Homework pays off for teen
SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Monyata Riviera spends ten hours a week working on her badminton game.The junior national and multiple champion does physical and fitness training on Mondays and Wednesdays; then works on the more technical aspects of the game on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and again on Saturday morning when most of her Foundation School peers are either still in bed or shopping in Bridgetown.It is a tough schedule to balance with school, but it has been rewarding.At age 13, she was a double crown champion. At age 15 she was a triple crown champion.She took that form overseas on tours with the junior national team, returning from the Manhattan Beach Open with a gold medal in the Under-17 girls’ doubles and bronze in the mixed doubles and singles.Riviera repeated the triple crown this year in the Under-17 division.At the Junior National Championships, she won six trophies, taking gold in the Under-17 singles, doubles and mixed doubles. She also won the Under-19 singles and doubles and was a runner-up in the mixed doubles.Riviera was a gem found hidden at Erdiston Primary when she was still in Class 1.“My coach Ryan Toppin came there and asked who wanted to play badminton,” she recalled. “I joined at seven years old and was playing at the Barbados Community College on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to 12 [noon] for about four years. Then I joined the national team after I turned 11.”She was drawn to badminton because of its unique style of play and found it interesting. Her own style changes to reflect her opponent.“It is really mixed; certain games call for certain strategies. In some games, I would be aggressive and dominate and at other times I would wait and see what the other person does,” she said.Of all the opponents she has faced, her coach Carolyn Vaughn remains the toughest.“I played her at Senior Nationals and it was a really hard game to play. She trained me for almost my whole badminton life, so she knew what I like to do and what I don’t like to do,” Riviera said.At this year’s Senior Nationals, Tamisha Williams beat her in the first round of the singles. Although she and doubles partner Mikeila Carrington won their opening match against veterans Chalise Jordan and Claudia Martindale-Campbell, they were eventually beaten by champions Shari Watson and Mariama Eastmond.All of that is preparation for this year’s upcoming Manhattan Beach tour and Pan Am Juniors for which Riviera has already set some goals.“My first goal when going to a tournament is to get to the semi-finals. I always play my best and fight the hardest every game I play,” she said.“It helps me with experience and to get exposure to different types of play and the competition is harder. I have to fight a lot harder in games to actually get to the next round.”Still, Riviera does not believe that the overseas players are fundamentally better. They just have access to better facilities and train more, she said.