The bird man of Redeemer

Three-time OCAA bad­minton cham­pion Owen Kurvits

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - SCOTT RADLEY

Now and then he’ll be chat­ting with some­one and the con­ver­sa­tion moves to sports, at which point it might qui­etly come up that he’s won a num­ber of On­tario col­lege cham­pi­onships and one na­tional ti­tle. In bad­minton.

That’s when the other per­son’s eye­brow usu­ally cocks and the in­evitable ques­tion spills out.

“Bad­minton?” they al­most al­ways ask. “At a high level?”

Yes, bad­minton. Con­trary to the be­lief of some, the game isn’t just for fam­ily pic­nics and slow weeks in gym class, even if those are the only places you might per­son­ally ever see it. At the elite lev­els, it’s a mix of fi­nesse and power with heavy doses of hand-eye co-or­di­na­tion, re­flexes and en­durance mixed in. En­ter Owen Kurvits. The fourth-year Redeemer Univer­sity Col­lege stu­dent claimed his third pro­vin­cial col­lege ti­tle on the week­end. It bumped his record to 32-2 this sea­son and helped ex­plain why he was named On­tario Col­leges Ath­let­ics As­so­ci­a­tion player of the year for the third­straight time, the only male ath­lete in any sport to earn that hon­our.

Next month, he heads to his fourth-con­sec­u­tive na­tional cham­pi­onship where he’s al­ready won a gold and a sil­ver medal.

It’s a re­mark­able re­sume. Yet, even as you’re ap­pre­ci­at­ing the achieve­ment, you’re still mut­ter­ing to your­self, bad­minton? How does one end up in bad­minton in­stead of hockey or bas­ket­ball or soc­cer or, heck, any­thing else? Fair ques­tion. Here’s the story. The 23-year-old was in­volved in all kinds of sports as a boy in Marathon, a town of 3,500 near Thun­der Bay. As were his two older broth­ers. Then one day dad put a rac­quet in their hands.

“I’m not sure why he told us to play bad­minton over all the other sports,” Kurvits says.

But he did. And they ran with it. Soon the three were hit­ting the birdie — shut­tle­cock, for the purists — around the base­ment and the back­yard. Need­ing to keep up with his broth­ers, Owen soon be­came pretty good. Then joined a club team and got even bet­ter.

By the time the fam­ily moved to Hamil­ton five years ago, he was a bud­ding star.

He lost in the On­tario high school fi­nals in Grade 12, but dealt with it know­ing he’d be con­tin­u­ing his ca­reer at Redeemer.

He knew be­cause the rea­son the fam­ily had moved south was for dad to take the job as coach of the col­lege’s team. As a re­sult, Kurvits had been prac­tis­ing with Redeemer’s team through­out that last year of high school and more than hold­ing his own. So the chance of be­ing cut was … “That was un­likely,” he laughs. His stock spiked af­ter he won the pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship in his first year. Then it went up even more when he fol­lowed that up with a pro­vin­cial and Cana­dian ti­tle in his sec­ond year. He then com­pleted the hat-trick this week­end.

Now he’s hop­ing to grab one more na­tional ti­tle be­fore step­ping aside. Kurvits is get­ting mar­ried this sum­mer — his fi­ancé also played bad­minton at Redeemer — at which point he’s plan­ning on get­ting a job and get­ting on with life. He’ll coach and serve as some­thing as an evan­ge­list for the un­der-the-radar sport. But go­ing overseas to take a crack at carv­ing out a pro ca­reer? No.

“This will be it for me,” he says. “I’m not look­ing to play su­per com­pet­i­tively af­ter col­lege.”

What he wants to do is find a few fu­ture Owen Kurvit­ses out there. Ath­letic kids in the Hamil­ton area who are will­ing to pick up a rac­quet and give the sport a try. Even if a few folks around them will cock their eye­brow and look thor­oughly puz­zled when they ex­plain what they’re do­ing.

GE­OR­GIAN COL­LEGE ATH­LETIC DEPART­MENT

Redeemer Col­lege’s Owen Kurvits cel­e­brates his third On­tario col­lege bad­minton cham­pi­onship last week­end.

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