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Gillian Obradovich: Badminton success - a bit off the beaten path
2022-06-10
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In most parts of Canada, including northern Ontario, badminton will not rank as the most popular sport among teens - and Gillian Obradovich is just fine with that.

Coming off a very impressive showing in her first appearance at the OFSAA Championships, the 17 year old Lockerby Composite senior calls this sport her own - though she is more than willing to share it with others.

“I have made so many friends over the years with badminton,” said the younger of two very athletic children in the family, involved in dance when she was younger, and having developed a definite love of hiking and biking and skiing and most things outdoors.

“It’s kind of such a weird group of people that you don’t expect to come together and get along - but really, it’s some of my favourite people that I know through badminton.”

That’s an all too natural quote for a young lady who was born in Newmarket, grew up initially in Uxbridge but enjoyed a short stop in Timmins before calling Sudbury home since 2016. “I was actually a pretty artsy kid when I was young,” she confessed. “My brother (Matt) was always involved in baseball and other sports.”

“As I got older, I did a lot more sport.”

It was in Timmins, perhaps in grade five, where she was first introduced to the racquet sport courtesy of her sibling who played at school, with both eventually making their way to the club scene. In more recent years, she’s been a mainstay with the Sudbury Junior Badminton Club, building upon a fitness foundation that aided her notably along the way.

“Of all the sports that I’ve played, it’s one of the most cardio intense, especially when you are playing at a high level,” said Obradovich. “You are constantly moving for a very long time, without a lot of breaks. It’s a lot of work.”

No surprise then that the talkative teen has also enjoyed success in some cross-country races dating back to her time at MacLeod Public School. “I think I am a pretty good distance runner but I stopped; it wasn’t for me,” she said. “But I plan on doing it again next year.”

Her participation in the 2020 Ontario Winter Games, staged just before the arrival of Covid-19, would be followed by some tournament action on the club badminton circuit only after restrictions were eased, months later, with Obradovich making her way to her first all-Ontario high-school playdowns not knowing at all what to expect.

“It was actually very interesting,” she said after capturing her first two matches to work her way through to the quarter-finals of the Ladies Singles draw and a top eight finish in the province. “I am used to northern Ontario competition, with a lot of players here who are athletic kids that play a bunch of different sports.”

“Down south, it’s a lot more focused, so I kind of expected it to feel like a (Badminton Ontario) provincial tournament. There was actually a large mix of really, really good players - and that’s all they do - and also some very athletic kids that were very good.”

The contrasting styles of play would cause Obradovich to revisit her plan of action constantly.

“Every single game that I played was completely different from the next,” she said. “I played a very close game with a player who was physically a lot stronger than I am. I had to work around that. My strategy could outweigh her a bit, but it was definitely a hard game.”

Back to back losses would derail her bid for an OFSAA medal, though it clearly set the wheels in motion for the next phase of her evolution. “One thing that I did notice about the games that I lost was that those players were so much better at picking up where I am on the court,” said Obradovich.

“It comes with a good sense of prediction of where the bird will end up - and I’m not quite there yet.”

With another year of high-school studies remaining, Obradovich is more than a little anxious to springboard from a year which carried far more questions than answers back in September.

“I have actually surprised myself a lot this year, especially with Covid,” she said. “I hadn’t been playing for two years. I was really upset in the fall, not feeling too confident about the year that was going on.”

“I think it turned out pretty well.”

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