Cottager Rachel Honderich a Canadian champion

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Rachel gets to spend some time at the cottage this summer. A nice break before she goes back to training in the fall. Photo by Terrance Gavan. May 2011.

By Terrance Gavan

Focus. Hallmark of a champion.

Focus. Hard-wired to racquet sports.

If you have doubts about the efficacy of that blanket assertion, tune into the French Open this week and watch Rafa Nadal’s eyes while he’s awaiting serve.

Haliburton cottager Rachel Honderich is just 15 and she’s a Canadian under-16 badminton champion.

I’ve never seen her play, but I’d bet my last sawbuck that her eyes narrow just like Rafa’s when she’s waiting for served bird.

Honderich is glued to goals.

She’s an A student at Bishop Strachan High School in Toronto.

Last weekend she was back at the family cottage taking time off from a busy school and badminton schedule, doing what 15-year-olds do.

Spending an hour with the local paparazzi? Okay, but aside from that, normal.

Rachel is tall, athletic and, yeah, hmm, focused.

She returned recently from the Canadian under-16 Canadian Badminton Championships in Vancouver with a gold medal. It’s her first year in the under-16s so she punched above her weight this year. Not unusual for Rachel Honderich, mind. It’s something she’s been doing for quite some time. She’s a prodigy, after all.

Last year she and her doubles partner Brittany Tam won a Bronze at the Pan American Games under-15 competition in the Dominican Republic.

Tam won her under-14 age group this year at the Canadian championships, a title formerly held by Honderich.

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Rachel and the best birdie retriever you'll ever find. Photo by Terrance.

Next year she and Tam – who is a year younger – will be playing singles against each other in the under 16s.

“That will be fun,” smiles Honderich. Partnerships are placed on the back burner during singles’ clashes. Rachel will be looking to repeat as the under-16 champ and Tam will be gunning to unseat her partner.

They’ll team up again after that’s done. All of this talk about defending titles prompts a smile. Rachel, it would seem, thrives on the cut and thrust of competition.

Mom,Terri Bulger introduced Rachel to badminton at the Granite Club when Rachel was 7. Both mom and dad – David Honderich – are avid runners and both are involved in multiple sports. For a while she and her older sister Holly – now 17 and a crackerjack high school volleyball player – competed in badminton.

The Granite runs various programs for kids including tennis and hockey, and Rachel says she was involved in them all for a while.

“I started when I was 7 or 8 for an hour while my mom played,” says Honderich. “Then I got involved in sports more and more at the Granite Club.

“It was more of my mom asking if I wanted to play badminton and hockey and I did. I played them both competitively until I turned 12, and then it was a question of making a choice.

“Did I want to continue to play both or concentrate on one? And I decided to concentrate on badminton. I had to make a decision; choose one sport or try to do both; and it takes a lot of time to play both sports.”

In hindsight a pretty astute decision.

“My first year in the under-12s I won singles and doubles in the Ontario provincials and that’s when I started to do well,” says Honderich. “My first year in under-14 I lost in the semis and in the second year I won.”

Her coaches, yes she has two, are Mike Debelle and Jenny Kue. “They’re both very good coaches, and I’ve worked with them since I started at the Granite club,” says Honderich. “I train year round, but in the summer I get to take some time off here at the cottage.”

Their cottage is right next door to the Ferracuti’s and she and Louis Ferracuti have been competing against each other from the start. Louis, who is a star football, basketball and rugby player at Hal High, admits that Rachel beats him in the racquet sports, volleyball and golf. That’s with some prompting from mom, Kristy Gammon, of course.

“We do tubing, water skiing and we always love doing the end of summer Dash for Kash run,” says Honderich. “It’s really nice here and I really like it in Haliburton.”

Bishop Strachan is an all-girls school. Honderich explains that as part of the school’s elite athlete stream she gets consideration regarding her competitive schedule.

She’s in grade-9 with some lofty goals.

“The Pan-Am Games are being hosted here,” smiles Rachel. “In 2015 I’ll be 19 and so I hope to be on that team.”

The year after 2015?

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Rachel Honderich. Canadian Under 16 Badminton Champion.

Well, that would be another Olympic year.

And if you haven’t already guessed?

That’s the year Honderich hopes to peak.

“My goal is to go to the Olympics in 2016 in Brazil,” smiles Honderich. “I’ll be 20 by then and that’s a great age.”

She’ll graduate from Bishop Strachan in 2014. “I might take that year off to try to qualify for the Olympics,” smiles Honderich.

After that?

“Well, maybe after that I’ll go to University and keep playing badminton for a university team,” says Honderich. She’s already thinking about university. “Sports psychology is something I’d like to look at,” says Honderich. “Science is my best subject right now, but then again, I’m in grade nine and I have a couple of years to decide.”

For now Honderich is content to travel and enjoy the ride.

“It’s really exciting,” she says.

Wowser.

Pan American Games? The 2016 Olympics? Sports Psychology? Coaching?

Decisions, decisions.

Quick.

What were you doing when you were 15?

I remember what I was doing.

I was trying to figure what card to use between the spokes of my banana-seat bike.

Henri Richard or Jean Beliveau.

Focus people.

Focus.

As I learned last weekend.

Focus, aligned with purpose, talent, smarts and a whole lotta’ heart?

Garners good karma.

Just ask Rachel Honderich.

Get Gav at gav@countyvoice.ca. And twitter.com/terrancegavan. A video of my interview with young Rachel Honderich is up on countyvoice.org, our sports website.

 

 

 

 

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Rachel and Dylan taking a break on the lomng weekend in Haliburton. Photo By Terrance Gavan.

 

 

 

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