Former national badminton champion turned coach after career-ending injury
When life throws you a curveball, just hit it.
She lunges forward, towards the net. Wielding her racquet, her arm slices through the air, smashing the shuttlecock with a satisfying whip.
However, rather than a standing ovation, all she’s met with is a disappointing scoreboard and an injury that would ultimately have her forgo the title of a national badminton player.
In a bout against Akane Yamaguchi during the 2017 All England Open, Liang XiaoYu had sustained a serious hip injury.
To the then 21-year-old, such an injury didn’t seem that big of a deal. As an athlete, suffering injuries was part and parcel of her career and it felt like just another hurdle she had to get over.
Unfortunately, things turned out otherwise.
“Due to the injury, I was unable to walk. It was a very difficult time for me,” recounts XiaoYu in Mandarin.
Even three years after the incident, she didn’t make a full recovery despite countless physiotherapy sessions. Seeing how the chances of her returning to the court were slim, her next best option was to look into retirement and start anew.
This news came as a hard pill to swallow. XiaoYu’s relationship with badminton goes back a long way, to years before she even came to Singapore.
While in Nanjing, China, XiaoYu spent most of her formative years in the badminton court with her father, who was a badminton coach. This early exposure to the sport led to her wanting to follow in her father’s footsteps and build a career in the same field.
In 2006, when XiaoYu was 10 years old, the Singapore Badminton School extended an invitation to her in hopes that she would train here and represent Singapore.
Upon accepting, she then devoted the rest of her youth to honing her skills before finally making it to her first Olympic games at Rio a decade later.
Thankfully, with the support from her family and friends, she was able to pull herself together again and take the incident in stride.
She adds: “My father encouraged me and told me: ‘Even if you cannot compete, you can become a coach or stay within the badminton industry.’”
This heartfelt advice gave her the assurance she needed and soon after, on Aug 26, 2020, XiaoYu announced on her Instagram page that she would be retiring.
In retrospect, not giving herself time to rest after getting injured remains her biggest regret to this day.
“I should have just stopped to rest but at that time, I insisted on enduring the pain to continue playing…If I could go back in time and choose again, I would choose to rest first and take care of my body before competing again.”
Thankfully, as they always say, when one door closes, another opens.
As someone who has played badminton all her life, giving up on it was out of the question. This led to her taking on her father’s suggestion of becoming a coach.
Now 26, XiaoYu runs her own badminton academy, XiaoYu Academy, where she teaches young children how to play the sport. A full-time coach, she spends every day conducting either group lessons or one-to-one sessions.
While she is incredibly busy, especially during the holidays as that’s when students are free to train, she remains grateful for the fact that she can share her love for badminton with young, aspiring players.
“If young kids like to play badminton, parents can send them for classes to try it out first. If they enjoy playing, parents can then engage a professional coach to nurture their skills.
“CCAs are also a good way to nurture these kids’ interests and serve as a good experience. Once they graduate, the kids can then decide for themselves if they wish to pursue badminton as a career,” suggests XiaoYu.