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Subandhi Makes Badminton Debut at Pan Am

August 11, 2003

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ Her teammates tease her at any opportunity, telling everybody they see that Jamie Subandhi is the youngest U.S. athlete at the Pan American Games. Anything to embarrass her.

Subandhi, 13, doesn’t mind such razzing.

Because being the baby of the badminton bunch seems to get her special treatment, too. Her coach often offers to carry her bags, and teammates constantly check up on her.

``It’s kind of fun being the youngest, because you feel you’re more taken care of,″ Subandhi said. ``I’m having fun.″

This is a big trip for Subandhi, who was born 1 1/2 months after the next youngest American, 13-year-old gymnast Nastia Liukin of Texas.

It’s only the second time Subandhi has ever left the United States _ the other was when she was 4 and went to Indonesia to visit her grandparents, but she doesn’t remember it. It’s her first international competition, and only her second out-of-state tournament. She lives in Westminster, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles.

Subandhi played in junior nationals in Louisiana in late June.

Her international debut here was successful.

Subandhi won her first singles match, then was eliminated Sunday. In doubles, she and partner Mesinee Mangkalakiri, of Garden Grove, Calif., reached the quarterfinals. They lost Monday to the second-seeded Peruvian pair of Doriana Rivera and Sandra Jimeno, 15-0, 15-3.

``I learned that maybe I don’t need to be so tense,″ Subandhi said of her Pan Ams experience. ``If I was more relaxed I could have focused more. In the beginning, I was really nervous. After I started playing, I settled down and got to feeling good.″

Subandhi and Mangkalakiri train together at the Orange County Badminton Club, the U.S. team training facility, but they’d never played together. They had one practice to figure things out, and were concerned they might not click come competition time.

It didn’t take long for Subandhi to start giving tips to her teammate.

``I think she’s doing really well, much better than the rest of us when we came out,″ the 20-year-old Mangkalakiri said. ``She seems much more mature. She’s just 13, but seems like one of us. It’s really easy to play with her.

``We harass her about it every day for being the youngest. We try to tell everyone who walks by us we have the youngest player. She’s embarrassed and she doesn’t like it. She’s not used to it, because it’s her first international tournament. She has a lot of fun out there.″

The traveling life is treating Subandhi just fine. She is taking to the independent lifestyle and isn’t even homesick.

``My parents aren’t here,″ she said. ``I e-mail home because the calling card they gave us didn’t work.″

Subandhi began playing badminton at age 3, when her father, Terry, was in charge of the church team that competed against other congregations in the area. She started training seriously when she was about 8 and now plays at least 10 tournaments each summer.

She would eventually like to try playing volleyball, though her dad has encouraged her to stick with badminton.

Subandhi, who will be a freshman at La Quinta High School in Garden Grove, trains from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekdays and occasionally on Sundays.

``Saturdays I just rest,″ she said. ``Six days of badminton is enough for me.″

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