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July 15, 2009 > Surprise! World class badminton in the Bay Area

Surprise! World class badminton in the Bay Area

By Marty Friedman

Why do so many engineers who live in the Fremont area and work in Menlo Park, Redwood City and Mountain View spend their time smashing little birds? Because hitting cork and goose feather birdies are a key part of the world's fastest racket sport: badminton.

That includes Fremont's own Frank Lang: a full-time engineer and part-time coach at Golden Gate Badminton Club (GGBC) in Menlo Park.

Why would staff members living in the Fremont area and working for demanding companies like Google, Oracle, Yahoo and Intel form badminton teams to compete with each other?

It's not surprising since so many Silicon Valley workers are from China and India (two nations where badminton is red hot - even more than table tennis). How hot? Well, China has 250 million badminton players alone - almost the size of the US population.

What is surprising is how little known badminton is in this country. If it's known at all, it's thought of as a backyard or beach sport played with very amateur rackets and plastic birds. That perception is starting to change. And the GGBC is a major reason for the change.

The founder and director of GGBC, Mike Yang looks more like a movie star than the badminton champion ranked second in the USA.

Raised in China by badminton playing parents, Mike came to this country some 11 years ago and was very disappointed to learn that there wasn't a single professional badminton club in the Bay Area.

Yes, he soon became the UC Berkeley badminton coach, but that was only a stepping stone toward his new role in 2005: founding the Golden Gate Badminton Club.

The good news is that this 17,000 square foot facility quickly boomed. Would you believe over 150 players a day this year?

The "bad" news is that, sorry, GGBC is neither heated nor air-conditioned. There can be no air-currents to affect play. Fresh air is supplied by a small pipe under each spectator's seat.

The good news is that the Bay Region is quickly becoming a major center for American badminton, led in large measure by GGBC. The recent three-day National Team Trials were held at the Menlo Park club. In addition, the GGBC Summer Team League runs every Sunday for doubles and mixed doubles.

There is no excuse not to be on the badminton court in Menlo Park. It's easy to reach from the Tri-City area.

Players from 5 to 85 are out there jumping, twisting, improving their hand- and foot-eye coordination, building their endurance, getting a great cardio workout and all at the player's own pace and skill level.

For more information on the club, contact Mike Yang at the Golden Gate Badminton Club (located at 190 Constitution Drive in Menlo Park) at 650-838-9229 or e-mail him at mike@ggbadminton.com.

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