Just over a year ago, in September 2017, Northern Lights College student Rishav Sharma was fresh off of winning gold at the B.C. Provincial Para-Badminton Championships. He was hoping to compete at an international tournament in the United States but was unsure of his playing future because of a lack of funding.
Well, a lot can change over a year. Sharma secured an ongoing sponsor after his employer learned of his quest, and won gold at the tournament in Colorado while representing Canada. He then went on to win three gold medals in Prince George this summer, in the singles, mixed doubles, and men’s under 23 category, competing against able-bodied players. He was also an assistant coach for Zone 8 at the 2018 B.C. Winter Games last February.
“This past year has been amazing. I’ve had great experiences playing and coaching as well, and am in constant communication with Badminton Canada who helps me out every tournament,” Sharma said.
Most recently, Sharma traveled overseas with Badminton Canada for the Japan International 2018 Para-Badminton Tournament. It was a test-run for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Japan, which meant the best badminton players in the world made the trip.
Sharma was ranked 46th in the world heading into the tournament. He played well, but couldn’t come away with a medal. He was eliminated from the tournament by Bartlomiej Mroz of Poland, the number two ranked player in the world.
“That was the hardest tournament I’ve ever played. (Mroz) was so fast, and very clever and confident. My fitness was OK, but my technique was lacking,” said Sharma.
Part of the reason he struggled was the lack of places to play badminton in the summer. The gyms close down, and Sharma was forced to practice against a friend at a makeshift court in one half of a two-car garage.
“That’s the biggest drawback of playing in Fort St. John. But now that it’s winter I play Sunday and Wednesdays in Fort St. John and every Monday in Dawson Creek,” he said.
Sharma will complete his schooling at NLC this December, but has no plans to leave Fort St. John anytime soon. He’s still working hard to gain his citizenship so he can represent Canada at the Pan-Am Games and Olympics, but is eligible to represent Canada at tournaments in Ottawa and Dubai next April if everything works out. Sharma is also hoping to coach Zone 8 when the B.C. Winter Games come to Fort St. John in 2020.
Even if Sharma were to leave Fort St. John, he can’t play for his home country India because he’s already represented Canada and has to wait five years.
“It’s frustrating, but I’m OK with it and like being here,” Sharma said.
Though the obstacles keep popping up, Sharma keeps knocking them down, and has thrived in the sport of badminton in Fort St. John of all places.
“When I knew I was coming here, the first thing I searched even before my college was if there was a badminton club. When I landed, I joined the Fort St. John Adult Badminton Club right away and still play with them today.”
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.