Shuttles at the ready

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Elliot Pinto, center, and Daniel Melancon get into the action at last weekend's badminton tournament at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Elliot Pinto, center, and Daniel Melancon get into the action at last weekend’s badminton tournament at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.

More than 100 athletes came out to this year’s badminton tournament at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, making it the biggest year yet.

“It draws a lot of players,” said Anna Cunningham, who works at the school and enjoyed supporting local athletes over the two-day tournament last Friday and Saturday. “I know something like three-quarters of the Grade 8s from this school are playing in it.”

While the tournament is always popular, this year 112 athletes were registered. The surge in numbers was partially due to the first-time addition of an open category for adult shuttle-enthusiasts.

“I think it’s popular because it’s a fairly gentle sport,” said Cunningham. “But when it gets to a higher level, it’s a very mental game. You have to be focused, and you can see the players trying to psych each other out. You have to be tough mentally, at that level.”

The tournament has been hosted in Hay River for more than a decade, but some players were new to the nets.

“It’s my first year playing in it,” said Madison McPhee. “It’s interesting to see how it all plays out.”

While many of the new players were accomplished athletes in other sports, they said they liked the atmosphere at the tournament.

“My sister was coaching me to play,” said Riella Bordey, adding that she would like to play next year too.

Games went until 4 a.m. Saturday, as bouts from Friday night grew longer and longer. Cunningham said that while it was a late night – and a late start the next day – for some players, the lengthy games were indicative of a higher level of play.

“In other years, teams coming in from outside were pretty beginner,” she said. “But they’ve really improved over the years and you can see that in every game.”

The tournament draws players from other Hay River schools, as well as Fort Providence, Fort Smith and Yellowknife.

For the 1996-98 category, Spencer Bonnetrouge from Fort Providence took top spot in the men’s singles, with Hay River’s Daniel Melancon and Harley Beaulieu rounding out the top three. Christina Bonnetrouge won first in the ladies’ singles, with Kyla Milne and Novie Bordey coming in close second and third, respectively.

Taylor Maurice and Tanner Mandeville came in first in the men’s and ladies’ singles in the next age category, with Fort Smith’s Darien Comin and Kezia McDonald taking top spots in the 2001-02 age-group.

-Sarah Ladik