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Natural athleticism vs sport specific knowledge: high-school badminton in Sudbury
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Within local high-school badminton circles, it’s the game within the game.

A sport that tends to draw out the casual participant in very large numbers, the truth is that in singles play, when pitted opposite club tested aficionados of badminton, natural athleticism will generally only take you so far.

Exhibit A – on the flip side: Gillian Obradovich – NOSSA senior girls singles champion, the Lockerby Composite grade 11 talent has been a mainstay with the Sudbury Junior Badminton Club (SJBC) since her elementary school days, battle tested against those across the province for whom this court sport is the be all and end all

That’s not quite the same landscape in the world of mixed doubles play, where countless multi-sport athletes have thrived over the years.

Exhibit B: Farrah Farstad and Blake Rosener – NOSSA senior mixed doubles champions, the St Charles College tandem are far more well-known for their accomplishments in hockey and soccer respectively, representative of the many who draw upon their transferrable skill-sets from other athletic endeavours, allowing them to often excel in this particular bracket of play

“For mixed doubles, I am up in the front so the birdies are coming at me a lot faster, right in front of my face,” said Farstad, a netminder with the Sudbury Lady Wolves program for almost a full decade now. “Being a goalie, my reflex skills help me out a lot.”

The irony is that in one of only three all-Sudbury NOSSA finals on the day (of the 15 that were contested), Farstad’s counterpart in the gold medal match was Ella Kissner, also a long-time puck-stopper, who was partnered with Macdonald-Cartier schoolmate Zander Lauzon.

“Playing badminton helps me so much in soccer with my footwork,” added Rosener, a regular with the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club Impact teams since well before his teenage years. “The bigger steps here are a bit different. In soccer, I am just running all over but here, you lunge a lot more.”

Though Rosener spent a couple of years practicing with the SJBC at St Benedict’s on a weekly basis, the truth is that he and Farstad came together just a few weeks before the city championships, looking to recapture some of the chemistry the two enjoyed back in their grade eight days at St Charles.

While it was enough to propel them to the top of the podium on Saturday in Sudbury, the next step will be tougher, travelling to OFSAA from May 5th to the 7th as the best in the province convene in Pain Court.

“I know the northern competitors because I used to play club, so I’ve played them – but OFSAA is going to be nuts,” said Rosener. Thankfully, he knows that his partner always has his back – or maybe not. “I just like having a partner,” said Farstad, addressing the question of doubles play in lieu of the alternative.

“In singles, it would always be my fault, but this way, I can put a bit of the blame on Blake,” added the grade 11 senior with a smile and laugh.

By contrast, singles play is exactly where Gillian Obradovich longs to be, a definite favourite heading into the northern playdowns, but dealing with an environment that is a little out of the ordinary.

“Coming in, I was definitely nervous,” said the 17 year-old stalwart of a solid Vikings team. “We haven’t played in a long time due to Covid. I thought I would try and take it one game at a time and just do my best.”

Her best was indeed enough as Obradovich defeated Eryn Long from North Bay (E.S.P Nipissing Ouest) in the final, benefitting from the work that was maintained over the course of the pandemic.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger over the years at being able to move the bird around – and my footwork has definitely improved,” she said. “When I compare myself to other high-school players, I think my strategy is stronger than most of them.”

Mind you, facing a more unconventional player with limited strategic badminton knowledge also carries along a whole other set of challenges. “It’s something I notice a lot in my high-school games,” suggested Obradovich. “Sometimes I can play badly just because I am always predicting or trying to predict where the shot is going to go.”

“It’s not always what I expect.”

Making her first appearance at OFSAA, the only local athlete to emerge victorious in singles competitions at any of the three age brackets senses that the all-Ontario tournament may have a slightly different feel that some of the events that may have predated the arrival of Covid-19.

“I really just wanted to make it to OFSAA because I missed it the last two years; I’m excited to go play and have fun,” she said. “Honestly, everybody wants to get back playing because we missed so much time. I think I am pretty prepared for what I am going to meet at OFSAA – I think.”

While the junior division produced no Sudbury gold medal winners, the novices accounted for a pair of entries, both in doubles play, as the Collège Notre-Dame tandem of Theo Lefebvre and Elliott McDonald bested the Horizon pair of Ryan Noel and Caleb Ross while grade nine mixed doubles play also featured an all-SDSSAA final, as Brayden Bertrand/Audrey Dupuis (Sacré-Coeur) outlasted Yanic Venne/Danika Tremblay (ESMC).

Joining the three second place finishers already mentioned above were Will Mackey (novice boys singles – Lasalle), Nathaniel Couture/Nolan Kuhlberg (junior boys doubles – Lo-Ellen) and Chloée Beaulieu/Ashley Turcotte (junior girls doubles – Rivière des Francais), while bronze medallists on a local level included Matteo Rocca (senior boys singles – Lo-Ellen), Brian Fink/Jacob Lamothe (senior boys doubles – ESMC), Isabella Jonas (junior girls singles – Sacré-Coeur), Anthony Bertrand/Julien Jobin (junior boys doubles – Bishop Carter), Abby Managhan/Kate Rolston (junior girls doubles – Lockerby) and Bailey Raymond (novice girls singles – Sacré-Coeur).

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