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The Trials and Tribulations of a Competitive Badminton Player

The following article is an introduction to a new contributor to BadmintonLife.com, Canadian badminton player Fiona McKee. Fiona is a multiple National Champion and Pan Am Champion in women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

Fiona Mckee

I started my badminton career at the Toronto Granite Club, training in their junior program with Mike DeBelle. When I graduated from high school, I was accepted into various Ontario universities for science or kinesiology. I chose to attend the University of Calgary for kinesiology as completing my university degree in Calgary allowed me to train in the Glencoe Club’s National Badminton program.

I wanted to combine badminton and university because I wasn’t ready to stop playing as I felt I hadn’t reached my badminton potential. The badminton program at the Glencoe Club provided me with top-level training and coaching within Canada to improve my badminton skills and understanding of the game. This decision was the right one, and I received great training with the coaches at the Glencoe–Ardy Wiranata and Bryan Moody.

While at the Glencoe, I won U19 Mixed Doubles Nationals with Billy DeJong, U23 Mixed Nationals and Women’s Doubles Nationals with Samantha Ralph, and Senior Nationals in Women’s Doubles with Charmaine Reid. However, from the start, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to train full time, attend competitions, and complete my degree in four years, and thus I took a reduced program each year. This proved to be the right decision because I got to travel the world and compete in the top badminton tournaments in 32 countries without giving up my education. I didn’t want to have to choose one or the other.

Then the opportunity came to train with Kim Dong Moon. My mixed partner at the time, Will Milroy, encouraged me to train with Kim Dong Moon as he felt that Kim being a previous world mixed doubles champion had the most to offer us in Canada for mixed training and strategy. I spent one-year training with Kim, won the Senior Mixed Nationals and Pan Am Championships with Will Milroy, and went to the Worlds in India, winning our first round. I learned so much about badminton during this year. Kim provided me with a higher understanding of the game, not just at a physical level but also at a mental level.

After Will retired, I didn’t have a mixed partner at Kim’s and left. Since then, I have had partnership troubles. When my mixed partner dropped me partway through this year’s badminton season, I lost my national carding, Quest for Gold funding, and chance to attend the Commonwealth Games. I have always loved mixed and doubles, but now realize that you depend on a partner who can let you down at important times. Personally, it is a tough time when you have goals and dreams that you can’t reach due to the poor decisions of others. It took me a while to get over this letdown by a partner’s actions that I couldn’t control or influence or really understand.

Feeling pretty low and unsure if I wanted to compete in badminton anymore, a surprise opportunity came my way. Sune Gavnholt of the Danish Badminton League (Danmarks Badminton Forbund Badmintonligaen) contacted me about joining the Ikast Badminton Club to compete for its team in the first Danish league. I would also be allowed to compete in international tournaments with some of the other players from the Danish club.

This opportunity enables me to continue competing in badminton for another season. I need goals and a competitive environment to be able to go out and train every day. I would love to say that I always had an undying love for the game of badminton, but that is very unrealistic. I have to have goals that I am working towards to keep me motivated. Training isn’t always fun, but winning is, and I train to experience winning and achieving my goals.

After losing my chance at the Commonwealth Games and now not having a mixed partner, I was training for the sake of training, and that had become hard. Competing for a team in the Danish league couldn’t have come at a better time when I was lost about where to go with badminton. I definitely didn’t feel I was ready to stop playing and competing, but I didn’t feel like there was much left for me in Canada. I graduated with a four-year degree in Kinesiology this past year, and instead of looking for full-time employment, I decided to sign with the Danish Club. I had never dreamed that I would ever have an opportunity like this and knew I just couldn’t let it pass me by.

I have had opportunities to play on teams and really enjoyed the experience (Pan Am Games in Rio, Sudirman Cup in Scotland, and Canada Winter Games in New Brunswick). The added excitement of everyone on a team working together to achieve common goals is so rare in badminton.

I have met badminton players that felt they retired too early and never got to achieve their badminton goals and others that felt they hung in too long and lost education or employment opportunities. With my formal education ending, this coming year provides me with one more chance to reach my full badminton potential; I hope this will be the compromise between retiring too soon and hanging in too long.

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