King of Courts: Local badminton ace was Zambia Olympian
Here in the Midwest, or at least in Topeka, nearly everyone was introduced to a game during their physical education classes at school that involved a net positioned on a court — higher than a tennis net and lower than a volleyball net.
The game — badminton — was played with a skinny-necked racquet and a ball called a shuttlecock, shuttle, birdie or bird. The object was to keep the shuttle aloft on your side of the court and try to make it hit the floor on your opponent’s side of the court.
What a lot of people don’t realize is badminton is widely popular in other countries and is an Olympic sport.
Topeka resident Stanley Phiri was introduced to the game at a young age in Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa.
“I’ve been playing badminton since I was 8,” he said.
Phiri, who was born in Zambia in 1977, said the game of badminton is treated in his homeland similarly to how Little League baseball is regarded in the United States.
“The first time I tried it, I fell in love with the game,” he said. “Before I moved to the United States in 2001, I was playing on the professional level.”
Phiri played for the Zambian national badminton team and competed in the Olympics about 15 years ago. The game has taken him to such places as Denmark, England, India and Malaysia.
In 2004, Phiri moved to Topeka to further his education and started playing badminton with the Topeka Badminton Club.
He has been unstoppable at the Sunflower State Games, the largest amateur multisport festival in Kansas, which is conducted annually over three weekends in July.
“I’ve been winning since 2004,” Phiri said. “I play for fun.”
Phiri, who works at a retirement home and a gas station, said badminton is an easy sport to learn and encouraged people to give the game a try.
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