San Francisco native Howard Bach will compete in his third and final Olympic Games in London. Raj Mathai shows how he's inspiring young athletes.
Since 1992, badminton has been an Olympic sport, and since that time it has quickly become one of the most popular sports in the world. While it's still gaining ground here in the United States, the Bay Area is at the forefront of one of the biggest badminton booms in years.
Credit San Francisco native and Olympic badminton athlete Howard Bach of San Francisco for helping to bring positive exposure to the game.
"I started at the local YMCA, there wasn't even one private club," Bach said.
He recently played with his pairs partner, Tony Gunawan, at the California Badminton Academy in Fremont for an exhibition game and their young fans treated the Olympians like rock stars asking the pair to sign their racket covers.
Bach takes it all in stride. He simply wants to serve as a role model to the kids.
"Hopefully they can soak everything up and we can create some future champions in this club," he said.
On a recent afternoon at a the Fremont academy, Bach took time out from practicing to simply talk to and organically inspire the young people also playing there.
He'd like them to go beyond what he's already achieved: "Don't shoot to be like Howard Bach, shoot to be better than Howard Bach, that's my challenge to them, to young kids."
Now at age 33, London will be Bach's third Olympic Games. And his last.
“I’m not young anymore," Bach said. "Badminton is something I'll always continue to love to play but at the same time, there are other areas that I would like to pursue so it's time to open and close a chapter in my life."
Before closing that chapter, Bach will team up with Gunawan, an Indonesian native who now lives in Southern California. He won an Olympic gold medal in 2000 for Indonesia.
"It’s always a gift to step on the court with Tony," Bach said. "He’s like a big brother. When I’m with him, I’m feel like I’m playing with the best player in the world."
Now that Gunawan is a U.S. citizen he's hoping to win another medal, this time for Team USA.
But he admits it's a long shot.
"We do have a chance, not great, but I believe in the Olympics, anything can happen," he said.
Bach added, "That’s why we wake up at 4:30 in the morning to run on the track at six. I want to get on the podium. I want to be able to end my career with a medal around my neck."
The badminton competition begins July 28th.
Watch the full report at 6 p.m.