Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

Two Members share how the Club has helped them rekindle their love for badminton.

Professional badminton isn’t for slouches. Athletes can cover more than 6 kilometers during the course of a match, as they chase a feather shuttlecock smashed at speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour.

It’s no surprise then that those looking for a good workout are drawn to the Club’s Tuesday evening badminton sessions in the Gymnasium.

One regular is Karen Ouk, who has been playing the sport since she moved from Pennsylvania to Jakarta while in high school.

Given that badminton is part of the social fabric in Indonesia, it seemed natural that Ouk would pick up a racket while there. Indeed, the country nabbed the first gold medals for men’s and women’s singles when the sport made its Olympic debut at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

“I had a coach there who really got me into it,” Ouk says. “I played for several years in high school and when I went off to Stanford University, I joined the intramural team.”

Member Franklin Lin also played in college. During his time at the University of Manchester, he was the club captain. He even paid for some living expenses by stringing rackets for some of the UK’s elite players.

But when Lin moved to the University of Tokyo in 2010 for his doctorate studies, badminton took a back seat.

After joining the Club in 2015, he played off and on while balancing work and family. Two years ago, badminton became a regular part of Lin’s schedule. Now entering five or six amateur tournaments a year, the 39-year-old has a goal.

“I want to qualify for senior tournaments around Japan when I’m 40,” Lin says. “Eventually, I want to make it to the All-Japan Senior Championships.”

Ouk, who also took a break from badminton while raising her children—now 19, 16 and 12—is enjoying being on the court again.

“I don’t plan to get back into really competitive badminton,” she says. “Now it’s just for pleasure.”

One highlight of the Tuesday sessions, Ouk says, is the chance to train with Kanako Hirano, the Japan national team analyst who helps Club Members improve their game.

“I really like that the Club has a coach,” Ouk says. “Even though I’m not really into competitions, it’s always good to hone your skills.”

For Lin, badminton’s accessibility remains its biggest draw.

“There are other racket sports, like tennis and squash, but the thing that appealed to me about badminton is that you can really get a rally going with your friends of different levels,” he says. “I want to thank the Club and [Yonex’s] Yoneyama family, who supports badminton with such passion, for making it possible for me to play again.”

Badminton Night
Every Tuesday • 6:30–9pm (6:30–7:30pm: skills clinic)

Words: C Bryan Jones
Top Image of Karen Ouk and Franklin Lin: Clara Garcia

December 2023