Home court advantage at last for Zhang

Junior national team standouts plays in front of family and friends at inaugural Richmond Open

The inaugural Richmond Cup provided Wendy Zhang with a somewhat rare opportunity of competing in her hometown.

Just blocks away from Clear One Badminton, where she trains on a regular basis, the 17-year-old junior national team member was among the star attractions at the Richmond Olympic Oval for the three-day event.

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“It feels great to play in Richmond, around my family, my friends and people who train with me too,” smiled Zhang, moments after teaming with Michelle Yeung to win the open women’s doubles final. “I haven’t had the chance to play in any local tournaments for a while. There has been a lot of traveling across the country and across the world for some bigger international tournaments.”

It was about a month ago that Zhang was representing Canada at the World Junior Championships in Kazan, Russia. It was part of a whirlwind 2019 competitive schedule that began last March at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

That’s where Zhang not only soaked in her first multi-sport competitive experience but was among the standouts on Team B.C. as well — winning gold in singles and doubles. That earned her the honour of being the flag barrier for the closing ceremonies.

“It was my first time at the Games and it felt great to make some new friends from different sports,” she said. “We stayed in a dorm with the other athletes as well. It was a huge honour not only to represent B.C. but to also be the flag barrier. At first, I really didn’t know what it meant.”

From there, the Richmond High student confirmed her status as one of the country’s top up-and-coming players by winning the U19 singles and doubles titles at Junior Nationals in Winnipeg. It was then onto Moncton in July for the Junior Pan Am Championships where she added two more gold medals.

Other stops included the Yonex Canadian Open in Calgary and the Junior Elite Series in Quebec.

The collection of medals continues to grow but Zhang is taking away much more with each tournament stop.

“I get to meet a lot of people around the world and I enjoy the time traveling with my friends and teammates,” she said. “Badminton has given me a lot of memories other people don’t have. It definitely makes it something special about the sport.”

Zhang’s busy schedule comes while attending Richmond High for her Grade 12 year. She is grateful for the support of her teachers and classmates when it comes to balancing her out-of-town commitments with school work.

“It’s always hard traveling and doing school at the same time. I’m fortunate that my teachers have been very flexible with me,” added Zhang. “They are giving me (extra) time to catch-up when I get back and we are exchanging emails too to talk about what I am missing. I get (class) notes from my friends as well.”

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