Aanya Vora
Aanya Vora is a badminton champion who bagged the DASSA Under-15 Badminton Championship Overall Winner Prize and also played nationally with success in the Annual 43rd Badminton UAE Open Tournament. Image Credit: Supplied

Aanya Vora is a badminton champion in her own right. She recently bagged the DASSA (the longest running school sports association in the UAE) Under-15 Badminton Championship Overall Winner Prize and also played nationally with success in the Annual 43rd Badminton UAE Open Tournament. Outside of her sporting accomplishments, the 13-year-old is an avid actor and recently played Ms. Honey in Matilda, the musical staged by The Hive.

‘‘My family has always been on the athletic side; especially my dad, who is an accomplished badminton player,’’ she says, explaining how she got interested in the game. ‘‘I have always been in the environment of the badminton courts, especially when I would go to watch tournaments my dad and his friends participated in.’’

Excerpts from an interview:

Who influenced you to choose the sport?

Badminton is a sport that gives me agility and an opportunity to build my focus and endurance alongside the commitment to learn and improve skills. One of my role models is women’s badminton champion, Saina Nehwal. Her story is like none other. Growing up in a small village in India, she did not allow her financial struggles and lack of accessibility to resources come in the way of her commitment to the sport. She is proof that if you follow your passion with perseverance you can achieve success.

What are some life lessons you learnt from the sport?

Being exposed to badminton has helped me build character with self-awareness, resilience, and a ‘never give up’ attitude. Being one of the quickest sports in the world, badminton requires players to have excellent reflexes. A well-developed understanding of the court and spatial navigation is imperative. The sport taught me to get the basics right, a lesson that works well in life where we need to understand and respect others first before jumping to conclusions. Another lesson it taught me is to recognise my strengths and weaknesses and work towards overcoming the latter.

What is your average day like?

Twice a week, in the mornings and evenings, I train for badminton as well as basketball with the school team. I also attend coaching sessions for badminton two hours a day, after school. I spend evenings with my family or completing homework. On weekends, I try to relax by either reading, cycling, hanging out with friends, or spending time on social media and getting ready for the week ahead.

How do you manage to juggle practice with academics?

Having a structured, planned-out routine, along with focus and a prioritization of academics is fundamental. I use the time before or after sports classes to finish my academic work. My school, Dubai International Academy, Emirates Hills, has been very reasonable with their deadlines which eases a lot of stress that comes with balancing school work with my other commitments.

Who are your mentors and what are the top 3 pieces of advice they gave you?

My badminton coach at Xtra Sports taught me the importance of being honest with myself, and recognising areas where I need to improve. Alongside, my dad and my coach always remind me of the following to ensure I succeed in sport:

  1. Safety first: respect yourself but also your opponent
  2. Play to your strengths, but leverage the weakness of the opponent
  3. Use the court to your advantage: fully utilise your reflexes and remain mentally agile.

Additionally, you should have a ‘‘must-win’’ attitude, but being able to learn from failure is an equally valuable quality.

What advice can you offer students who are keen to pursue this sport?

Focus on mastering the basic skills first; it’s hard to alter or develop new tactics later in the day. Give yourself enough time to learn, and keep at it until you are confident. The more you train, the better you become.

What is your dream career?

I would like to be in a profession that makes a difference to people--one that embodies empathy and care for both humans and the environment alike. This is a fundamental value to where I see myself in the future.