Determined to be a force to be reckoned with globally in the sport of badminton, Jamaica will stage the second annual International Badminton Tournament this month. The tournament will feature a stellar cast of internationally ranked players who will lock horns with Jamaica’s best for Rio 2016 Olympics qualifying points and US$6,000 in prize money. Action will take place at the National Indoor Sports Centre from March 17-20. Competition will take place in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles competition. Martin Giuffre of Canada, the reigning men’s singles champion, will be back to defend his crown. He is ranked 74th in the world. Also 60th-ranked Osleni Guerro of Cuba is expected to feature, as well as 66th- ranked Howard Shu of the United States. In the women’s singles competition, last year’s runner-up, Zuzana Pavelkova of the Czech Republic is slated to feature; as well as 58th-ranked Jeannine Cicognini of Italy and 75th, Telma Santos of Portugal. TOP NAMES The local hopefuls are led by many-time champions Gareth Henry and his sister, Geordine Henry. Mikaylia Haldane, Garron Palmer, Sean Wilson, Samuel Ricketts, and Katherine Wynter are other top Jamaican names. Jamaica Badminton Association president David Thomas has outlined that the local players will relish the opportunity and may even spring surprises as they look to improve their level of play and competitiveness. Speaking at yesterday’s launch at the Jamaica Olympic Association on Cunningham Avenue, general manager of the Sports Development Foundation Denzil Wilks praised the event’s organisers and sponsors and implored Jamaicans to support a world-class event. “When you approach the Independence Park facilities in the latter part of next week and you see flags and feather banners on the western side of the facility, please recognise that Champs is not the only activity taking place. Let us join them as our little but tallawah country stages two huge championships simultaneously,” Wilks said.