Born in Thailand, with a Burmese background, Wah Gyi Win arrived in Australia in 2006. Now aged 18, Wah Gyi reflects on her experiences growing up in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and how Badminton helped her along the way.
Wah Gyi spoke about the challenges soon after arriving in Australia, “I moved schools 3 times when I first arrived. It was hard to make friends because I was moving so much. It was even harder because I also couldn’t speak English!” Moving on to high school and making new friends was a turning point for Wah Gyi, particularly as she had just started wearing her hijab and wasn’t sure how the other students would respond.
Badminton had never been of interest to Wah Gyi. Her Grandpa, who is also one of her greatest inspirations in life, loved Badminton. “My grandpa was very good at Badminton and wanted all us grandkids to play really badly!” She said, “But we weren’t really into it”. That all changed for Wah Gyi in Year 7, when she gave Badminton another chance. She started to love the game and made two close friends in the process, Leng and Shirley. She said, “I joined the Badminton team at school and made new friends because we had the same hobby.”
The three friends started to meet every Friday and watch Badminton videos on YouTube, giving feedback to each other and identifying weak spots they could improve on. Wah Gyi’s skills improved rapidly as the three friends challenged and encouraged each other to keep learning and playing better, “we play against each other all the time and know how the other plays.”
Badminton has given Wah Gyi great friendships, but it has also taught other valuable lessons. She said, “Badminton makes me feel fit and active, gives relief from stress and makes you feel good”. For 3 years, she has enjoyed coaching younger students at her school. She has also developed strategic skills on the court and learned how to communicate with people she would not have otherwise connected with.
Wah Gyi likes to get in the zone with Badminton. This zone is the same when she concentrates on her studies. The future focus for Wah Gyi is to get involved in school and club Badminton, but she is also happy to focus on her studies with year 12 approaching. Wah Gyi is up for the challenge and proud to honour her Grandpa’s legacy by loving the game of Badminton.
A special thank you to Chobani Australia for their support of Centre for Multicultural Youth / Sports Without Borders programs and for encouraging social inclusion of new and emerging communities through sport. Also, a thank you to Junior Melo and the team at South East Community Links.