Volume 91, Issue 75

Wednesday, February 11, 1998



Silver lining for bird bashers

©Tom Baumgatner/Gazette
SHE'S A BIRD, BABY. YA! Team captain Carolyn Smith helped her team smash past heavy competition to take second place at the provincial championships last weekend.

By Jon Tafler

Gazette Staff

After a mediocre sixth-place finish in the standings last season, Western's badminton team walked into the Ontario championships at the Toronto Athletic Club this past weekend with one main goal – victory.

Seeded third in the tournament, the squad upset a strong Toronto team in the semifinals before falling to top-ranked Queen's in an exciting final.

For Western, a team which failed to even qualify for the championships a year ago, the silver medal spells nothing short of success.

"All of our athletes performed admirably and came through in the pinch, especially against Toronto," Western coach Bill Mason said.

Throughout the season, a rivalry with Toronto grew out of a number of close matches and ended fittingly as Western squeaked by 7-4 in the semifinals in what Mason described as an extremely tight and grueling contest.

Sealing Western's spot in the finals was the men's double pairing, consisting of team leader and assistant coach Mike Twiner and a poised Leo Chiu, who notched the victory over a Toronto pairing that they had lost to in the regular season.

Other semifinal winners included the women's doubles pairing of Christi Vandermeer and Hilleree Valad, as well as mixed doubles team Sharon Chan and Sean Girty. Mark Nichol, Twiner, Chiu and Vandermeer also won their individual matches.

Confident and focused, the Western team stormed into the finals, but Queen's well-balanced attack and strong female contingent proved to be too much for Western's athletes to handle, downing the purple and white 8-3.

"Our strength is our women," said Queen's coach Seva Golosky. "Western is stronger on the men's side, but we won some key matches early."

One of the key matches Golosky refers to was between Twiner and Queen's ace Geoff Campbell. Twiner led most of the way, but Campbell came storming back to take the final game 15-13.

Chiu, Nichol and Girty won their individual matches, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Queen's attack.

While the team did not walk away with the title, the success of Western's team this season gave Mason the opportunity to reflect on the uniqueness of Ontario varsity badminton. He feels the opportunity for both men and women to play together on the same team creates a unified team spirit that many other sports lack.

Team rookie Sarah Pullman agreed. "We learn a lot from the guys and it's challenging to get to play against them," she said. "Besides, it's also fun to hang around together."

Proof that the team is unified could be sampled after the competition, when the Mustangs found themselves in the MuchMusic studio, singing Western cheers and showing off their silver medals live to all of Canada.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998