The Mariners notched their first Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) medal of 2013 as VIU’s freshman badminton star Melissa Liew brought home silver earlier this month in the women’s singles event.
Liew, along with fourth-year player Pat Thompson, qualified for the National Championship in Barrie, Ontario Feb. 28–Mar. 2 after securing a wild card position just two weeks earlier at Provincials. Thompson advanced to the medal round in his first Nationals appearance and finished the tournament in fourth place.
Both players were satisfied with their results at Nationals, and enjoyed competing against fellow high-calibre Canadian athletes.
“It was a great experience,” says Liew. “It was fun playing against people from across the country.” Thompson adds, “Most of our opponents from Nationals, we played against this year.”
Thompson was referring to the three PacWest tournaments this season—hosted by Thompson Rivers University, VIU, and Douglas College—as well as the conference championship.
Liew has also competed at the Canada Winter Games and Western Canada Summer Games in 2011, where she first met some of her opponents from Nationals.
Her most formidable Nationals opponent was Douglas Royals phenom Rui Lin Huang, who defeated Liew to win a sensational fifth-consecutive CCAA championship. She handed Liew her only losses of the tournament: in her very first match and the gold medal event.
With Huang retiring from her college career, Liew jokes that perhaps next year will be her shot at the championship.
“This year’s gold medal winner, RuiLin Huang, who won it the last five years…this was her last year. So maybe next year I’ll have [a better chance] at gold,” she says, laughing. Liew credits Huang’s all-around skills and competitiveness to having been born into the sport, saying, “It’s a family sport for her.”
Badminton is a family sport for Liew, as well, and considering she collected Nationals hardware as a first-year player, a successful career will likely not be left up to fate. She plans to compete in the Canadian Junior Badminton Championships in Saskatoon next month, along with Thompson, who will play in the U-23 division.
Thompson will enter his final year at VIU next season and hopes to continue elevating his game. With no concrete goal in mind, he aspires to develop as an all-around, skilled player.
“[I want to] try and improve my overall game,” Thompson says, “and keep putting in my best effort and see how far it takes me.”
Victories in rounds three and five, over Georgian College’s Sean Irving and Chris Ross of Dalhousie University, earned Thompson a ticket to the medal round. He would eventually fall to Tim Chiu of the Humber Hawks, but finished in well-deserved fourth place.
This season was also a successful campaign for head coach Janice Walker, who was awarded the PacWest Badminton Coach of the Year. Thompson and Liew acknowledged Walker’s coaching skill and value her commitment to seeing the team improve.
“She’s always supportive of us…she pushes us on an off the court,” Thompson says.
To follow the pair’s results at the U-23 and Junior Championships, visit <www.badminton.ca>.