Badminton takes over Chugiak High School for 2022 Alaska school badminton championships

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 11:19 AM AKDT
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CHUGIAK, Alaska (KTUU) - Over 270 kids from high schools, middle schools and elementary schools around the state took over the courts Saturday at Chugiak High School to decide champions of the Alaska badminton world.

Lisa Ward and Paul Knechtel of the nonprofit “Badminton Goes Viral” helped host the Alaska State Badminton School Team Championship tournament for the third time in the state, and the first one in two years due to the pandemic.

“We started with 40 kids in 2018, and increased to 165 in 2019, then we had COVID and the coronavirus come in and this year we’ve about 275 players.” Ward said.

Teams from around the state have been practicing all year for this tournament and the competition didn’t disappoint. A new format debuted this year with an ABC system — “A” being the highest level and “C” the lowest — and a round robin for the first round with games lasting 10 minutes.

After the first round, all the points were tallied up before the 12-minute playoff rounds began.

Along with the fun of the competition, three-time U.S. Olympian and 2005 Men’s Badminton Doubles World Champion Howard Bach showed up Saturday as part of his first trip to Alaska to share his love of the sport. Bach put on a demonstration where he showed off his lightning-fast smashes and fancy behind-the-back moves.

“To see the development around the whole entire state, from Texas to Florida to Seattle and now Alaska, simply amazing,” Bach said. “We want badminton to grow and spread like wildfire.”

With the development of the sport spreading around Alaska, many small towns and villages sent players. The community of Napakiak sent in a team to compete. Ward and Knechtel made a trip out to the village and walked them through a “boot camp.”

After weeks of practice, the competitors got to put their skills to the test. The team did quite well, considering they just started playing the sport, and even had a team in the championship match for their group.

Knechtel said badminton is a sport that is growing not only because it is fun, but because it gets more kids involved than just the usual athletic types.

“We’ve seen kids who are not athletes who get excited about this sport, because (if) they’re not tall they can’t play basketball, they’re not tall they can’t play volleyball, but they want to move around, and a lot of the footwork in badminton is similar to other sports” Knechtel said.

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