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Michelle Li thrives as Canada's 'face of badminton'

This Li relentless pursuit of excellence combined with her infectious charisma is why she is revered by many of the 10,000 local players who have turned Markham into the sport epicentre in the Americas. This is why badminton administrators hope Li, ranked 15th in the world, can move up even further and deliver the backyard game to a wider national audience.

Coach Jennifer Lee holds about 25 shuttles and lobs them over the net one at a time in rapid succession. Li executes perfect drop shot after perfect drop shot, the birds falling at her coach feet. On occasion, she flick one hard along the length of the net so it falls just inbounds on the far side, or lob one deep to the back court.

Lee grabs another arm full of the goose feathered shuttles and the task is repeated. Then repeated again. And again. In each corner on the coach side of the court, the birds accumulate, having landed with pinpoint precision. They then move on to overhead smashes, the birdies barely visible as Brandon Marshall Jersey they launch off Li racquet.

This is no church picnic. Four days each week, Li will spend six hours on court at Lee Badminton Training Centre working on her shot making. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it two hours of court time augmented by another two hours of footwork, skipping and weight training. Sundays are for rest.

more hours than other people go to school, says Li. such a challenge to be perfect. I feel a lot of Canadians don see that. They still think of it as a backyard sport it so easy. But the amount of hard work, the time that I put into badminton, should show that it a lot harder than you think.

It is that single minded dedication that has Womens Owen Daniels Jersey Li, a Markham resident, breathing rarefied air in a pursuit typically dominated by Asia and Europe. This year, Li became the first Canadian woman to win a gold medal in singles badminton at the Commonwealth Games and the first to reach the quarter finals of the All England championships. No other Canadian singles player, male or female, has ever been ranked as high as 15 in the world.

She will soon head overseas to tournaments in Asia, followed by pro games in Denmark in a push to crack the top 10.

But it is how she plays, with grace and elegance, and how she presents herself, as upbeat, smiling and humble, that has the badminton community wondering if she is the one to bring the sport the widespread appeal it craves.

is a star, says Joe Morissette, the executive director of Badminton Womens Emmanuel Sanders Jersey Canada. really now is becoming the face of our sport in Canada.

At a test event this past week in the so new you can still smell the floor varnish Pan Am Games badminton facility on Unionville Main Street, schoolchildren shouted her name during matches and clamoured for her autograph afterwards. Throughout the impressive building were several seven foot billboards of Li smiling, of course. In the Owen Daniels Jersey lobby, she also appears in a giant poster modeling Badminton Canada merchandise.

Markham, Authentic Brandon Marshall Jersey people do recognize her and people do idolize her, says Catherine Eng, a founding member of the local Federation of Badminton Clubs.

also helps that she got a pretty face. No matter what, that helps. It good when you have that poster child and it nice that she also a beautiful person. Sometimes in sports, the athletes have arrogance and ego. Michelle doesn carry any of that.

To understand the importance of Li to the community, an outsider must first grasp the pervasiveness of badminton in Markham. As the Asian population grew in this city north of Toronto Li family arrived from Hong Kong when she was 6 years old so did the game that many of those immigrants brought with them.

And Lee, considered something of a pioneer, had already found a way to help the sport flourish.

Ideally, badminton is played in a facility with, understandably, high ceilings, no windows Authentic Emmanuel Sanders Jersey and no air currents. It was Lee who hit upon the idea that a warehouse would be a perfect fit.

the first day I walk in and say I want to rent a warehouse, nobody was interested in talking to Womens Brandon Marshall Jersey me because they didn believe the badminton business could support the rent, she recalls.

Undaunted, in 1995 Lee found the perfect unit, an old telephone cable manufacturing plant on Centurian Drive. She had the walls painted blue so it was easier to pick up the flight of shuttle, and shaded any glare from the overhead lights for the same reason. She laid down seven courts and hung out her shingle. It worked.

There are now at least a dozen other similar warehouse facilities in Markham, including four close to Lee establishment. In total, there are more than 40 badminton clubs in Markham and Richmond Hill many using school gyms on evenings and weekends and 60 in York Region. The local badminton federation puts the total number of players at more than 10,000.

would say in nine out of 10 Asian households in Markham, somebody plays badminton, says Eng.

cultural, says Lee. places like China and Indonesia, it hot and there no wind. You grab a racquet and you go outside and play. Everybody can improve on the street or Authentic Owen Daniels Jersey in their backyards. It easy to touch the sport so when they immigrate to Canada, they want to play the same sport. They just go indoors. It just like hockey here. When winter comes, kids grab their hockey sticks and go out on the driveways.

Li started playing the game at 11 when her mother handed her a racquet at a community event. It became a serious pursuit at 17 when Lee took her overseas to her Emmanuel Sanders Jersey eyes as to how tough international competition really is.

So passionate are the fans in Markham that 600 people paid up to $100 each to crowd into a gym earlier this year to watch an exhibition by retired former world No. 1 Peter Gade of Denmark. Afterwards they lined up for an hour getting autographs on everything from Gade shoes to Gade shirts.

When Eng organized a badminton camp this summer with Alex Bruce Li doubles partner from the London Olympics as a guest instructor, registration opened at midnight. the next morning, 60 children had signed up. After five days, all 100 spots were claimed.

That fervour, combined with the arrival of the Pan Am Games next year at a new world class facility featuring a hugely popular local hero has created a perfect storm for badminton.

a marketing dream, says Morissette. do our best as an organization to leverage that opportunity not only for the benefit of this community but for the sport across the country.

It won be an easy sell to many Canadians who would only think to pick up a racquet at the beach or cottage, ideally while holding a beverage in their other hand.

One of the few times badminton made inroads into the consciousness of a wider Canadian audience was during what was dubbed Shuttle gate at the London Olympics. With stronger nations tossed for throwing matches in order to face softer opponents, Li and Bruce made it to the semifinals.

It not an accomplishment of which Li is particularly proud, saying she wants to earn whatever she gets, but she did get a sense of what international success can mean.

was really nice when I came home and people were so supportive. They say how they watched on TV. I say, my God. I was on TV? Badminton was on TV? That was really nice, she recalls.

13.6.15 08:43

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