Yukon came last in the Canada Winter Games team badminton event, but you wouldn’t know it talking to coach Mike Muller.
The territory stepped up its game and competed well, said Muller.
“Well, I’m really proud of everybody on the team,” he said.
“We improved throughout the entire tournament.
“There were some bumps and some ups and some downs, but everybody played their best badminton the last couple of days in the team event, which is what we were here for.
“We had tough, tough, matches against Nunavut and NWT that could have gone each way, and we won some and we lost some, but everyone keeps on raising the level of their play and so I’m really proud of them.”
During the event, each team plays five matches against their opponent: one men’s singles, one women’s singles, one mixed doubles, one ladies’ doubles and one men’s doubles.
The first team to win three of the five matches wins the team faceoff.
On Friday, team Yukon faced-off against team NWT in competition for ninth to 13th place.
Losing the first three matches against NWT, team Yukon then finished in 13th, or last place in the tournament.
“This is all about the experience, this is all about us playing better and I think our men’s doubles team had the best game they’ve played so far in the tournament — and that’s why they’re here, to play at this higher level, to play against better players, to play in a gym full of people that are screaming and banging stuff and ringing bells and to focus in that sort of environment,” said Muller.
Focusing while the gym was packed with rowdy crowds may have been a concern to Muller, but it only fueled team members Landon Kulych, Kaleb Dawe and Ally Fraser, they said.
“The noise level in the gym is different, I mean all these teams bring all their fans and all their noisemakers and they’re cheering everyone on,” said Kulych.
“I mean, badminton is kind of like a gentleman’s game, almost like golf, where everything is supposed to be quiet and it’s, like, loud in here — there’s screaming, yelling, whistles — it’s intense, it’s a fun atmosphere.”
Kulych said he plays better in that atmosphere than he does when it’s quiet.
Unlike the individual tournament in the gym at the Canada Games Centre all week, the team event brought the Yukon closer to others at its level of play.
“In the individual competition we’re competing against the best folks in Canada and they’re at a level above us right now,” said Muller.
Dawe, who had been playing with a severely sprained ankle, said his adrenalin and his desire to beat team NWT stopped him from feeling much pain as he played.
“It’s way better in the team event, we play teams that are way closer to the same category as us,” said Dawe.
Fraser also preferred the team event to the individual competition, but felt the pressure to do well for her team.
“You’re playing more for your team and, every time you lose a point, you have to think about how you’re losing for your team and not just for yourself,” said Fraser.
“When they cheer for you it helps you a lot definitely.”