Courting championships

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

There were times when Alix Younger thought her injured right hamstring would never heal in time.

At the beginning of the season in September, she spent a week on crutches and couldn't play for a month. The injury then flared up again about a month ago. Fortunately for the 13-year-old junior squash and badminton star, her hamstring cooperated when she needed it the most.

OLD RIVAL

Last month, she beat her old rival and top seed Jennifer Pelletier of Ontario to capture the girls under-15 singles crown at the Canadian Junior Squash Championships at Niagara on the Lake, Ont. Younger followed that up by reaching the semifinals in the under-14 girls singles and the finals in the under-14 girls doubles at the Under-14/Juvenile National Badminton Championships last weekend in Edmonton.

"I hadn't really been playing the greatest (going into the junior squash nationals)," said Younger, a Grade 8 student at Hastings School. "I was always going to physio. I was taking time off (to heal). I guess I was surprised that I was playing well because of the amount I hadn't been playing."

Younger got on a roll while keeping an eye on Pelletier, who beat her in the under-13 final at last year's junior nationals. Younger dominated her rival in the final, something that even shocked her.

"I was playing really well," said Younger, who won in three straight games. "I was kind of scared how well I was playing. I was so happy after I won."

Younger is normally a fast player, not taking a lot of time between points. But at Niagara on the Lake, she took things up a notch and played even faster.

"I got into a stage where I was walking quickly to the ball, wanting to serve as quickly as I could," she said. "Everything was just going so quickly."

When Younger got home from the junior squash nationals, she had to shift gears and get ready for the Under-14/Juvenile National Badminton Championships. She tossed her squash racquet aside and threw herself into preparing for Edmonton.

"(The two sports) do and they don't (complement each other)," said Younger, who trains at the Winnipeg Winter Club under the direction of badminton coach Pal Chawla and provincial squash coach Trevor Borland. "Some of the movements are almost the same and some of the shots are almost the same. But they're quite different."

But while they are different, skills picked up in one racquet sport such as foot speed and balance can transfer to the other.

"I think (with those skills) you're going to progress faster and she has that ability," said Chawla, who has coached 2005 Canadian squash champion Alana Miller who also excelled at badminton and tennis. "That's makes her a good athlete."

Next up for Younger is preparations for next year's Canada Winter Games. While she is eligible to play either badminton or squash, she will be playing squash.

"I'm playing squash because there aren't that many girls and there's an age difference in badminton," said Younger.

In the Canada games, badminton is open to players 23 and under while squash has 19 and under and 17 and under divisions.


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