Renee Ruan, Hannah Chen
Hannah Chen, currently a junior at Interlake High School, is a competitive badminton girls doubles and mixed doubles player at BBC (Bellevue Badminton Club). She has played badminton recreationally since 2010 at the age of 7, then transitioning to competitive in 2017 and has since participated in Junior Nationals in 2018 and 2019. Hannah has devoted over thousands of hours to the sport, allowing her to compete at local, regional, and national tournaments and earning her the 28th national ranking in girls doubles and 34th national ranking in mixed doubles in the U17 age category in 2019. Not only is Hannah a diligent player on the court, she is also a candidate in the notoriously rigorous IB academic program, which requires a significant time commitment.
Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Hannah has entirely changed her training routine from on-court drills to her own personal at-home workouts that are catered to her needs. “These workouts are targeted mainly towards maintaining my physique and building up strength in muscle groups that typically aren’t used in badminton,” she says, explaining that this form of strengthening would not only keep her in shape but also help with recovery from her injuries. Hannah mentioned how motivation was an obstacle for her during the first weeks of quarantine, but now she has taken up a daily at-home workout “with the goal of improving my fitness and general health while I have more time to focus on it and build it into my schedule as a routine so that I can return to badminton with greater vigor and less injury.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also resulted in the cancellation of several major events including but not limited to local, regional and national tournaments. This does not only mean that athletes like Hannah are missing valuable opportunities and experiences, but she also explains how this affects her national ranking and chances at junior nationals. “Many athletes including myself were reliant upon these tournaments to gain points to raise our national ranking in preparation for 2020 Junior Nationals,” she explains, however she adds that the prospects of hosting the 2020 Junior Nationals tournament are also lowering with the intensity of this pandemic. In response to this possibility, she clarifies that “I was already aware of the potentiality of these unfortunate circumstances, and thus I would consider myself less affected by the news.”
With technology taking a significant role in our society during the pandemic, some sports’ clubs and coaches have opted to take a “virtual” approach to training and communication. Unfortunately, this still presents many challenges and limitations to athletes, and Hannah has expressed that “none of the events (mostly tournaments, both open and closed, local and regional) that have been either cancelled or postponed can be carried out virtually, and as of now I am not aware of when the events will be postponed until, if at all.” Some coaches have been offering online meetings on zoom, but largely for the purpose of reconnecting with the athletes they work with personally to offer a possible training regimen during this quarantine.
Aside from maintaining her fitness, Hannah has also had more time to pursue other interests, much like many of us who are also stuck at home at the moment. She said that during the days where she ran out of meat at home, she experimented with making vegan tofu sandwiches and homemade bread. “To be honest,” she says, “it was probably one of the more successful and healthy creations I have cooked up since school closed and I look forward to recreating it soon.”
Despite this unprecedented and uncertain situation, Hannah is staying positive. While athletes likely have been forced to make temporary adjustments, that does not stop us from seizing the opportunity to perfect our other skills. Even so, as athletes have become more disconnected from their sports, a new restlessness in anticipation of a return to a typical training routine have affected many. In relation to badminton, Hannah believes that “with the scale of this pandemic, the process of returning to our ‘normal lives’ will take a significant amount of time. However, I still plan to return to my sport as soon as is safely possible.”
With that said, this quarantine period is not permanent and the time will come when we can return to our respective sports. Hannah is confident that after this pandemic, we can experience again the exhilaration and joy that our sports bring to us as athletes. “My most valuable advice would be to not lose your love for your sport even during these times, even when it may be difficult or entirely impossible to access it, and maintain it through whatever means most reasonably possible. Set some goals to reach at home that prepare yourself for returning to your sport after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, and look forward to the day you can re-immerse yourself in your passions!”
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