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Saturday, Apr. 21, 2018
Dionne Memorial Tournament about more than just badminton
by Randy Pascal

Within the local badminton community, there exists countless friendships, the scale of which is perhaps no more evident than when the elder statesmen of the sport gather for the annual Dennis Dionne Memorial Masters Badminton Tournament.

“Badminton is a sport we grew up playing, but this tournament is especially close to our hearts,” noted Macdonald-Cartier coach Lianne Bewick. Bewick is the daughter of Lynn Michel, who showed the way for years with the badminton team at Collège Boréal, working closely with Dionne throughout that process.

“It’s a special time where we get to tell stories about him, share the experiences that we had with Dennis, and have fun playing badminton,” Bewick continued. This past Saturday, however, was extra special.

Not only had Bewick celebrated her 30th birthday a little while back, making her “formally” eligible for Masters play, but the 2016 Tournament also fell on her mother’s birthday as well, aligning the stars nicely on a wonderful day for all.

“For her to be able to play with her two kids is really special,” said Bewick, noting that younger brother Patrick was given a special exemption to participate. “We’re excited about it. There’s like an added intensity when you play with my mom. But it’s really fun to play with her.”

Like her mother, Bewick now balances her involvement as both an athlete, and coach, helping to head up a very successful crew of young Panthères at ESMC. “At my school, our team had 50 kids this year,” stated Bewick. “They don’t just play badminton, they play other sports, but that’s what great about badminton.”

No trouble convincing Gene Barkett what is great about the sport. Having first picked up a raquet, in his early teens, back in Kississing (Manitoba), the long-time resident of Onaping Falls/Levack continued playing upon his arrival to this area in 1953, and he has hardly slowed down since.

“I’ve been playing for 68 years now,” said Barkett Saturday at Cambrian College. “I enjoy the sport. It’s active, lots of motion, lots of strategy, and the social aspect is great.” There was a time, back in the 1950s and 1960s, when the entire region was a hotbed of badminton.

“We used to have tournaments all over the north – Timmins, Kapuskasing, Espanola, and Sudbury, obviously,” said Barkett. “We used to play at the old Inco Club.” Over time, the primary contact for a small club that still exists in Onaping Falls has seen change, both in the game itself, and certainly in his game, as well.

“Games used to be to 15, now they’re 21, and points are scored on every serve,” noted Barkett. “I can’t get to a lot of the shots to return them, so I rely on younger partners. The problem for me in these tournaments is that they don’t have my age category. I have to play with the young guys, the sixty year olds.”

Still, Barkett does not envision hanging up his raquet any time soon. “Win or lose, I enjoy it. Everyone likes to win, but I don’t get too upset if I don’t win - as long as I make the occasional good shot.”

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