Monday, April 8, 2013

Douglas College badminton player RuiLin Huang a star on and off the court

Royals badminton star RuiLin Huang wraps up her college career with 209 wins and one loss.      Photo: Douglas College Royals Athletics

By Eliot Dix James

She has a list of victories as long as a badminton racket. A five-time provincial and national women's singles champion, a US Open Champion in women’s doubles and a China Cup Champion in women's singles, to name a few.

And then there are the accolades. She was named, for the fifth year in a row, Pacific Western Athletic Association Player of the Year, Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All-Canadian and Douglas College Female Athlete of the Year. And there are more.

If you aren’t yet impressed by Royals badminton player RuiLin Huang, there is something else you should know. She accomplished all this while studying full time and learning English.

RuiLin hails from Hunan, China. She started playing badminton, which is hugely popular there, professionally, by the age of 10. It was when she neared retirement from the provincial team at 18 that RuiLin was recruited by Royals Head Coach Al Mawani. For her it was the perfect opportunity to keep playing the sport she loved and to study abroad.

When she moved to Burnaby, she had a bigger challenge than smashing a shuttle over the net: She didn’t speak English. “It was difficult. It was the biggest challenge for me,” says Huang. But she completed the ESL program at Douglas and went on to a business diploma.

“I find it gets easier and easier over the years, because I use English more,” she says. “And at the same time, my coach and teammates have helped me all the way.”

RuiLin says that the badminton program at Douglas also made her a better student. “Our coach is very good,” she says. “He always gets me to study for my classes first, and then think about training. That has helped me a lot.”

As proof, she’s just been accepted into the Bachelor of Business Administration program at Douglas. While finishing her studies she plans to stay on with her team as an assistant coach — this was her final year of eligibility to play.

While she’s sad to leave the court, she’s certainly ending on a high note. She helped her conference to a team championship — for the fifth year in a row — and then went on to reclaim the women’s singles title at the nationals in Ontario this year. She wraps up her college career with 209 wins and one loss overall.

RuiLin has also been an Alberta Open Champion in women's singles and doubles (where she defeated the No.1 ranked Canadian and Olympian Anna Rice), and a BC Open Champion and a two-time Seattle Open Champion in women's singles.

She has been recognized as a four-time CCAA Badminton Athlete of the Year and a CCAA Athlete of the Year across all sports.

While she credits her coach and the Royals program for much of her success on and off the court, she also recognizes her own hard work.

“Obviously, training is the first thing that makes you good,” she says.