A pair of Antigonish badminton players will represent Team Nova Scotia at the upcoming Canada Winter Games.
“It is going to be a great event, so I am really looking forward to it,” Courtney MacDonald said.
While taking a break during a recent practice session at the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School gym, she and Eriq Proctor reflected on their love for the sport that has provided them with an opportunity to compete on the national stage.
The 19-year-olds – both second-year students at St. F.X. – have been playing badminton for more than a decade.
“I saw it as a great way to stay fit and stay active, and I just fell in love with the game,” Proctor said, noting his father, Robert, introduced him to the game.
MacDonald said she started playing with her mother and sister, including countless Sundays on the court at the Regional gym.
“We enjoyed it, as a family, and it was so much fun; more and more, I wanted to start playing competitively,” she added.
MacDonald did just that, when she was 10, while Proctor took his first swing, competitively, at 13.
“It has been a great experience,” she said, noting both of them have played in several provincial, Atlantic and national tournaments.
A multi-sport athlete growing up, Proctor narrowed his focus to badminton, when he started high school. He even hung up his skates and stopped playing competitive hockey.
“I realized I was having some success and that I could improve and become more competitive,” he said.
Proctor added, over the past four or five years, he has “put all his time into it.”
“And, it has paid off,” he said.
Gary MacDougall, their Canada Games’ head coach, said the pair are “physically, technically and tactically ready to go.”
“They have been training for an extended period. Their on and off court training routines have served them well,” he added, in an email interview.
MacDougall said the Antigonish athletes “demonstrate leadership and bring energy to training sessions.”
Describing Proctor as a “tenacious” doubles player, MacDougall praised him for his “competitive spirit and fair play.”
“Eriq can attack with power, turn defence into offence, has a steady serve and positive service returns,” he added.
Noting MacDonald has the same sense of “fair play” MacDougall called her a competitor that is “all-in,” when she takes the court.
“She is a capable singles, doubles and mixed player, who can attack with angle, intercept and finish in the doubles’ events,” he added.
MacDougall expects MacDonald to compete in singles and mixed doubles, while Proctor will take the court in men’s and mixed doubles.
In the team event, he added, MacDonald could play all three disciplines – singles, doubles and mixed doubles – while Proctor may get an opportunity in mixed and men’s doubles.
“Definitely height,” MacDonald said, with a laugh, when asked about the strengths of her game, noting the same applies to Proctor.
MacDonald added they are both “very technical” players.
“That really helps us for reception and just having the ability to move people around the court – that sort of thing,” she said.
Proctor said he plays a “power game,” one that has become stronger and stronger, as his fitness level has increased.
“I try to use my height and my strength to my advantage,” he added.
In the coming weeks, the young athletes know there is much left to do in preparation for the Canada Games, including intense training weekends with their team in Halifax.
“We are really excited and we can’t wait to get there,” MacDonald said of the Games.
And, for him, it will be an opportunity to continue a family tradition, of sorts. His older sister, Renée, competed in badminton for Team Nova Scotia at the 2015 Games.
“It’s kind of cool that both of us will have that experience,” Proctor said.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games will take place from Feb. 15 to March 3 in Red Deer, Alberta.