A trio of Merritt Secondary School student athletes made their presence known last month at the COVID-delayed 2022 BC Winter Games in Vernon, earning a slew of medals in the increasingly popular sport of badminton. 

Alexis Bates, Andrew Denton, and Will Hubbard all took part in the BC Winter Games after qualifying at the Kelowna tryouts. The 2022 BC Winter Games were originally scheduled to take place in February of last year, but COVID-19 restrictions forced the cancellations of the event. After waiting more than a year longer than expected, three MSS students made their way to Vernon to compete. Their full results are as follows:

Alexis Bates, a grade 8, won bronze in the team event. 

Andrew Denton, a grade 9 student, and Will Hubbard won bronze in doubles, with both also picking up a bronze for the team event. Denton and Hubbard earned silver and bronze in skills, respectively. 

Although the games were held in Vernon, BC Winter Games badminton players made their way to the Kelowna Badminton Club for their matches. Following their appearances, the Herald sat down with Bates and Denton to catch up on their experience. The Herald was unable to reach Hubbard prior to our deadline. 

Vince Kanigan, a Bench Elementary teacher and badminton coach, has had an immense impact on the local badminton scene. He coached and encouraged both Bates and Denton leading up to their Winter Games appearances, according to the two student athletes. 

“My teacher, Mr. Kanigan, introduced me to badminton specifically,” Bates told the Herald.

“I do a bunch of other sports at the high school. Mr. Kanigan knew the coach and encouraged me and some other kids to try out.”

Denton echoed the same sentiment, highlighting the dedication that went into his and fellow MSS athletes’ training for the event. 

“It was a lot of hard work, and I had a lot of specific shots I worked on,” added Denton, noting that none of it would have been possible without Kanigan’s support. 

Both students hailed the games as a positive experience which allowed them to compete in a sport they enjoy, while connecting with over 1300 participants to this year’s BC Winter Games. 

Competitors at the games represented eight geographic zones: Kootenays (Zone 1), Thompson-Okanagan (Zone 2), Fraser Valley (Zone 3), Fraser River (Zone 4), Vancouver-Coastal (Zone 5), Vancouver Island-Central Coast (Zone 6), North West (Zone 7) and Cariboo-North East (Zone 8). While the MSS students competed in Zone 2, that didn’t stop them from cheering on fellow athletes. 

“I enjoyed playing the games and being able to cheer on other kids,” added Bates.

“I also enjoyed being at the school afterwards and doing fun things there. There was a carnival for the athletes, and they gave us free cotton candy.”

In addition to the ‘sweet’ perks of attending the games, each of the three MSS students went home with a BC Winter Games medal in hand. Their performances put some of the the best that Merritt’s student athletes have to offer on the provincial stage, with each match putting the competition and dedication of MSS student athletes on display. 

Back from the games, all three athletes look forward to their upcoming school sports season. 

“It was overall a really good experience, and just a lot of fun,” commented Denton. “I think it [badminton] is something I’ll continue playing throughout high school, and try to do good in that, and maybe, hopefully, make provincials for badminton.”