Ashley Woods has two more busy days ahead of her as she looks to add another medal to Manitoba's total.
The Stonewall product is competing in both female singles and doubles and is one of just five women on the Team Manitoba badminton team for the Canada Winter Games. Woods says she was thrilled when she found out she was going to represent her province in Prince Edward Island.
"I was pretty star-struck. I didn't believe it at first," Woods continues. "Somebody on my team, who had been to the Canada Winter Games before, asked me how it made me feel. I think I was still in shock, and I said, 'Oh, yeah. It's no big deal.' But inside, I was very, very surprised. I don't think I was super favoured, in terms of that tryout. I just played hard, and I played really well. I'm happy to be here."
Woods explains the atmosphere is unlike anything she's ever experienced.
"There's so much team spirit from every single team. There's a lot of pin trading going on, which I've been a big part of. I want to get a pin from every single province," says Woods. "There's not a lot of downtime but how often do you get to come to PEI and participate in the sports that you love? So, I'm loving being up at like 7:30 in the morning and not going to bed like 12 at night. My sleep schedule is going to pay for it but it's really fun being here."
Woods notes all the athletes wear a pin of their own province's flag. She adds, when interacting with competitors from other provinces, they'd trade pins as a form of memorabilia.
The 19-year-old is teaming with 22-year-old Duyen Nguyen in the doubles event. Woods played her first games in doubles and singles yesterday and outlines where her head was at beforehand.
"I was kind of worried about the facility because, obviously, I don't train in PEI, I train in Manitoba. I played Ontario first, who is known for being really good at badminton, and especially considering I was playing a seeded player, it made me kind of nervous. But I was just planning on playing hard and seeing it through until the end."
In her first singles match, Woods fell 2-0 to Sophia Nong of Ontario. In doubles, she fared much better, dropping the contest 2-1 but winning the opening game 21-13 before losing in two close games 21-15 and 21-12.
Woods says she's been playing badminton for just four years but adds she's come a long way in that time frame.
"(It took) a lot of training. I won my very first game in my first tournament, and I was like, 'I love the feeling of this.' I really liked recreating that playing in Manitoba, and then I was like, 'What if I took it to the next level?' I found out that some friends of mine were going out to B.C. for a tournament, and I thought, 'Why don't I go along with them? If I lose the tournament, at least I'll get good food.' Eventually, I got an email from my coach saying I had enough ranking points to try out for the Canada Winter Games. Wouldn't you know it, I was part of the team after that."
The Stonewall native adds the camaraderie surrounding badminton really helped her throughout high school and the pandemic.
"The community around badminton has become really important to me. I've made a lot of friends through the sport and I think that's a lot of the reason why I play to this day."
With two more days of competition left, Woods outlines what she's striving for at the Canada Winter Games.
"For singles, I just want to play as hard as I can and maybe do a couple of dives for the fans," Woods shares. "I just want to make sure I'm checking into the game before I start to play and make sure that I'm actually focused. This isn't just a fun tournament, this means something. For doubles, I want to make sure I hype up my partner enough and she hypes me up enough. From what we've played so far, I think that will be the case. I just want to play some good games."
Woods will return to the court today in search of her first victory.