|Posted by Anna Rice on March 28, 2009 at 2:16 PM|
On July 22, 2000 I landed for the first time at the Copenhagen airport for what I thought would be an eight month stint training at the International Badminton Academy while studying an exchange year at the University of Copenhagen.
Almost 9 years later, I never could have imagined I would still be living in Denmark. When I came to Denmark I was ranked 157 on the BWF world rankings, and proud to be amongst the top 10 best in Canada. Never could I have predicted that 9 years later I would have had the privilege to attend two Olympic Games and would have competed in over 50 countries while playing the sport I adore.
Yes, it’s been an incredible journey and I cannot give enough thanks to the friends and coaches that have helped me develop, both on and off the badminton court, throughout my time in Denmark.
I must admit, I’ve been reluctant to publish online some very personal news. However, the time now feels right to officially announce that this summer I will be getting married to the love of my life, the one and only Bobby Milroy. Bobby is one of the top Canadian badminton players and is the President of the Badminton Players Federation, which is the official players body within the Badminton World Federation.
As if August 2008 wasn’t already packed with enough emotion and excitement to last a lifetime, Bobby chose this month to pop the question, on my Birthday no less. “Why are you so dressed up?” I quipped at him critically when he arrived for dinner that evening dressed to impress, with me wearing the team Canada tracksuit for yet another day in a row.
It was a very special evening and one that I will never forget. It took me several weeks to recover from the emotional intensity of that month in Beijing. I doubt that any four weeks for the rest of my life will be as intense as those of August 2008.
Bobby and I at dinner one hour before he proposed
A New Chapter Begins
For some reason- perhaps as a result of our engagement, many people seem to think that I am retiring from competitive badminton. For the record, this is not the case. Can’t a woman be a wife and an athlete? (Please tell me you didn't dignify that retorical question with an answer).
It is true, however, that Bobby and I are moving back to Canada and will no longer be training in Denmark at the International Badminton Academy. Our years studying under coach Michael Kjeldsen have come to an end, as educational as they've been. I am planning on continuing my competitive career, though for how much longer I am not certain. I will assess my motivation after the 2009/2010 season to decide what the future holds.
As the D.J.s (draw junkies) among you may have seen, a couple of weeks ago I came close to beating the reigning world champion, Zhu Lin, at the Wilson Swiss Open. Knowing that my game is still progressing and after coming so close to winning that match, I was reminded that my passion for this sport is still burning strong.
Life's Unexpected Twists
Two years ago, on a flight back from a team match, Tine Rasmussen and I were discussing our futures in pro badminton. Both of us were in agreement that we would stop after the Beijing Olympics to pursue other interests. Shortly after that conversation, Tine’s results went through the roof, and now the world number one would be insane to end her career before the 2012 Olympics. Such is the way life can twist and turn on a moment’s notice. I can only hope the same twist of fate might occur for me!
In a sport where wisdom reigns, Zhang Ning has proven that age ain't nothin' but a number. For me, the true defining component rests inside the heart, where inspiration and motivation reside. As my physio/psychologist has advised me to do- (yes, my physio also doubles as my shrink)- I will listen to my heart and know when the time is right to let the rackets rest.
Uganda Here I Come
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve always got quite a few things on the go at any one time. This Spring is no exception. As well as planning a wedding and a move and keeping up my World Champ’s training prep, I’m also going to Uganda for 10 weeks to work with my favorite humanitarian organization: Right To Play.
Remember how I said August 2008 was a busy month? Well, I forgot to mention that it was also in Beijing that I was selected to travel to Uganda for an internship with the Right To Play organization, for which I have been an Athlete Ambassador for the past four years.
I’m very excited for this adventure to begin, and I’m looking forward to giving back some of the knowledge and experience that I’ve had the opportunity to gain through my sporting and academic careers.
For the past few weeks I've been collecting badminton equipment to bring with me to Uganda, and I now have over 150 rackets, 5 outdoor nets, 50 brand new t-shirts and dozens of plastic shuttles. My sincerest thanks goes out to my equipment sponsor Wilson.com for donating a total of 40 rackets, 4 outdoor nets and 4 dozen plastic shuttles! I'd also like to thank my teammates in Aarhus as well as other players and Aarhus fans in Denmark who have given me rackets and plastic shuttles. Special thanks to former Danish Women's Doubles star Majken Vange for donating 50 brand new T-shirts as well as some of her old rackets. I'll be sure to tell the Ugandan kids that they may be holding the racket that won a World Championship medal in 1999!
It's been hilarious sorting through all the old rackets I've been given. Some of my favorites so far are: "the Kawasaki 81", "the Yonex Cab 20", "the Stein P Rapier 250", "the Victor AT 9900" and "the talbot torro Crusader 5.0".
I plan to use all this equipment for some badminton projects that I will initiate through Right To Play office in Uganda.