Calvin Zhou smashes national rankings


Photo by Elizabeth Cheng

Calvin Zhou looks up and prepares to strike a birdie.

Timothy Kim, Copy Editor

As Lynbrook’s varsity badminton teams prepare for another successful season, players are feeling more confident than ever before, with many starting to see the rewards of their practice. As of March 30, the varsity co-ed team has an overall standing of 5-1, and many players on the team, such as freshman Calvin Zhou, are vigorously putting their skills to the test as they participate in intense competitions and rise up to national ranks.

Zhou has been playing badminton for nearly nine years. He is currently a player for Lynbrook’s boys varsity badminton team and has also played outside of school for Bintang Badminton and the United Badminton Club. Having honed his skills over years of practice, Zhou has entered several competitions throughout his career, including multiple Yonex Junior National tournaments and several regional and out-of-state tournaments as far away as North Carolina. He even qualified for Pan American Badminton games and reached a national ranking of No. 49 for boys singles under 17 years of age. 

Zhou was first exposed to badminton at the age of 6 through his grandfather. He recalls playing casually at first, going to parks to set up nets and playing for a few hours at a time. 

“I enjoyed badminton at first because it was relatively less strength-based, which was important for me, especially as a kid,” Zhou said. “Playing badminton was immediately really interesting for me because it was fast-paced and active.” 

Zhou’s interest in badminton eventually led him to join Campbell’s Bintang Badminton Academy junior team when he was 10 years old, when he first began to compete in tournaments. It was only about a year later, though, that Zhou joined a more competitive team in the academy and truly began his career as a badminton player. 

“At that point I was really starting to get serious about playing,” Zhou said. “There were a lot of great coaches I had that helped me out, and I was surrounded by a lot of high-tier players.” 

Although Zhou went on to compete in many intense tournaments after gaining solid footing in the beginning of his badminton career, his experiences of success were not entirely free of challenges — injuries in particular were quite challenging to deal with. 

“I remember back in 2018, I got injured while training right before Junior Nationals,” Zhou said. “At that time it was really difficult for me to recover, and I was pretty bummed out because I was hoping for a solid year”. 

Despite occasional struggles with injury, Zhou recalls that he has always been able to recover and get back into motion. 

His resilience has allowed him to reach great heights as a player, starting off with several smaller regional tournaments before moving on to out-of-state ones. Zhou particularly recalls playing at Nationals with United Badminton Club in early 2021, where he played exceptionally well, placing third in singles and second in doubles. In July of 2021, Zhou reached the peak of his playing ability when he qualified for Junior Pan America, traveling all the way to Acapulco, Mexico to compete against top international players. He vividly remembers the “nail biting” intensity of his first game, which was against the second best player from Peru in his age group. Zhou ended the game winning 30-29 after a sudden death, in which the first player that scores past 29 points is automatically the winner. Zhou claims that every game following that match was surprisingly easier, as he ended up winning first in boys doubles and third in singles. 

From his years of experience in teams and playing tournaments, Zhou has gathered several skills pertaining to good technique rather than relying on pure force. 

“After recovering from one of my injuries, I remember visiting a badminton club in Fremont, where I met several coaches that really helped me focus more on technique,” Zhou said. “I improved greatly in using my fingers and wrist, rather than just brute force or relying on footwork only. My accuracy had improved significantly which allowed me to compete better.”

Although Zhou’s badminton skills have come a long way since the beginning of his career, he still has great aspirations to continue learning and playing, planning to continue playing for Lynbrook and contribute to the team, and maintain his playing out on the road. 

“For now, I definitely hope to continue playing badminton competitively,” Zhou said. “I think that more people should familiarize themselves with the sport and treat it with more respect as a competitive sport. Badminton is definitely really difficult to play, and it takes a lot of skill and mental strength to persevere.”