An old saying advises keeping friends close and enemies closer. This season in men’s singles badminton, two players were closer than ever.
Jesse Assing from Humber and Owen Kurvits of Redeemer University apparently couldn’t get enough of each other, playing each other six times this season.
“It was an awesome rivalry. The two played top notch badminton,” said Michael Kopinak, associate director of athletics at Humber.
Assing, in his first year with Humber badminton, said the two competitors had met during circuit tournaments.
“I knew we were at a similar level,” said Assing.
They first played each other at a collegiate level in November at a tournament hosted by Fanshawe College, with Kurvits taking the win.
“The first few games we were feeling each other out, then when you get to the bigger games you want the banner,” Assing said.
Kurvits would also get the victory in their next three matches, including two at the OCAA Championships.
“The more we’d play the more we got used to each other, so you’d know what to do and what to expect,” said Kurvits.
“I play on the attack but Owen plays a more neutral game, so his style is anti-mine,” Assing said.
Kurvits having the upper hand in most of the matchups meant the clash of styles was the least of his concerns.
“I tried not to do too much and over-think what he was going to do,” Kurvits said.
Benno Kurvits, head coach of badminton at Redeemer and father of Owen, said, “In Owen’s mind, he was focusing on his own game and what he needed to do to play well. If you are winning, you best not change anything drastically in your approach.”
Assing did succeed in getting one victory over Kurvits during the CCAA badminton championship round robin.
“That was the best game I’ve ever seen him play,” said Owen Kurvits.
For Assing, part of the satisfaction in playing such competitive matchups, regardless of the outcome, is having a fair fight.
“Even though I played up to a different level, Owen had to adjust to the facilities and didn’t get to his usual quality of play,” he said.
Assing would get to play “the Owen [he knows]” in the National Championship final, bringing back the intensity that Kopinak cites as “electric” to their games.
The Redeemer coach said Owen “needed to simplify things and just get back to basic rallying with Jesse and allow the play to develop.
“I believe that is what he did and eventually was able to pull away, though the first half of the third game was very close,” said coach Benno Kurvits.
The competitive atmosphere between the two has not prevented them from developing a friendship off the court.
“Owen is a civil competitor. When we play we do not want the other to win but we respect (it) if he does, and he’s a classy guy and we get along well,” said Assing.