Rajiv Rai is the Chief Executive Officer of the First Ever Foundation. Previously, he was a 2008 US Olympian, 7-time National Champion, and Ken Davidson Sportsmanship Award Winner. He received his undergraduate degree in Business management from San Jose State University. Being a collegiate student-athlete has been a challenge for many generations of American badminton players, and he is committed to providing a platform for them to pursue education and sport beyond high school, and at the highest levels. His 21 years of excellence as an athlete, coach, and ambassador will provide a vast network of opportunities to provide these college scholarships for many generations to come.
Natasha Hsu is an elementary school teacher at a school that serves mostly English language learning, underprivileged children. Having been introduced to the sport by her parents and picking up a racket at the age of 4, Natasha has consistently played badminton her entire life. She trained and competed at a junior national level before attending U.C. Berkeley. During her time at U.C. Berkeley, she majored in Legal Studies and Media Studies while acting as the Vice President of the Cal Badminton Team. Today, she continues to play recreationally and participate in local tournaments, while working towards a Master’s in education. Natasha hopes that, through this foundation, she can provide support to young athletes who are struggling to balance the rigor of both higher education and athletic professionalism.
Justin Ma is the Development Director of the First Ever Foundation. He started playing badminton at the age of 10 and has competed in local, national, and international tournaments before attending U.C Berkeley. At U.C Berkeley, he majored in Computer Science while serving as the President of the Cal Badminton Team. Now, he works full time at Twitch with dreams of playing badminton professionally. He is passionate about giving back to the badminton community and helping new players learn and improve. Justin hopes that this foundation can support athletes who want to pursue higher education and professional badminton.
Amit Hiteshi, MD
Dr. Hiteshi is an internal medicine physician at Hoag, one of the “Top Hospitals in the World” according to Newsweek. He practices integrative medicine, merging both Western and Eastern principles of healing. This approach applies knowledge from his UCLA undergraduate experience, St. George’s University Medical School curriculum, Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s and Roosevelt residency training, Institute of Functional Medicine courses, Helm’s Medical Institute Auricular Acupuncture Program, and Isha Foundation yoga courses to promote well-being. As an avid sports enthusiast, he understands that playing competitive sports at high level requires sacrifices in both time and finances. It is Dr. Hiteshi’s honor to be part of the First Ever Foundation’s commitment to financially support athletes through a journey that will not only bring out the best qualities in themselves, but also inspire others.
Celine Thum, MD FAAEM
Dr. Celine Thum is an Emergency Physician at a Level 1 Trauma Center in New York City, doctor for professional combat and motor sport athletes, violinist, and former reality TV star. Prior to her medical career, Dr. Thum was a USA Junior National medalist, Midwest Champion, coach, and USAB umpire. She attributes her success today to the integrity, persistence, and humility learned on the badminton court and hopes to provide today’s youth with the same foundation.
Kuei Ya Chen, DDS
Kuei is a full-time dentist who strives to provide comprehensive quality care for her patients to achieve optimal oral health and is actively involved in her community to serve underprivileged population. Kuei received her undergraduate education at UC Irvine and completed her dental training at UC Los Angeles, both where she graduated with honors. Subsequently, she completed General Practice Residency at VA Sepulveda. When not practicing dentistry, Kuei enjoys playing badminton and has actively competed for Team USA throughout her 15 years of athletic career. Kuei is a two-time medalist at the Pan American Games in 2007 and 2019. With her passion for the sport and her experience in competing on a prestige level, Kuei seeks to further promote badminton nationwide, provide support and encourage young athletes with liked mindset to pursue in badminton competitively on the international platform.
Paul Liu is a PhD candidate in Computer Science at Stanford University. He received his BSc in Mathematics and Physics, and MS in Computer Science, both from the University of British Columbia. He has extensive industry experience, having worked at Google, Microsoft, Adobe, and Facebook. He was also crucial in creating the Vancouver-based startup Vital Mechanics Inc. Outside of industry and school, Paul has played badminton at a high level in both Canada and the US. He sees the badminton community as an extension of his own family and hopes to do all he can to give back to the sport that has given him so much.
Bruck Belayneh has been a badminton coach for the past 8 years. He has competed locally and won tournaments such as UC Berkeley and the Bay Area Open. Although he started his badminton career late, his background in multiple sports have instilled drive, perseverance and passion that have helped him succeed both as a player and coach. He looks forward using his experience and knowledge of the game to help the next generation achieve their goals.
For the last 7 years, Sittichai has been in the United States coaching at Bintang Badminton Academy. He has dedicated over half of his life to badminton as an athlete and coach. Thailand selected him to compete in the Southeast Asian Games as well as train on the National Team from 2004-2006. As a badminton Coach, he has developed many Jr National champions in the United States and Pan Am Region. Beyond his athletic and coaching results, Sittichai has used badminton to develop himself and his players both mentally and physically, so that they can succeed on and off the court. He looks forward to guide the future generations and provide scholarship opportunites just like the ones he recieved as a young player.
For the past ten years, Nikki Vered was the head coach/program director of Marblehead Youth Badminton and the club pro of the Gut n' Feathers Club. During his time there, he obtained a level 2 high performance coaching certification and produced multiple pan american and junior national champions. As a player, Nikki was part of the USA adult national team from 2000-2002 and was a resident athlete at the US Olympic training center. Nikki now resides back in his home state of CT and wishes to start a badminton program to help further develop high level badminton in the area. Having a Marketing degree from Western Connecticut State University, Nikki hopes to combine his education and experience with badminton to help the younger generation pursue their dreams in the sport we all love.