World badminton champion Howard Bach goes for the kill in his last Olympics this summer in London.
ISSUE: Summer 2012
STORY: Melody Lee
PHOTO: Melly Lee
Growing up, Howard Bach had always been quite the athlete — he ran track, played baseball and soccer — but he eventually decided to stick with badminton. Today, he is a world champion in the sport and is training for his third, and last, Olympics in the badminton men’s doubles event.
At the age of 5, Bach picked up the sport from his father, who used to play back in Vietnam. He moved to an Olympic training center at the age of 16 and has since racked up a long list of accomplishments in the sport. With his partner, Indonesian American Tony Gunawan, Bach made history in 2005 when the pair won the gold medal in the men’s doubles competition at the World Badminton Championships, becoming the first American badminton athletes to ever medal at a World Championship. In 2008, Bach and his doubles partner, Bob Malaythong, made it to the quarterfinalsof the Olympic Games in Beijing, advancing farther in the Olympic sport than any other Americans in history.
Now facing his last Olympics — at 33, he’s married and has a baby boy — Bach is training hard. His regular routine consists of everything from weightlifting to track to on-court training two times a day, five days a week. Bach is hoping to end his badminton career as a full-time athlete with a medal, but regardless, he plans to stay involved in the sport and maybe even raise its profile in the U.S. “America has one of the best athletic pools around the world, yet you see mainly Asians in the U.S. playing badminton,” he says. “That mentality should change. We have a lot of athletes of different ethnic backgrounds who are equally as athletic who would definitely enjoy the game as well.”
Bach credits his family, friends and sponsors for his success. “Being an athlete, it’s not enough to just have the talent; you need to have the environment to make an athlete successful,” he says. “I always mention it as the team behind the team, the support group, and I’ve been pretty blessed to have that support group behind me.”
— Melody Lee