It took nearly three years, but Matt Harris has finally found himself a Jeju Furey tournament champion.
Harris, along with his partner, Mihee Kim, captured Furey’s mixed doubles badminton tournament gold around 1 a.m. Sunday, June 24, after besting 16 other teams – as well as the wind, rain, dark, and bright lights of the Sarabong outdoor courts.
The duo beat out Troy MacLellan and Kendra Pugh three games to one in the final match to win the foundation’s second annual contest. Matt and Mihee dropped the first game of the final match, but rallied to win three games in a row to claim victory in the best of five showdown. Dave and Karma Cunning finished third in the “A” division.
“I was pretty pissed off that we had to keep playing,” Harris said, responding to the tournament stipulation that his team had to beat MacLellan and Pugh twice in a row in the night’s highly volatile weather, as per the event’s double knockout rules. “I was saying to myself, ‘Not again. PLEASE not again.’ As the night went on, the weather got a little calmer, and we ended up playing better.”
The victory was a long time coming for Harris – it was his first Jeju Furey championship of any kind, after competing in approximately 14 tournaments of various sports that the foundation has put on over the last three years.
“It felt pretty good,” said a modest Harris. “I arrived here on the island in March 2009, just after Nathan Furey, the guy whom Jeju Furey is named after, had died. I never knew him, but I’ve played in every single tournament that has been held for any sport, and Mihee has been in a lot of them too. I had never won one until now. I’ve always done alright, but never good enough to win. When it came to this badminton tournament, I said to myself, ‘this is the one; this is what I’m going to win.’ We fell short of it last year, but luckily we managed to pull it off this time around.”
Things went according to their plan Friday, as the team didn’t lose a game all night – in ideal weather conditions. After a Saturday littered with adversity-filled wind, rain, and darkness, Mihee found herself hitting the winning smash to lock it up for the pair.
“We grabbed each other and yelled, ‘We won something! We finally won something!’ Harris recalled, happily.
“They were so happy,” observed Daniel Nabben, Jeju Furey organizer. “I was really happy for him. Troy and Kendra’s team took them to the limit.”
Of course, the weekend was about more than just winning – and after all entry fees, food, and merchandise sales were tabulated, the charity tournament had raised 533,200 won, to be split between two beneficiary families in Jeju. 125,000 won of that was graciously contributed by Joseph Kim and other volunteers that brought, prepared, and served food to the players by donation over the weekend.
“Even though badminton is the smallest of all the tournaments we have, it’s fun, and the money we raise per person is totally worth it,” Nabben said. “People are interested in participating in, volunteering for, and donating to, events like this one, so they’re not hard to organize.”
“I want people to come together to do something they enjoy, take good memories away from it when it’s done, and help support a worthy cause at the same time. We have to help these people out,” said Nabben who then mentioned the consciousness raising of the Occupy movement that there are so many people who live off so little.
“We may not be on the same level as Warren Buffet and people like him, but it’s all relative. We are rich, we have tons of free time, and it doesn’t take much for us to give back.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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