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Team T&T in quest for badminton honours
T&T's nine-member contingent of Nikeisha Blake, Kerian Quan Chee, Latoya Walrond, Avril Marcelle, Nathaniel Khilliwan, Naim Mohammed, Renaldo Sinanan, Anil Seepaul and Nicholas Bonkowsky will begin the quest for international honours today at the II Men and Women Continental Team Championships at the National Racquet Centre in Tacarigua, February 15-18.
The tournament serves off at 9am and will be used as an opportunity for the winner to represent the Pan American Region at the Thomas and Uber Cup 2018 to be held in Thailand from May 20- 27.
The tournament will be held in two phases, the first being a Group Stage where the teams from each group will face each other in five matches that comprises three singles matches and two doubles. The final stage will be defined by Knock-out system, where the winner will be the first to win three of the five games to be played in each series.
Blake returns to the national team after a one-year ban while veteran Seepaul earned his spot through the play-off route.
However, the country's top two players Jada Renales and Alistair Espinoza will play no part in the tournament, despite being crowned the top 2017 players. Both have asked to be excused until the T&T Badminton Association resolves an ongoing issue that has affected them and their club Shuttle Force for the past years.
In the two major tournaments held last year—the Solo Championships and the TTBA Nationals for 2017, Espinoza was the stand out player among the men, winning the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in both, while Renales captured the doubles in both tournaments, as well as the mixed doubles at the national championships when she teamed up with Espinoza.
Yesterday, Keeron Garcia, coach of the team said he is expecting a good performance from his troops as they have worked very hard for the past few weeks. "In the last tournament the team competed in- the Carebaco Championship at the same venue, the team didn't do as well as it should have, but the players have since undergone a lot of work and have improved tremendously, so they will be ready," Garcia said.
He said 43-year-old Seepaul was brought back into the team because of his experience and his strength in the team game. Blake he believes will do well as she too has worked really hard at her game.
Bonkowsky on the other hand, the number one player in the Caribbean and a top player on the international circuit, will be key to T&T's success.
The Canadian born player who has T&T parentage, has already earned a spot on the country's Commonwealth Games team in Australia in April, along with Naim Mohammed. He has played most of his badminton on the international circuit.
The team is being coached by former national player Daron Dasent and being managed Melvin Thomas.
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