Badminton In His Blood

July 16, 2006 at 6:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment

Myanmar native serves it up with Asheville athletes
by Jason McGill, jmcgill@citizen-times.com
published July 16, 2006 12:15 am

shuttle_cock4ASHEVILLE — The Asheville Badminton Club has a world-class player as one if its members. Aung Bo Bo Zaw, born in Yangon, Myanmar, plays twice a week at the Montford Center along with other club members. Zaw discovered the club about six months ago via the Asheville Parks and Recreation Web site, and he’s been showcasing his world-class ability for Asheville amateurs ever since. “The first thing is, I go to help them,” said Zaw, who’s taken steps to become an American citizen. “If I have a chance, I want to play some of the tournaments also. We have a tournament in Atlanta, and I may go to play there.

“I show them how to play, how to think about the game, everything. I teach them from the fundamentals to the advanced. (I’m impressed) especially by their mental game. They’re really good at it.”

The 26-year-old Zaw first picked up a racquet at age 10. By 15 he was playing internationally for Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) and last played for his nation at a 2005 tournament in Miami, Fla. In August 1999, Zaw was ranked the second best player in his country.

Now, Zaw says he’s taking a break in Asheville to help his sister, who owns a pair of area sushi restaurants. He also plans to continue training for international competition and hopes to be playing again within six months.

To that end, Zaw sometimes takes on two and three ABC members at once. And considering badminton is the world’s fastest racquet sport — the shuttlecock can reach speeds of more than 200 miles per hour — it’s no surprise he’s won some local fans.

“I’ve seen the best in the world play, and he has the ability to play with the very elite,” ABC coordinator Ken Faulkner said. “He’s already teaching us some footwork techniques to train. For six months, (the Myanmar team) wouldn’t even hit with a racquet. All they’d do is footwork.”

“He’s pretty amazing,” ABC member Leslie Morris said. “We saw the top U.S. men’s doubles players in Charlotte not too long ago in an exhibition match with some Canadians, and this guy, he was like their level. We were like, ‘Oh wow, we have this kind of player here in Asheville.’ It’s great.”

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