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This article was published 26/1/2016 (1656 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Since the late 1960s Pal Chawla has been scoring points for Manitoba’s badminton community.
For his commitment to the sport, Chawla, 73, will be inducted to the Badminton Canada Hall of Fame on Feb. 6 at the Winnipeg Winter Club, during the 2016 YONEX Canadian Badminton Championships.
"It’s quite thrilling for me and my family," Chawla told The Sou’wester.
"I was taken aback, and surprised and certainly felt honoured and excited about it," Chawla said about the news.
He is this year’s lone inductee into the hall of fame.
"It’s a very rare thing, and I did work hard for 40 years, but I wasn’t really expecting that something would come up."
Chawla first came to Winnipeg from India in 1967 to coach badminton at the Wildewood Club in Fort Garry and has been instrumental to the development of the sport in the province since.
At the onset of his employment with the club, there were just 50 badminton players active. Three years later the club had a base of 400 players, Chawla said.
In 1971, Chawla joined the Winnipeg Winter Club as a coach. Over his decades of service he has led numerous players to many successful provincial and national competitions. Two of his prodigies went on to compete at the Olympic level as well.
Though he was also a top-ranked Canadian player and undefeated provincially until the late 1980s, Chawla’s time spent at the Winter Club as badminton pro focused primarily on coaching.
"It was really, really satisfying the way the kids worked hard and we were able to get some really excellent results," he said.
The Waverley Heights resident’s relationship with the Winter Club (200 River Ave.) is an intimate one.
"(That’s where) all my major student accomplishments, or my own personal, badminton education certification took place," Chawla said.
The club was where Chawla became a chartered professional coach in 1996, was recognized by Coaching Manitoba for 30 years of service, and where he spent dozens of hours on the club’s badminton courts working with young athletes and coaches.
"It was a huge sacrifice for my family. Their co-operation was so necessary for me to be able to do that," Chawla said. "They supported me… that made it possible for me to spend those hours and dedicate myself the way I wanted because to me either you do your best or you don’t do it. I did it from my heart."
Chawla’s love of badminton developed as a teen growing up in Amritsar, Punjab, India. His success story is also not unlike the many he fostered in Winnipeg. Chawla joined a neighbourhood badminton club at 15 and within three months had won the under 16 provincial tournament.
"I just went there and joined and played, and it was the greatest thing," he said.
His uncle and father also influenced his pursuit of badminton. Both were elite athletes and his dad was selected by India for the Olympic team, though he passed on the offer to take a job.
"Sports always had that influence on the family. And badminton was somehow jelling quickly, and came along — it was just something natural that happened," he said.
His profile as a singles badminton player quickly grew and he was invited to a major event in Calcutta.
"I was in all three finals, hoping to win triple crown but I ended up with heat stroke and that heatstroke put me in bed for six months," Chawla said. "That caused a lot of let down because my goals and aims… because the guy I used to comfortably beat, won the Asian championship."
Though that stroke of bad luck ended his professional singles career, Chawla reigned in the doubles circuit in Asia before coming to Winnipeg.
Despite retiring in 2011, Chawla is still active and accessible in the badminton community in Manitoba, and always willing to offer a few words of advice.
"It’s still in my bones and still very much a part of me," Chawla said. "My love for the game hasn’t changed."
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
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