Pursuit: Chasing the birdie with Gillian Obradovich

Lockerby Composite player impressed in her first high school championship tournament in Ontario

In most of Canada, including Northern Ontario, badminton will not rank as the most popular sport among youth. Gillian Obradovich gets along well with it.

After an impressive performance in her first appearance at the OFSAA Championships, the 17-year-old Lockerby Composite veteran calls the sport her own, although she’s more than willing to share it with others.

“I’ve made so many friends with badminton over the years,” Obradovich said. “It’s such an odd group of people that you don’t expect to get together and get along, but really, they’re some of my favorite people to know through badminton.”

The youngest of two athletic children, she took up dancing at a young age and developed a strong love for hiking, biking, skiing and most things outdoors. But badminton is where it’s at.

Born in Newmarket and originally raised in Uxbridge with a brief stop in Timmins, the Obradovich family have made their home in Sudbury since 2016.

“I was actually quite an artistic kid when I was young,” she said. “My brother (Matt) was always involved in baseball and other sports. As I got older, I did a lot more sport.”

It was in Timmins, perhaps in the 5th grade, that she was first introduced to the sport of racquets by her brother who played at school, and they both eventually found their way into the club scene. In recent years she has been a mainstay at Sudbury Junior Badminton Club and has built a fitness base that has been of particular help along the way.

“Of all the sports I’ve played, it’s one of the most cardio-intensive, especially when you’re playing at a high level,” Obradovich said. “You are in constant motion for a long time without many breaks. It is much work.”

It’s no wonder the talkative teenager has had a few cross-country successes since her days at MacLeod Public School.

“I think I’m a pretty good long-distance runner, but I quit; it wasn’t for me,” she said. “But I plan to do it again next year.”

Their participation in the 2020 Ontario Winter Games, held just before the arrival of COVID-19, was not followed by some tournament action at the club’s badminton circuit until months later, after restrictions were eased. Obradovich headed to her first high school playdowns in Ontario, not knowing what to expect.

“It was actually very interesting,” she said, after winning her first two games to progress through to the quarterfinals of the women’s singles draw and a top-eight provincial result. “I’m used to competing in Northern Ontario, with a lot of the players here who are athletic kids who play a number of different sports.”

“It’s a lot more concentrated in the south, so I expected it to feel like a provincial tournament (Badminton Ontario). There was actually a big mix of really, really good players – and that’s all they do (play badminton) – and also some very athletic kids who were very good.”

The contrasting styles of play caused Obradovich to constantly reconsider her plan of action.

“Every single game I played was completely different from the next,” she said. “I played a very close game with a player who was physically much stronger than me. I had to work around that. My strategy might outweigh them a bit, but it was definitely a tough game.”

Consecutive losses would derail their bid for an OFSAA medal, although it clearly set the wheels in motion for the next phase of their development.

“One thing I’ve noticed about the games I’ve lost is that those players have been so much better at starting where I’m on the pitch,” Obradovich said.

“It comes with a good sense of predicting where the bird will land, and I’m not quite there yet.”

With one year of high school left, Obradovich is more than a little worried about becoming a springboard from a year that contained far more questions than answers in September.

“I’ve actually surprised myself a lot this year, especially with Covid,” she said. “I haven’t played in two years. I was really upset in the fall because I wasn’t too confident about the year that was going on. I think it turned out quite well.”

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter based in Greater Sudbury. Tracking is made possible through our Community Leaders Program.

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