When the seventh Devlin Cup was handed out Tuesday night at the Augusta State University Athletic Complex, it was the Canadians who prevailed once again.
The Canadian Junior National team, coached by Billy Gilliland, defeated the U.S. team to capture its sixth consecutive title. After a long hiatus, the rivalry was resurrected just last year.
This year's Devlin Cup, which was sponsored by the Greater Augusta Sports Council, was expanded to include Russia for the first time. The Russian team dominated its two events, sweeping the U.S. in the Friendship Cup on Sunday and defeating Canada Monday in an exhibition tournament.
The feature event on Tuesday saw a well-balanced Canadian team overpower the U.S. team, with the help of a fired-up bench. The best of seven-match tournament was clinched by Canada when Bob Milroy edged Jon Frisch of the U.S. 15-2, 12-15, 15-6 in the Men's No.2 Singles match.
"As you can see, it's a pretty intense rivalry," said Gilliland as his bench rallied Milroy to victory in the decisive third game of his match. "This is a traditional event that was lost for a number of years. When you've got something like the Cup to play for, it builds the tradition."
The Canadian bench completely eliminated the U.S. homecourt advantage, igniting the team at pivotal points in every match with resonant words of encouragement.
Gilliland began playing badminton in his native Scotland and held the No. 1 world ranking in mixed doubles in 1986 and 1987. He sees further expansion of the Devlin Cup in the near future. "I'd like to see one more country join the field down the road. A country like Peru could help, because the U.S. would have more success against them than international powers like Russia. Everyone loves a winner in sports. That's part of selling the game."
Gilliland also acknowledges the potential of the U.S. team in years to come. "The U.S. is still a young and inexperienced team right now," Gilliland said. "I see an organized U.S. team today, who has one of the best coaches (Steve Butler) they could've gotten. But the U.S. is still at a stage where we have to explain the rules to the audience before a match. Badminton is one of the fasting growing sports, and can be the next big racquet sport in this country if it is marketed properly."
The Devlin Cup was named after Frank Devlin, an Irish badminton player who dominated the sport during its formative years in the 1920s and 1930s. Devlin traveled to Canada often during his career to play against North America's most talented players. After moving to Canada late in his career, he spent many years promoting the sport in Canada and the United States. In 1966, the first Devlin Cup between the U.S. and Canada was held in New Briton, Connecticut. Devlin presented the first silver cup to the United States that year, and it remains today the only Devlin Cup the team has won.
Devlin Cup Badminton Tournament:
Canada 6, United States 1
No.1 Men's Singles: Mark Manha (US) def. Marlon Samuel 15-6, 15-6
No. 2 Men's Singles: Bob Milroy (Can) def. Jon Frisch 15-2, 12-15, 15-6
No. 1 Women's Singles: Jody Patrick (Can) def. Kathleen Maloney 11-2, 11-1
No. 2 Women's Singles: Caroline Gibbings (Can) def. Lily Chen 11-0, 11-3
Men's Doubles: Stuart Arthur-Marlon Samuel (Can) def. Howard Bach-Mark Manha 14-17, 15-7, 15-12
Women's Doubles: Cindy Arthur-Caroline Gibbings (Can) def. Donna Beach-Janae Bennett 18-14, 15-7
Mixed Doubles: Stuart Arthur-Cindy Arthur def. Stanley Wo-Donna Beach 15-6, 18-14