Humber Hawks second-year badminton player Nyl Yakura struck gold this month, winning his first-ever men’s doubles national title at the 2017 Yonex Canadian National Championships in Saskatoon.
Nyl sat down with Et Cetera to discuss his recent win and his journey with Humber Athletics and badminton.
How does it feel to win your first national championship?
It’s amazing, definitely pretty different from what I’m used to. I used to win a lot in junior competition, and now that I’m in senior competition and won big for the first time, it’s super exciting.
Could you walk us through the final match?
Before the game I was a little anxious, not nervous, but anxious to play. We were the underdogs, I tried to go through my normal warm-ups and when it got to the point where the game started, my nerves started to kick in a little more. During the game my focus was different, I had no distractions and we were able to get the win.
How did you get your start in badminton?
The first time I ever played I was probably three years old. That was just having fun with my parents, but I didn’t start training until I was 11. I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was 13.
What is the difference between OCAA competition and the national level?
It’s completely different. I’ve played the Canadian college circuit and there’s strong competition with some people coming from overseas who are quite good. When you go to nationals, it’s just a whole other level and it’s about taking your experiences from the past like OCAA competition and being able to perform to the best of your ability and being able to contain your nerves.
How do you manage balancing school and athletics?
It’s been pretty crazy. Canadian badminton players don’t get a lot of funding, so we have to pay for our own travel, so really I’m balancing; work, school and badminton. It’s been a pretty busy year, but it’s all about managing your time.
What has been your favourite part of being a Humber Hawk?
I think it’s really nice to have a support group, not just your fellow players having your back, but the whole athletic staff has been really supportive. It’s great having a lot of people behind you in such an individual sport.
What advice would you have for a younger athlete?
Probably just to make sure you put everything you’ve got into each and every practice. Because you can’t afford to waste time when you have goals in mind. Try your very hardest to achieve your goals, because time flies by.
What goals do you have for the future?
Ultimately my major goal in the end is to qualify for the Olympic team. I came close for the Rio Olympics but came short and that was tough, but that would be really nice to go to 2020 in Toyko because I have family there. I’d be on cloud nine if I made it, not a lot of people get to do it especially in the sport of badminton.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity