Rising Star from Saudi Arabia Dominates Badminton

Rising Star from Saudi Arabia Dominates Senior Badminton Scene
Posted on 04/11/2024
Allen Varghese

By Larry Moko

A Grade 10 student from Saudi Arabia has been a welcome addition to St. John Henry Newman’s senior badminton team this season.

During Day 1 of the annual Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic High School badminton tournament Tuesday, Cardinals’ newcomer Allen Varghese went undefeated en route to capturing the boys’ singles title.

In the final, he topped Reuben Wallace of the St. Thomas More Knights.

“Allen did very well,” Newman coach Tom Campanella said. “His smash is his strength. He has an understanding of the game.”

According to Campanella, the Cardinals were pleasantly surprised by Varghese’s skill level when he showed up for tryouts.

“We don’t often take Grade 10 students, but we gave him a choice (to play either junior or senior). He doesn’t have any competition at the junior level, so we brought him up.”

Varghese is also a club player ranked 68th among Ontario U19 players.

When asked if he was pleased with his debut performance at the city championships, Varghese said, “No. I missed a lot of shots.”

Campanella pointed out that Varghese’s mere presence has been beneficial.

“Allen is polite and a man of few words,” the Newman coach said. “He hasn’t necessarily been coaching, but his skill level has helped improve a lot of players on our team.”

Tomas Sulug of Newman, for example, took bronze in boys’ singles.

Varghese was born in India. He has been playing badminton for four years and says he might try out for volleyball next season – possibly bolstering Newman’s senior squad that is vying for a fourth consecutive Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic championship.

In other action, host Cathedral took top honours in boys’ doubles when Maurice Mangino and Braeden Nguyen downed Mark Acierto and Stephen Morelli of More in the final.

“Maurice and Braeden are phenomenal badminton players,” Gaels coach Jay Stokl said. “They both play all-year round. They pretty much dominated today.”

Previously, with other partners, Mangino won a pair of gold medals in junior while Nguyen picked up a bronze.
Third place went to Easton Bourgeois and Kaziel Tamayo of Cathedral.

The other event – mixed doubles – was won by Noah McNeice and Audrey Evans. The St. Thomas More duo defeated Christos Umman and Jenerie Iniba of the St. Jean de Brébeuf Braves in a closely-contested final.

“This was the first year playing badminton for both of us,” McNeice said. “It took a lot of practice. Thanks to Mr. (John) Morelli. He coached us through this and taught us the basics.”

McNeice has played basketball throughout his four years at More, while Grade 11 student Evans has a background in volleyball.

Third place in mixed doubles went to Vanessa Merlos and Danny Do of the Gaels.

Day 2 of the tournament continues Wednesday at Cathedral for girls’ doubles and girls’ singles divisions.

Those seniors who qualify advance to the Golden Horseshoe Athletic Conference tournament later this month in Halton.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic junior badminton tournament is scheduled for May 15-16 at Cathedral.

Photos by Bob Butrym, RFB Sport Photography

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