Badminton is never a boring game for the 2014 Yonex U23 and Junior National Badminton Championships singles and doubles champion Rachel Honderich.
The 18-year-old sits in the corner of an office at Bishop Strachan School, sharing the details of her two gold medals acquired May 3 in Richmond, B.C.
In singles she beat fellow Torontonian Bethany So 2-1 (21-13, 17-21, 21-11). In doubles, Honderich paired up with 2012 Olympian Michelle Li to down Vicky Girard of Riguad, Que. and Laval Rouge et Or member Anne-Julie Beaulieu in straight sets (21-19, 21-13).
Next up is competition in the Thomas and Uber Cups, May 18–25 in New Delhi, India.
Present success aside, badminton is a sport that has nurtured the 5-foot-9 Honderich from age 7, when her mother, Terri Bulger, brought her to the Granite Club in North Toronto.
In that decade Honderich has learned badminton is all about finesse, technique and court smarts. Oh, and to be a good sportsman in the face of defeat.
“I remember when I was really young, I hated to lose,” the Leasider said. “I wouldn’t take it very well.
“I used to run off the court, really upset, wouldn’t want to talk to anybody, whereas now I still have the same passion — I still hate to lose — but I’m just better at handling situations like that. I’ve just become a better competitor (and) sportsman.”
Her tenacity will come in handy when she takes on her next challenge: qualifying for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janiero.
And it promises to be a tough task.
“First I have to choose an event — singles, doubles, or mixed doubles — and for that event I have to have the highest world ranking out of everybody in the whole Pan American zone,” she said.
She’ll have bounce athletes from the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean to get a shot at the Olympic birdies.
Asian countries dominate the sport, which allows them to send more athletes to the Games. And Canada is not regarded as a competing country in badminton.
But she’s not about to let those details get her down.
“It adds to the drive to step outside of what the standard is in Canada and compete more on a world stage,” she said.
In the meantime, she’s honing her skills before flying off to India.
She shuttles away any notion that the harder you hit the birdie the more games you win.
“Slowly, as you get older, it all comes down to your wrist and finger power,” she said. “When I was younger, whoever could hit the birdie the hardest won. But it changes.”