Written by Veronica Noronha
A long-time, proud City of Markham resident and Badminton trailblazer, Michelle Li has been on the international tournament circuit for over 10 years and often stops by the Markham Pan Am Centre to train between competitions.
In February 2020, Li graciously sat down with us to talk about all things Badminton and her remarkable career, which includes being the first Canadian woman to win gold in Women Singles at the Commonwealth Games and currently the only Canadian woman in the World’s top 10 Singles. If that is not enough, since 2008, she has earned 20 medals (15 gold, 2 silver, 3 bonze) at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Am Games, combined.
After a temporary shut-down of tournaments and games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she re-started her training and competition schedule in preparation for the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In October 2020, she competed at the Danisa Demark Open where she made it to the semi-finals.
As much as Li enjoys tournaments, she says there is something special about events such as the Common Wealth Games, Pan Am Games and Olympics because it is an opportunity to share the experience with fellow Canadian athletes. She says, Canadian athletes, regardless of the sport, understand each other and what it takes to earn their place on Team Canada and what they need to do to get to the podium.
Li tells us that Canadian Badminton athletes face a unique challenge compared to their peers from other countries. While most of the athletes from around the world get to focus solely on their skill-building from a very young age with support from government, Canadian athletes also have to raise funds for training, competing and travelling. For some, this could be seen as a disadvantage but Li accepts it as part of the game and a requirement for high-performance athletes in Canada.
Like many of her fellow Canadian athletes, Li has made sacrifices for the love of her sport but she makes every effort not to focus on what she may be missing out on. Admittedly, she says, “it’s not a normal life. You don’t get to do what your friends are doing and relationships are harder. You have to decide whether what you’re doing is worth it.”
It is worth it for Li and that is why she keeps going.
Representing Canada gives Li, “a sense of pride” but it comes with a lot of pressure too. She also says, “You want to do well and not disappoint anyone. It can add pressure so I try not to think of it too much and focus on doing my best, no matter where I am”.
Looking to the future and beyond the 2021 Olympics, Li says, “I think I can inspire the next generation. I see a lot of passion and potential among the junior [badminton] players and the level of talent in Canada is improving. I want to encourage the younger athletes to keep pushing.”
The Markham Pan Am Centre is proud to have Li’s likeness hang our walls and wish her continued success on the road to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games!