What does it cost to be an Olympic badminton star? Probably a lot more than you might think. You may have played badminton at a family picnic or summer camp. The game involves little more than a couple of rackets, a net and a shuttlecock - the cone shaped thing with a rubber base and a feathered skirt that players bat back and forth over the net. That's not a lot to get started, and the shuttlecock doesn't even have to bounce, so players don't necessarily need a special court on which to play.
The real cost of the sport comes in the form of travel. Twenty-year-old Rena Wang will be traveling to London to represent the United States in London at this summer's Olympic Games. She's used to traveling, though. She's done a lot of it in the past three years. In fact, according to USA Badminton, she has traveled to at least 25 tournaments in the past twelve months in an attempt to build the points necessary to qualify for a spot on the Olympic team.
Unlike many other sports, where players try out for an Olympic team in scheduled trials, the road to an invitation to play badminton in the Olympics is based on your international ranking. To improve in rank, you must play a lot of badminton over the course of the calendar year prior to the selections. Wang's tournament play took her all over the world, including tournaments in Asia and South America.
Some have wondered why a somewhat obscure sport like badminton has been kept in the Olympics while popular sports like baseball and softball were left out. It may have something to do with the fact that badminton truly is an international sport and one that has roots going all the way back to ancient Greece. Whatever the reason, Wang is ready to show the world how the United States plays this sport and hopefully bring home a medal in the process.
Wang knows that her sport is not as widely supported as many others in the United States. She has dedicated herself tirelessly to the pursuit of this Olympic dream with her parents footing most of the bill. Financial support and sponsorship are perhaps harder to come by when you aren't playing in a bikini on the beach.
More from Tavia:
Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a lifelong fan of the Olympic Games with a pair of unused tickets to the 1996 Olympics and old photos of commemorative childhood haircuts to prove it.