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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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HOME court advantage meant nothing, as all 11 local players exited at the first hurdle in singles when the Trinidad and Tobago International Badminton Tournament served off yesterday at the Eastern Regional Indoor Sports Arena, Tacarigua.

But there is still hope as Solangel Guzman is also flying the red, white and black flag. The Cuban whipped Mexican Mariana Ugalde 21-14, 21-16 to cruise into the "round of 16." However, Guzman is not expected to progress any further.

The player who was once ranked as high as No. 151 in the world but is now listed at No. 461 will come up against 86th-ranked Kate Foo Koon, the No. 3 seed from Mauritius, at 11.30 a.m. for a place in tonight's quarterfinals.

Nicholas Bonkowksy, the other player born elsewhere who is representing T&T, may have nightmares for a long time after squandering a golden opportunity to reach the last 16.

The Canadian of local roots was eventually upset 23-21, 21-18 by Soren Opti of Suriname. But Bonkowsky, who was crowned national champion in only his third local tournament two months ago, had blown six straight game points with a 20-14 lead in the first set and had won five straight from 11-6 down in the second.

The other four T&T males in the draw had qualified the day before and none was able to win a set.

Anil Seepaul had the toughest draw of them all as the five-time national champ came up against No. 3 seed Luka Wraber, and the Austrian, ranked 56th in the world, prevailed 21-8, 21-14.

National Under-19 champ Will Lee was overwhelmed 21-7, 21-3 by Maxime Moreels of Belgium, Chilean Ivan Leon defeated Alistair Espinoza 21-16, 21-16 and under-17 player Ihsaan Furlonge was beaten 21-11, 21-13 by fellow qualifier Dakeil Thorpe of Barbados.

Kerian Quan Chee, recently back after a four-year absence, was the only legitimate player from the host country to win a set yesterday. But after cruising through the first 21-12, the former national junior champ lost a heart-breaking second set 25-23 and was then edged 21-17 in the decider by Niria Baeza of Chile.

Tingting Chou, also of Chile, accounted for Avril Plaza Marcelle 21-12, 21-6; Reba Fleary was beaten 21-15, 21-15 by Barbadian Tamisha Williams; Bermary Munoz of Dominican Republic was a 21-10, 21-9 winner over Arielle Gomez; Jamaican Katherine Winter of Jamaica halted Kamasha Robertson and Leanna Castanada went under 21-12, 21-5 against Mexican Haramara Gaitan.

The top seed is Italian Jeanine Cicognini, who is ranked No. 59 in the world.

The men's draw received a tremendous shake up when top-seeded Israeli Misha Zilberman, ranked No. 43 in the world, was stunned 21-18, 21-19 in the first round yesterday by Mexican teenager Luis Ramon Garrido.

Second-round and quarter-finals matches are on today's schedule. The action gets going at 10 a.m. with the start of the men's and women's doubles draws.

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