MEET the golden boys of badminton. They are brothers James and Andrew Babwah, of Princes Town.
James is the TT Badminton Association's (TTBA) 2018 player of the year in the under-13 category. A feat he also accomplished in the under-11 category, two years before.
Andrew is also at the top of his game, holding the 2018 junior player of the year in the under-11 category. He is also the TTBA’s 2018 junior nominee for the First Citizens Sports Foundation Awards
The Babwah brothers' dream is to one day represent TT at the Olympic Games.
James, 12, is a form one student at Naparima College, San Fernando. Andrew, nine, is in standard three at the Princes Town Presbyterian Primary School No 1, which has been on a shift system with the Presbyterian No 2 school.
James attended the No 1 school and, with extra lessons, he passed for his first choice and placed among the top 200 students in the 2018 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination. He placed 48th overall. In June 2017, he was also among the 50 finalists in the JMMB mental maths competition, and placed ninth. Andrew is hoping to follow in his brother’s footsteps when he writes SEA in 2021.
Inspired by their parents, Trevor and Savitri (Savitri died from cancer in 2016) who were avid badminton players, the brothers have been playing since they were toddlers. James and Andrew journey, at least twice a week, to train with former national player Anil Seepaul at his Central Regional Indoor Stars facility, Chaguanas, along with coach Shiva Persad.
They have also taken part in other sporting disciplines, such as cricket, football and swimming, where they achieved some success.
"We played football with a club, Spitfire. We had competitions at the end of each season and we also got medals for that and also for swimming," said Andrew.
However, the brothers developed a passion for badminton. They represented TT at the Pan Am Games and the Caribbean Regional Badminton Championships (Carebaco) and their medal and trophies haul is testament that their passion is not misplaced.
"I was inspired by watching my father play, and since I was about three I wanted to play too. I have been playing now for about eight years. I have competed with the national team in the Pan Am Games and in Carebaco in 2016 in Aruba, in 2017 in TT, and in Suriname in 2018. Andrew and I went to all three. We also went to Toronto. We did not medal in all of the tournaments but we had a great experience, visiting other countries and making new friends," said James.
Trevor, who works in Mt Hope and and goes between Princes Town and Chaguanas, said he ensures his sons are not limited in achieving their potential, and gets help from relatives.
In between training, schoolwork and leisure, James and Andrew enjoy cooking, and teach their father how to prepare dishes their late mother taught them. They also love gardening with their father. Andrew said they have reaped and eaten ochres, tomatoes, melongene and other vegetables they planted.
"I like tomato choka and melongene. My mum taught me how to make it. We have not started planting anything this year because the place is dry. But we grow ochre, nice melongene and tomatoes and saffron," he said.
The brothers have not chosen a career as yet but badminton would be in their future.
"I would like to represent TT in the Olympics," said James.
"Me too," said Andrew, "I also want to be a coach and a player when I get older.