Bellevue duo dominates at national championships

William Hu and Jacob Zhang earn first-place finishes in respective divisions.

A trip to Texas in July resulted in two coveted first-place finishes for Bellevue Badminton Club stars William Hu and Jacob Zhang.

Zhang, who graduated from Interlake High School this past June, captured first place in the U19 boys singles tournament at the 2019 Junior National Championships in Frisco, Texas. Hu, who will be a senior at Newport High School during the 2019-20 school year, earned first place in the U19 mixed doubles tournament at the Junior National Championships as well.

Hu was thrilled to reach the pinnacle on the national stage.

“It was very amazing. I could finally see something that I have physically earned, a physical medal as opposed to working hard every day and not really seeing anything,” Hu said of earning a first-place medallion.

Zhang echoed Hu’s sentiment.

“It is one of those things that you always aim for. When it happened, I was still kind of in shock. I thought, ‘Did this actually happen?’ I was just going match by match. I wasn’t really thinking about winning it all,” Zhang said.

Bellevue Badminton Club coach Derrick Ng, who has coached both players for the past two seasons, believes both players bring a unique skill-set to the court.

“Jacob is definitely a smart player. He is very good at being patient, setting up the play and finishing it off with a big smash. William is more of a wild player and he gets things back (over the net) that people don’t expect. He is more of a wildcard,” Ng said of Hu. “He moves fast and gets to things you don’t expect.”

The Hu/Zhang duo has known each other since childhood. They practice two to three hours per day, four to five days a week to hone their skills. Ng said practice sessions as of late have focused on speed and control.

“When you have a lot of speed, you lose control and sometimes if you have too much control, you are too slow. It is a matter of combining the two,” Ng said.

Hu believes Ng’s knowledge of the sport significantly impacted both of their games on the court.

“He (Ng) was ranked very high in the world. He had a lot to teach us when we first started learning from him. He taught both of us a lot of new things that we didn’t know previously,” Hu said.

Zhang felt immense pride knowing that two athletes from Washington rose to the occasion on the grand stage.

“It really is a dream come true. We started out when we were both really little and when we would see players from California, we thought, ‘Oh, no,’” Zhang said of childhood. “Now being able to go there and sort of take down that pedestal has definitely been very fulfilling. I’m definitely not the most athletic or the strongest physically but I have played badminton for 10 years and have built up an institution and understanding of the game.”

Earlier this season, Hu and Zhang also captured the 2019 Junior International Trial champions, which qualified them for a spot on Team USA at the 2019 BWF Junior Mixed Team Championships in Kazan, Russia from Sept. 30 through Oct. 13.