The weather outside is a dismal wintry mix, but the energy on the Multi-Activity Court (MAC) in the Kenyon Athletic Center is anything but gloomy. Beyond the few people playing pickup basketball, two students are engaged in an intense competition: flailing their arms and legs about to use their oddly long racquet to strike a small ball with feathers attached to it. Enter the Kenyon College Badminton Club.
Xingyue Liu ’21 and Peter Fornell ’22 (the co-founders of the Badminton Club, along with Sage Bornstein ’20) are tied up at 19 points apiece. They are playing to 21, but the winner must win by two. Volleying the birdie, the ‘high-drag projectile’ used in badminton that is also referred to as a shuttlecock, they dart back and forth inside the small playing area demarcated by grey lines on the MAC court.
Although the court and net are similar to other racquet sports like tennis or pickleball, badminton is distinctly different. The obvious main difference is the birdie: The birdie is considered ‘high-drag’ because when it is hit, it loses a large amount of momentum as it travels due to its feathers. Fornell and Liu each swat at the birdie with tremendous effort, but by the time the other has the chance to return it over the net, it has nearly come to a complete stop.
Liu and Fornell play matches against each other every Tuesday and Thursday. They say that since the club was formed, they have both improved significantly.
“Last year we couldn’t really play with Sage because he was so good,” Liu said, “and this year Peter beat Sage so he’s number one.”
The duo listed several reasons for starting the club. Liu mentioned that in interacting with prospective students, she has heard a lot of interest in badminton. In addition, the College already has two courts and all the equipment necessary to play.
When Liu approached Grant Wallace, head golf coach and director of club sports, he mentioned that Denison University’s own badminton club had reached out, interested in having a match. Fornell and Liu hope that the club will grow enough to one day hold matches against other schools.
“If we have more people who are interested and can play well, maybe we can have [a match] with Denison,” Liu said.
In addition to playing the sport, Fornell and Liu often discuss and analyze the strategy involved in badminton. While Fornell said that people who have played other racquet sports will be familiar with the mechanics of the sport, the birdie makes the game much more strategic than tennis or squash.
“Badminton is a really interesting sport because I could be beaten by a 6-year-old or an 80-year-old … It’s so much about finesse and also strategy, outsmarting your opponent,” Fornell said.
In the match at hand, it was the sophomore Fornell who beat the junior Liu, 22 to 20.
As for the current rankings, Liu humbly said that Fornell was the best, Bornstein was second, and she currently occupied third. Given where Fornell says he was a few months ago, all it took was a couple weeks of consistent effort for the aspiring badminton player to shake up the leaderboard at the MAC.
The Badminton Club meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 2:40 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. While the Tuesday and Thursday meetings are primarily match play for more experienced players, the Friday meetings are open to all levels.