Brianna Wang ’16 has loved playing badminton since she was 6 years old. All of her training paid off this year when she traveled to Lima, Peru in November for the Badminton World Junior Championships.
Wang’s whole family enjoys playing badminton recreationally, and Wang began training competitively when she moved to Boston from Maryland at the age of 12.
“When we moved to Boston my family and I went to a gym. I saw people training for the first time and I was like I want to do that,” said Wang. “I was scared at first, because everyone looked so good and I didn’t think I could get to their level, but my dad eventually convinced me to try it out.”
Wang began competing about half a year after she started training, and has stuck with the sport ever since. “I like [badminton] because it’s physically demanding, and it also requires a strong mentality,” she said. “You have to be very focused, and if you start losing points or are having a bad game you can’t lose your focus, you need to just commit and start winning points again.”
There are three different categories for competition in badminton: singles, doubles, and mixed, which is doubles with one boy and one girl. Wang trains and competes in all three, but she prefers playing with a partner.
“For me I think I’m best at mixed and I like mixed a lot, doubles is fun too,” said Wang. She enjoys playing with a partner because “you have to learn how to work with people, in doubles you really need to work together with your teammate and it teaches you how to communicate.”
Her freshman year, Wang sustained an injury in her upper hamstring that left her unable to compete up until her junior year. “It hurt whenever I lunged, and badminton is lunging– if you can’t lunge you can’t play,” said Wang. “So that was really tough because I wanted to keep training and competing, but doing that aggravates the injury and makes it hurt more.”
“It was frustrating because there wasn’t a lot I could do to fix it, it just needed time to heal,” she said. “I did a lot of physical therapy which definitely helped, but it’s not something you can just put a cast on and have heal in two weeks. The waiting was just really frustrating.”
Wang began competing again last year, and this year competed at Junior International Trials, hosted at her club in Boston. She competed in the U19 program where the top two or three athletes or pairs qualify for World Juniors. Wang competed in the doubles category.
“My partner and I originally didn’t qualify because we didn’t place top three,” said Wang, “but some pairs dropped out, and we found out in June that we would get to go to Peru.”
Wang and her partner were the only athletes on the US team from the East Coast. They played their first match against Slovenia.
“We could have beaten them,” said Wang, “but it was both me and my partner’s first time playing in an international tournament and in a gym as nice as this one, so I think we were both really nervous.”
“My partner definitely felt a lot of pressure so she wasn’t playing as well as she normally does, and I was also pretty nervous,” said Wang. “So we lost the match and didn’t get to go on in the tournament, but being there was still a really cool experience.”
Wang said she enjoyed her time at the tournament, and plans to continue pursuing badminton throughout her life.
“This is a sport that I am definitely going to play throughout the rest of my life,” she said. “Probably not as competitively as I’m playing now, but I definitely want to go to a college that has a club team or a club nearby.”
Not only has badminton taught Wang about mental toughness and teamwork, but her injury gave her a look into her possible future as a doctor. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “Going through the experience of my injury has put me on the receiving end of a lot of medical procedures, X-Rays, MRIs, and everything, and I went through months of therapy with sports medicine doctors and physical therapists and they all helped me so much. Badminton has helped me realize that I do want to become a doctor because I want to help others the way these doctors helped me.”
(Julia Hartnett ’16, Business and Managing Editor)