national coach for Badminton Canada, coaching both senior and junior national teams at various international competitions including the World University Badminton championships in 2012 and 2014.
While the Blues' crosstown rivals, the Ryerson Rams, will also have a new head coach at this year's championship, Sherman Lam is no stranger to the event. Lam is a former three-time OUA all-star and four-time Ryerson badminton most valuable player and takes over the head coaching reigns after assisting the Rams program for the past eight years.
After missing the 2015 OUA championship, Vivian Kwok (Stouffville, Ont.) is a serious medal contender for the Rams. Kwok is former two-time OUA all-star, who has won a medal in each of women's singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles in her career. She recently represented Canada at World University Badminton Championship and is currently ranked 12th on Badminton Canada women's singles rankings. Earlier this season, Kwok won women's singles silver at the McMaster Open, however, when partnered with Avenie Lee (Thornhill, Ont.), the pair has been virtually unbeatable.
Kwok and Lee defeated the No. 1 seed in women's doubles to claim the gold medal at the McMaster Open and followed that up with another first place finish at the Independent University/College Circuit (IUCC) tournament this past November.
Nathan Cheng (Markham, Ont.) is out to improve upon his men's doubles OUA bronze from a year ago and appears to have found himself a new partner in David Chan (Markham, Ont.). Cheng, who finished third in 2015 with former Ram Kirk Hansen, won the men's doubles category at IUCC. Cheng then partnered with Kwok to win the mixed event, a result they hope to repeat this weekend.
Rounding out the competition at this year's championships are the Queen's Gaels, York Lions, Carleton Ravens and Guelph Gryphons.
Major awards and banner presentation will take place at the conclusion of the gold medal matches on the final day of competition.
A full schedule is available here.