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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Nationally ranked freshman crucial to badminton team

Freshmen are often overlooked or seen as an acceptance onto sports teams. But this isn’t the case with freshman Stephen Ding, a nationally ranked badminton player after only two years of playing in the U15 division. Ding is tall and rangy, with long arms that can easily return shots. His long legs make it easy, almost effortless, for him to bound from side to side, back to front, of the court.

Practice for a player at Ding’s level is arduous and frequent. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are spent with three hours of practice, and extra lessons on Saturdays with private coach of two years, Holvy de Pauw, at Bintang Badminton, a private academy in Sunnyvale.

Yet badminton wasn’t always so intense for Ding. Originally, the sport came at the recommendation of Ding’s father, who played as a teen, as an outlet for his excess of energy.

Before sticking to badminton, Ding tried several other sports, including soccer, fencing, basketball and swimming. He often grew bored and moved on to another before he found his niche with a racket.

“[I liked badminton because] it was an indoor sport [so i didn’t have to stay out.]” Ding said.

It was a year and a half or two into the sport when Ding made a couple friends that were “actually really good” and he decided that he wanted to take badminton seriously. Impressively enough, Ding has only been playing for a short four years.

“He’s easily one of the best on the team and probably has a lot more experience than most players even though he’s a freshman,” said junior Michael Owyang. “The team will be counting on him to win a lot of his games this year.”

Badminton happens to be a family sport. Not only does his mother play, but his father has been playing since he was a teen and his older brother, alumni Evans Ding, was also nationally ranked.

And like most athletes, Ding’s favorite part of the sport is the rewarding and fulfilling experience of hard work being paid off.

“You train and then you go to a tournament and you know that your works paid off,” Ding said.

On the topic of being nationally ranked, Ding is humble. He claims that “it’s not really special” and “just really fun.”

“For me, I don’t feel anything but for other people, they think it’s cool. I just find badminton one of my hobbies and something I do really well so I really enjoy it,” Ding said. “And so being ranked, it doesn’t really [affect me.]”

Ding doesn’t see badminton beyond high school. Most likely, Ding says, badminton will remain a lifelong hobby.

Ding is a key addition to the badminton team and will most likely be playing singles. Their first league game is March 24 against Cupertino.

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