© Nigel Armstrong
Former world badminton champion Jun Nie, second from left, was a special guest instructor at a recent workshop at the Junior Badminton Training Centre in Stratford. The centre runs classes Tuesdays and Thursdays at Stratford Town Hall.
If you build it they will come.
That thought has made many an entrepreneur rich so the P.E.I. Junior Badminton Training Centre (JBTC) in Stratford hopes for similar results by raising the level of the sport on P.E.I.
To help with that goal the centre invited Chinese national team coaches Jun Nie and his son Wen Yan for a weeklong visit stuffed full of activities and coaching recently at the Stratford Rec Centre. Jun Nie and Wen Yan played against local talent in exhibition matches.
Yan is a former Jiangsu Province champion and won a Chinese national group championship title.
Raising the sport’s profile is a worthy goal, Yan said after his match, and one he’s committed to. He’s staying a year on P.E.I. to lend his abilities to the centre.
“First of all, it’s a good (thing) for teaching and improving the level of badminton in the city,” said Yan, 25, whose parents gave him the choice of gymnastics or badminton when he was younger. “We want to build interest for it in the kids and then build its (competitive) level.”
The kids are interested and it showed in the courtside “oohs” and “aahs” and clapping hands during and after every shot, lunge and smash Yan and his father took in their matches.
Sam Yuan, 9, was one of those sideline oglers. He lives with his parents Bob and May in Charlottetown.
“(I like it) because it’s fun and exciting,” said Yuan, who’s been playing for about a year.
Also courtside was Stratford’s Dylan Batchilder, 10.
“It was really good this week to see all these famous people,” he said. “I want to be that good someday.”
Jun Nie and Wen Yan are products of a powerhouse world-level program that’s state-sponsored and draws from a huge player pool.
Roughly 100 million people play the sport in China so the talent needed to reach the top of the Chinese program prepares athletes for world competition.
For proof, at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese badminton team won three out of a possible five gold medals, including men’s singles, women’s singles and women’s doubles.
At the 2012 Olympics, China won gold in all five categories (men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles), as well as two silvers and a bronze medal.
For Jun Nie, a world champion in 1990, success is a product of support and teaching, which begins in places like the JBTC, where players can learn and improve.
“The more training they have the faster they can grow,” he said through an interpreter.
Charlottetown native Mark Brown is a fan of what the centre’s aiming for.
Brown is stalwart on the Island badminton scene. He’s the senior men’s champion for 2014 and teamed with his brother Andrew to earn this year’s men’s senior doubles provincial title.
“It’s going to increase the popularity of badminton,” said Brown. “I’m going to help out when I can. I wish there was a centre like this when I started. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two.”