Badminton's true believer

LYNNE BERMEL

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

Ottawa native Stefan Wojcikiewicz thinks badminton gets a bad rap.

The 2007 Canadian champion, who plays in the Division 1 league in Europe with a club based in Copenhagen, doesn't like hearing that in some circles, badminton is stereotyped as an unbearably slow sport with little action.

It's a lot more than simply tapping a birdie back and forth to while away the hours at a summer cottage, says the 28-year-old who grew up playing at the RA Centre before moving to Denmark to train with the International Badminton Academy.

"It's the fastest racquet sport in the world," he says.

"Badminton has been compared to tennis since they are two similar sports, yet tennis gets all the credit and badminton most of the flak.

"They made a comparison with tennis and badminton and discovered that in tennis, a player will run roughly 1.8 miles during a three-hour match, whereas a badminton player would run up to 3.7 miles during an hour and 15-minute match."

"Badminton is definitely physical and fast-paced," he says.

Wojcikiewicz plays about 20 tournaments in Europe and Asia, which he describes as "super series tournaments, just like tennis Grand Slams."

He made the semi-finals of the Portuguese Open earlier this year.

"But the real major tournaments are in Asia," he says, adding Indonesia, Korea and China are the powerhouses of badminton.

"It's really a dog fight to get into the big leagues."

Wojcikiewicz is up for the fight, and hopes to bring home a medal from the 2012 London Olympics.

It's been quite a journey since a Grade 6 friend at Lamoureux Catholic Elementary introduced him to the sport.

Wojcikiewicz started playing with his friend's mother at Carleton University and eventually discovered the badminton club at the RA Centre. There, he was introduced to Mike Bitten, who coached him until he moved to Denmark in 2006.

Wojcikiewicz won the first tournament he entered, which was the under-14 provincial championship. He went on to become the under-16 national champ. He took the under-19 national title as well, and was ranked No. 1 in the country by age 20.

He won his first senior national title at 24, but tore his ACL a month later playing in an exhibition match and lost almost a year-and-half because of the injury and contemplated leaving the game.

"It was tough. Thoughts of retirement went through my head, not knowing if I'd ever come back," he says.

He ended up winning the Pan American Championship within a year of returning.

Wojcikiewicz is also working on dispelling another stereotype.

"My goal is to be top 10 in the world one day and break the stereotype that Canadians should stick to hockey."

Army Run record sign-up

When the gun goes off to start the first Canada Army Run next Sunday in front of City Hall, it will already be a record-setting event. More than 6,000 runners and walkers have signed up for the race, smashing participation records for a first-time running event in Canada. The 5k starts at 8 a.m. and the Half Marathon starts at 9 a.m.

Impressive week

Carleton's Matt D'Angelo was named Canadian University Sport Male Athlete of the Week for the week ending Sept. 7.

The senior striker, a fifth-year arts student, booted both Carleton goals in a 2-0 season-opening win over Trent University.

LYNNEBERMEL@ROGERS.COM


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