YORKTON - In Canada we often think of badminton as a sport we were introduced to in school and typically played with cheap rackets and nets on the beach, or in the backyard.
But it is much more than recreational activities with the Badminton World Federation hosting professional events around the world, and the best players competing for medals at events such as the Summer Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.
Josephine Wu is one of the top Canadian players.
The Edmonton-based Wu, competed in mixed doubles for Canada at the 2020 Olympics finishing tied for ninth with partner Joshua Hurlburt-Yu.
“Wu made her BWF World Championship debut in 2018, playing women’s doubles with Michelle Tong. Later that year, she formed a mixed doubles partnership with Joshua Hurlburt-Yu. In 2019, they won gold at the Canadian Championships, the Pan American Championships, and the Pan American Games. They successfully defended their Pan Am Championship title in 2021,” noted her bio at olympic.ca.
The Olympic spot was naturally a career highlight to-date for Wu.
“It was representing Canada on the biggest sport stage in the world,” she said, adding even without people in the stands the experience was amazing. “… I was feeling a lot of pride being able to represent my country.”
In the moment of playing “I was just really thankful the event even went on . . . I was really just thinking my hard work didn’t go to waste.”
Wu is also on a short-list for the Canadian team headed to Birmingham, England for the Commonwealth Games, starting July 28, with new partner Ty Alexander Lindeman, the change largely one of convenience with Lindeman also from Edmonton allowing for easier practice time as a team.
When asked about the Commonwealth opportunity Wu said who will be going has not officially been announced although she admitted to being hopeful.
In the meantime, a new initiative to promote badminton is being launched.
It was over 87 years ago, on July 5, 1934, that the International Badminton Federation (now BWF) was founded.
In recognition of this significant date, and to make this a day of celebration for badminton globally, World Badminton Day will be held annually on July 5, noted a release.
In the story BWF President Poul-Erik Hoyer expressed his excitement at the news: “World Badminton Day provides a unique opportunity for us to simultaneously celebrate and promote the sport we love. I am excited to follow the various World Badminton Day activities and to observe their impact on our sport globally.”
Wu said she likes the idea of a day to promote the sport.
“I think it’s a good way to bring awareness to the sport,” she said, adding it is important to remind people that while it’s great as a backyard recreation, it can be much more.
“It’s good to tell people what competitive badminton is like. There’s not a lot of people that know about the competitive side.”
Wu said internationally it is a different story with badminton having a much higher profile in many countries.
Wu added overall the sport is hugely popular with it being among the sports most widely played at one level, or another.
For her own part, Wu picked up a racket at a young age, following in her mother’s footsteps.
“Mom grew up playing badminton,” she said, adding she and her dad were both playing recreationally at a club and she was running around the courts at a very young age.
“As soon as I was old enough and strong enough to hold a racket, I was.”
Wu’s father perhaps saw the potential in his young daughter and enrolled her in a summer camp for the sport before she had turned six.
Wu said she is told “after the first day” she told her father “I love this sport.”
So what is it about badminton that Wu fell in love with?
“For me it’s just the complexity of the game and there’s a fine balance of endurance, and also strength,” she said.
Wu said much about badminton is out-thinking an opponent with one shot not always about scoring a point, but instead forces an anticipated sort of return which sets up a next shot – a lot like thinking several moves ahead in chess.