Badminton players take long-awaited shot at OFSAA medals

For the first time in more than two years, local high school athletes are competing at an OFSAA championship.

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For the first time in more than two years, local high school athletes are competing at an OFSAA championship.

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The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations badminton championship is being hosted this week by the Pain Court Patriotes.

There are 320 players, including 19 from Chatham-Kent, on courts at Ecole Secondaire de Pain Court, Ursuline College Chatham and St. Clair College’s Chatham Campus HealthPlex starting Thursday.

Spectators are welcome. Admission is free.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of some winter and all spring OFSAA championships in the 2019-20 school year. All 2020-21 championships and festivals were wiped out as well.

OFSAA resumed its championships last fall, but the Lambton Kent Secondary Schools’ Athletic Association didn’t send any teams. Then OFSAA canceled its winter championships.

This badminton championship is the first OFSAA event for local athletes – and some out-of-towners – since March 2020.

“Everybody’s thankful to be going again,” said convener Mike Schinkelshoek. “From what I hear, in the fall that was the main feeling. Everybody was just thankful to be playing again. “

The tournament hosts from Pain Court didn’t have a green light until March. They had to wait for the college to reopen the HealthPlex to the community. Without that facility, the championship would have been canceled.

Fortunately, the Patriotes have done this before. They hosted the OFSAA badminton championship in 2013 and 2017, so they had a blueprint and a large pool of experienced volunteers.

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“It helps quite a bit,” Schinkelshoek said.

OFSAA has also canceled all banquets, so that saved the organizers some work as well.

On Thursday and Friday, girls ‘and boys’ singles are at Ursuline, mixed doubles at Pain Court, and girls ‘and boys’ doubles at the HealthPlex.

All A, B and C finals will be played Saturday at the HealthPlex.

This season had its challenges. Because of a COVID-related lack of supply teachers, tournaments were held after school – sometimes going as late as 11:30 pm – and on Saturdays.

As a result, some players dropped out because of conflicts with hockey, volleyball and other non-school activities.

“All the schools that I’ve talked to were affected in different ways,” Patriotes head coach Guy Mayer said.

Some of the province’s top players are away this week at an elite junior tournament, but the field is still strong, he said.

“Some of the better teams won’t be here (but that) doesn’t mean there won’t be any good players,” Mayer said.

When Pain Court hosted in 2017, the boys’ singles champion was Brian Yang. He’s now 11th on the Badminton World Federation tour and 29th in the world rankings.

Former OFSAA gold medallists Michelle Li and Rachel Honderich won gold at the Pan Am championships last week.

The local OFSAA players are: Samantha Lozon (Ursuline), Jade Unsworth (McGregor), Taylor L’Ecuyer (Pain Court) and Ashlynn Spence (CKSS) in girls’ singles; Ethan Vsetula (Ursuline) in boys’ singles; Andrew Goulet and Reese Cryderman (Ursuline), Nathanael Van Eyk and Cadance Beuckelare (McGregor), and Abby Balan and Colin Holmes (CKSS) in mixed doubles; Kurt Countryman and Jack Countryman (Ursuline) and Sebastian Moreno and Nico Moreno (Ursuline) in boys’ doubles; and Kaitlyn Sammon and Jayde Melhuish (McGregor) and Ryan O’Donohue and Hudson DeNure (McGregor) in girls’ doubles.

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