Badminton doubles smash champion moves on

By Francisco Portillo 

After winning the first state title in doubles last year, badminton player Jean Buenaflor faced a tough follow-up season. Last season Buenaflor was partnered with Serena Lieu, who she played with since 2013. With Lieu gone, she took on a larger leadership role.

She partnered with international student Quan Zhang, which presented an obstacle as the two tried developing chemistry with one another. As a beginner, Zhang had never played badminton competitively. Having just met this semester, there was also a language barrier between the two, presenting another hurdle.

The duo was overpowered during the state finals. The opposing team took advantage of Zhang’s inexperience and they failed to reach the championship round.

Outside of school, Buenaflor coached the junior varsity badminton team at her old high school, South El Monte. She managed to take the team to first place, but may not have a team to coach next season as the sport faces extinction.

She used this coaching experience and applied it to her less experienced teammates. She felt that the team didn’t spend enough time practicing due to conflicting class schedules.

She points to her high school days in which practice for badminton was every day as opposed to twice a week. “It was very tough having an inexperienced team compared to last season.

It would’ve been helpful if (coach) Qui Nguy and I spent more time with them. I wanted us to practice at least four or five times a week but we only ended up getting two.

I’m pretty sure that if i spent more time with these girls, we would’ve done a lot better this year,” Buenaflor said.

Badminton coach Nguy had nothing but praise for Buenaflor, who he says is an exceptional team leader. “She’s a very nice and caring person with a great work ethic. I think she did really well toward the end of the season. She had a brand new partner, so we found ways to develop chemistry between them so they can play well with each other,” Nguy said.

According to Nguy, one of the strongest aspects of Buenaflor’s game is her smash shot, which is the equivalent to spiking a ball in volleyball. “Everyone is afraid of her smash,” Nguy said.

Buenaflor began playing the sport during high school at South El Monte. On a recommendation from a friend, she decided to give it a shot and quickly fell in love with the sport.

She enjoys the fast pace of the sport as the birdie can reach up to speeds of 200 miles per hour. After high school, Buenaflor spent time working as a nurse and took time off school. She grew attached to the patients and would become sad when they died and decided that the profession may not be for her.

“The pay was good, but I care too much for the patients. Having them pass away, it hurts to see that,” Buenaflor said.

During her time as a nurse, she decided to go back to school for business administration and has since attended ELAC. Buenaflor doesn’t only play badminton.

Over the years she’s played tennis, basketball, volleyball and softball for fun. She even joined an adult softball league at a park Not only is Buenaflor athletic, she also loves playing video games.

She spends hours playing games like “The Legend of Zelda,” “League of Legends” and “Diablo III.” She said she loves to take her brother’s games to play them and is looking forward to trying “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Another activity that she loves to engage in is karaoke. There are a lot of songs that I love to sing, but ‘Break My Heart,’ by Toni Braxton is my go-to song.

In order for me to get zoned in, I’ll sing that song first.‘’ Buenaflor hopes to transfer to a four year university by next year.

Her school of interest is Monterey in Northern California. She hopes that the badminton gets more attention in the future. “It’s funny because badminton is one of the sports that has the lowest ratings here in America.

I really do wish people took initiative to watch the sport. Some people say that it’s not even a sport, but if that were the case then why is it in the Olympics?” Buenaflor said.

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