When the time comes to compete in the Canada Winter Games, Yukon’s badminton team members will have their game faces on, said coach Michael Muller.
This year’s team is small, with only four players between the ages of 16 and 20, but it’s training hard to lift its game to the national level, said Muller.
“I think what’s really exciting is there’s been a long history of good competition from the Yukon at these national and international tournaments.
“We’ve got a group here that’s trained very intensely in order to bring their level of play up to where they are going to be competitive against these national-quality athletes,” he said.
The team — Landon Kulych, Kaleb Dawe, Richard Fulop and Ally Fraser — had an intensive training camp over the Christmas holiday where they were training four days per week.
Since then, they have been training three times a week.
Each athlete brings a different strength to the team.
Kulych, who has been training in Edmonton, will compete in men’s singles.
“One of his strengths is his ability to see the court and to think about the shots he’s hitting and to think about how to attack and be successful on the court against his opponent,” said Muller.
Dawe will be playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles with Fraser.
“Kaleb’s a very natural and talented athlete and what that translates to on the court is he’s got great natural quickness,” said Muller.
Fulop’s strength is his ability to keep attacking the bird, and keeping the bird low so his opponent doesn’t have a chance to attack, said Muller.
He’s also got a very quick first couple of steps, which translates to an ability to explode from a stationary position and get to the bird quickly, then to hit the bird in such a way as not to give his opponent any openings for them to be aggressive back, he added.
Fulop will be playing both men’s and mixed doubles.
Fraser, who will be playing women’s singles and mixed doubles, is an incredibly determined player.
“She’s got good mental toughness and desire to win,” said Muller.
“She’s got an excellent serve, which is really important in the game because it starts off every round.”
Although the team will be competing against squads from across the country, its main goal is to best the other two territories.
“Canada Winter Games is all about these young athletes working hard towards the goal of playing the best badminton that they can and playing the sport in such a way that they are class acts and they represent the Yukon sport in the way that they should,” said Muller.
“Part of that is playing as hard as you can, and part of that is meeting and competing with the other athletes and part of that’s having fun.”
“The best in the country are going to be here and so we’ve been working very hard to prepare these athletes to compete against them.
“We’re hoping that all these athletes have the performance of their lifetime.”