Who is ... Howard Shu
Who is Howard Shu?
Ranked world no. 64 as of early May 2016, Howard Shu is America's highest-ranked men's singles badminton player. Though he was originally more of an "attacker", Shu is now a more defensive player who takes advantage of counterattacks.
Shu practices six days a week.
Born in Los Alamitos, California on November 28, 1990, Shu grew up in nearby Anaheim California. He started playing badminton at 8 years old when his father, a former Taiwanese badminton player, "put the racket in my hands". Originally, Shu preferred basketball.
Shu credits his passion for badminton to a specific incident that occurred when he was 10 years old. During his first tournament, Shu lost to a top junior. Shu's mother approached the winner's mother after the game and asked if the two children could compete in doubles together.
The winner's mother declined: "Your son sucks."
Fourteen years later, Shu won the 2014 Adult National Championship in Boston - with the junior tournament winner in the audience. Unaware of their prior contact, the junior tournament winner congratulated Shu after the match. While Shu remained polite during their conversation, he kept thinking: "This guy is the reason why I am so determined to succeed at badminton."
In 2013, Shu won his first medal at the Santo Domingo Open, where he took home silver in men's singles. He also played in the Sudirman Cup and the BWF World Championships, where he lost in the first round.
The following year, Shu took home bronze at the Huawei Guatemala Internacional in men's singles, and earned gold in mixed doubles. He also won several medals at competitions in Brazil and Puerto Rico and, most notably, took home bronze at the 19th Pan American Badminton Championships - his biggest accomplishment to date. Shu competed once again in the BWF World Championships.
2015 was a standout year for Shu. He won bronze in men's singles at the Pan American Games, participated in the BWF World Championships , and took home a total of four gold medals.
"I knew when I was a kid that I always wanted to be an Olympian and professional athlete. As I was getting to around 16, 17 years old I was already at the level to qualify for some professional tournaments and saw a real shot to become an Olympian. I continued on to finish UCLA and here I am now with a shot to qualify."
- Shu on his desire to be an Olympian
"The biggest misconception [about badminton] is that it's a backyard sport, where you're just having a beer, playing around. ... The first thing is, it's an indoor sport. We never play outdoors. The second thing I always tell people is a lot of people don't know that it's the fastest racket sport. Off impact, the shuttle can travel over 200 miles an hour. [It's] faster than tennis, squash or racquetball."
- Shu on badminton misconceptions
Should he qualify, Rio will serve as Shu's first Olympic Games.
Off the court:
Shu describes himself as a hardcore "sneakerhead": He owns close to 100 pairs of shoes.
In addition to being athletically gifted, Shu excels at academics. He graduated from the University of California - Los Angeles in 2013. He majored in business economics and minored in accounting.
Shu enjoys action movies (specifically the "Iron Man" movies), dogs, bacon, fruits, Belgian waffles, Skittles, the beach, taking showers and prefers gold over silver. However, he is also partial to green.
He also likes to gamble, and considers Texas Hold'Em and craps as his favorite games. Shu occasionally takes trips to Vegas with family.
Perhaps most impressively, Shu has cage-dived with great white sharks.