All About Badminton: Anna Rice RetiresNovember 9, 2010
“I can’t imagine who I would be without badminton.”
Since the age of eight, Anna Rice has swung a badminton racquet. Growing up, she was skilled at a long list of sports – could even have played volleyball at a U.S. college – but followed her passion to badminton. And so began a stellar career that ended at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Anna Rice, a two-time Olympian, retires as one of Canada’s best-ever badminton players. The Athens 2004 Olympic Games were her first. “When you are young and go to the Olympics, you are in such awe,” she said. “You have to pinch yourself a little bit.”
There, in the birthplace of the Olympic Games, Rice was humbled to be among the best in the world and took it as a confidence boost. She finished 17th in doubles. She spun that confidence over the next four years, improved her game, and performed exceedingly well at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Rice battled through emotions and fierce competition in Beijing. Her family flew to watch her and she played days after her grandmother had passed away. Rice rallied through tough matches to reach the final 16. It was the first time a Canadian woman had ever done so. “That was pretty amazing,” she said.
Though badminton is not a limelight sport, Rice was drawn to its complete nature. She said it blends physical skill with a tactical and strategic mental element. A talented all-round athlete, Rice chose badminton and never looked back. And she has quite literally grown up through the sport.
“The most important things in life I learned on the badminton court,” she said (acknowledging the cliché-like tone). “Sports to me is a metaphor for life, relationships, overcoming things, pushing your limits. I’m going to continue learning and applying the things I learned through sport.”
She hopes that can flow to more Canadians too. While badminton is played across Canada, it remains a challenge for Badminton Canada to attract high-level players and compete with the world’s best. Rice suggested the foundation is there, as badminton is ideal for getting kids into sport and physical activity: it’s very inexpensive to play and it is everywhere.
“Every school has badminton lines painted on its gym floors,” Rice said. “We just need the role models, for kids to see it on TV and want to go out and try it themselves.”
As role models go, they don’t come much better than Anna Rice. While taking the plunge, developing herself into a badminton power, moving to Denmark for a decade to play and learn from the best, she was deeply involved elsewhere as well. She is a humanitarian at heart, and got heavily involved in the charity Right to Play that helps disadvantaged children across the globe.
Her master’s thesis was on sports and how it can help underdeveloped nations. She spent several months last year in Uganda, where badminton is quite popular. As she helped others through her role as Olympian, Rice’s game improved as “she didn’t see sports as a selfish pursuit. I thought it could be part of something more. I could give back to more than just myself.”
She plans to continue private coaching and playing on the side, as she can’t quit “cold turkey.” She has been hired as communications director for Choose-again.com, which helps people overcome major challenges in life. She is truly aiming to give back.
Rice said she will miss badminton, which “gave (her) so much”. And she feels very proud, honoured, to have travelled the world to compete for Canada.
Let us speak for all Canadian sport by saying that the honour is ours.