When 22-year-old Olivia Meier steps onto the badminton court on Wednesday in the inaugural year of the event, she will be the first Canadian to ever participate in the sport at the Paralympics, as well as the sole representative from Manitoba at this year’s Games.
While this may seem like a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the second-youngest athlete competing in the women’s singles SL4 class in Tokyo, she has a wealth of experience in the sport to draw from.
“I just want to go out and play my best,” she said, to Nolan Kowal of the Sport Manitoba Podcast. “As long as I do that, I’ll feel good, comfortable and confident. I want to make everyone back at home proud watching me.”
The Winnipeg native has been playing badminton against able-bodied athletes since she was just eight years old to help develop the right side of her body after being left with a right-side weakness due to suffering a stroke as a baby.
She entered the para-badminton circuit at 17, answering an open call for potential Paralympic athletes in Moncton, N.B. in 2016.
In those five years, the number 11-ranked player in the world has racked up a number of accolades, winning gold in mixed doubles, silver in doubles and silver in singles at the 2018 Pan Am Championships, to go with gold in mixed doubles and silver in singles at the 2019 Parapan American Games.
While she won’t get a chance to compete in the doubles category with her usual partner, Pascal Lapointe of Montreal, as the no. 9-ranked pair did not meet the cut for qualification (only six teams qualify), she does have an abundance of intel on her competition in the individual event.
Of her 12 competitors at the Paralympics, Meier has faced eight of them over the past two years, and has even teamed up with her first opponent, number eight-ranked Chanida Srinavakul of Thailand, at the 2019 Hulic Daihatsu Japan Para-Badminton International.
While she has lost to her two Group C opponents Srinavakul and No. 3-ranked Norwegian Helle Sofie Sagoey, every game of each match has been closely contested, with an average score of 21-16 in defeat.