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STORY: David Stringer
PHOTOGRAPHY: Jeannette Quirk


Badminton at its highest levels is an amazing sport to watch.

It's a dramatic mixture of overhead smashes, delicate dinks, cleverly played angles and lunging retrievals. When the game is doubles, the game becomes even more complex, with the squeak of rubber soles on the gym floor blended with the shouts and murmers of communication between team mates. It's not the lazy summer backyard game that many people know.

Gold was all the talk when I arrived at the courts at Fanshawe College on Wednesday afternoon. At the door I met members of the team from the Netherlands, who boasted that gold medals had been won by Marlie Habels, Gulien Prins, Anita Snydere, Ben Dykman and Pieter Osnabrugge. Snydere's thrill was enhanced because she was there with her kidney donor, Monica Kempa.

They explained their success by their training all year. "It's a small country," Prins said, "and we all come together to play for the Games. We are happy to show people I can do sport. We show to our country that we can play and have fun - even with a new kidney." She received hers twelve years ago from an unknown donor.

The level of competition was very high. I spoke with an excellent player, Laurence O'Connor of New Zealand, just after he lost his semi-final match to one of the Malaysians. In addition to badminton, he at the Games for volleyball, table tennis and "balls," by which I assume he means lawn bowling. Asked why, the 50 kidney recipient (1997) says, "I love competing."

Another New Zealander, Nuku Tohiwai (pronounced, he told me "2-E-Y"), is descended from a Maori chief. A double lung recipient in 2001, he was in London to compete in volleyball, badminton and lawn balls. He explained that he did not know about the Transplant Games last year. Limited funding for the team meant that only recently was it open to heart and lung recipients.

A major event about to begin when I arrived was the finals in adult male doubles between the Japanese team of Shinya Maruno and Yusuke Kurata (gold and silver medalists in singles and both kidney recipients), and Dave Clark and Neil McLeod of the United Kingdom. Clark, a teacher, received a kidney four years ago. McLeod, a travel agent, received his two years after that. They played with great enthusiasm, calling "yes" or "no" to advise their partner whether to hit a shot near the line.

Nearly the entire Japanese team was there, sitting in the bleachers and enthusiastically cheering the outstanding play of their team. British supporters, standing at the back wall, sitting beside the Japanese or flanking the court, were equally enthusiastic, shouting encouragement and groaning at missed opportunities.


Maruno and Kurata won the gold in a hard-fought match. It's significant that in such a competitive match as this there was no need for line judges and no arguments over points. The sportsmanship was as keen as the play.

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Last updated on: Friday, 05-Feb-2010 10:11:56 EST