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  • Julie Spackman

Birdies Zip in Badminton

Birdies Zip in Badminton

Birdies zipped. Players dove and smashed. A psych-out “dink” nearly made it past the player at the net. The gym was packed wall-to-wall on Monday with six active badminton courts. Volunteer sweepers attended one court to keep the surface clear of debris and sweat. For those not fluent in badminton, the sport is fast paced, played either as single’s game per side or as a doubles pair working together to keep the shuttlecock from touching the ground. Rallies between doubles pairs didn’t last very long today at Colony High School; players quickly sized up the location of their opponents on the court and aimed their shuttlecocks for the gaps where rackets couldn’t reach.

Badminton originated around 400 years ago, played primarily in Greece and Asia, and is now the second most played sport in the world. The highest quality shuttlecocks are made from sixteen goose feathers–specifically from the bird’s left wing– and are sewn onto a natural cork base which is covered by a thin layer of leather. The fastest speed of a shuttlecock ever clocked during a competition was 259 mph (approx. 417 kph) hit by Lee Chong Wei from Malaysia in Tokyo, Japan in 2017.

Methma De Silva of Team Alberta North was excited to compete at Colony High School in Palmer today. She started playing badminton in grade seven, just for fun. “It’s totally random that I’m playing badminton”, said De Silva. Her friend’s uncle was a coach and talked her into joining a team. As it turns out, De Silva was really good at Badminton! Ever since, she’s been competing in matches in Canada, but this year’s Arctic Winter Games is De Silva’s first international Badminton competition.

“We practice as a single, standing in the middle of the court so that we have to reach all areas of the court by ourselves.” This helps players get comfortable with their reach around the entire court, using both forehand and backhand swings. “Getting to the birdie is the hardest thing to master”, she said. “It’s easier to move your arms quickly, but getting the rest of your lower half to move quickly too, can be challenging.” Players try to take advantage of that slight delay between the incoming sight of a shuttlecock zooming across the net, and the time it takes to get one’s body positioned to return the birdie back to the other team.

Paningaya Kiatainaq (Nunavut) loves the thrill of the trick shot: using a backhand hit from the far left back line to smash the shuttlecock to the opposite far corner on the right. A power player who plays the backfield in her doubles team, she’s only been playing badminton for four months. Her sisters convinced her to play and compete with her team at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games because they’d previously competed, too, in years past. When asked “what is most fun about badminton?” Kiatainaq answered with a gleam in her eye and a huge smile. “Winning!”


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