Three Thompson teens who came back from a badminton tournament in Winnipeg with medals in three different categories aren’t showing any rust in their game despite two years off the court due to the COViD-19 pandemic.
Dilshan Saggu, 14, took gold in the under-15 boys’ singles as well as silver in the under-15 boys’ doubles with Cameron Murray, also 14, and bronze in mixed doubles with Tina Thorne, 16.
Having just taken up badminton in the last couple of years before the pandemic, Saggu said that he was extremely nervous at the outset of his first tournament ever, the Manitoba Junior Regional Challenge.
“When I had my first game, I was pretty nervous beforehand,” he said. “I was all shaking, like anxiety and everything.”
That feeling changed once the match was on. “It was pretty easy. Then I got some confidence.”
His strategy for success was to rely on his smash and target people’s backhands.
“Most of the time people’s backhands are mostly weak,” Saggu said.
The tournament was also the first big one ever for Murray.
“I was a bit nervous at first,” he said. “I started playing and I felt fine, like I just kind of got in the zone.”
Although he and Saggu didn’t win their last match, they pushed the final to a third set.
“It was hard,” Murray says. “They were really close games.”
Thorne is the only one of the trio who had recent tournament experience under her belt prior to the regional challenge, having competed as a member of R.D. Parker Collegiate’s badminton team earlier this spring, which showed in her other results.
“I made it to semifinals for singles and doubles as well,” Thorne says.
Her and Saggu’s success came from their ability to communicate, developed over many games together as members of the Thompson Badminton Club.
“We were playing together like every night,” she says.
The accomplishments of the three are testament to their talent, says Todd Harwood, one of their coaches.
“We haven’t really been coaching,” he said. “I didn’t know Cameron existed until eight weeks ago and he goes down there and played in the third-fourth game in singles. It was really impressive.”
The regional challenge was a new event put on because of the cancellation of the Manitoba Games as a result of the pandemic, and Harwood said it attracted all the best players in the province.
“A typical junior tournament for Badminton Manitoba would have 80, 90 kids and this one was 160,” said Harwood.
Because of Sport Manitoba funding for provincial sports organizations that put on tournaments like this, the cost to the players was low.
“Sport Manitoba … helped cover the cost of our travel to Winnipeg, hotel and that sort of thing, which made it easier for kids to get to,” said Harwood, with an out-of-pocket cost of only $150 each.
The north had the third-largest team of any region at the tournament, with 10 players from Thompson and 12 from Grand Rapids.
“Kids in the north are able to compete in badminton against the best of the best,” said Harwood. “There’s no reason kids from Thompson can’t be competitive with the best in the province.”