Badminton may not be in the bright lights, as are many other sports in Australia, but for Point Cook’s Eric Vuong it is the only sport that matters.
Vuong is about to head to the Gold Coast to compete in the Sudirman Cup, the world mixed team championships of badminton.
The tournament will give him the chance to put his name in the frame for a return there in 2018 for a home Commonwealth Games.
The 21-year-old will be part of the 14-strong Australian team and among 1500 competitors from around the world at the Sudirman Cup.
“I’m feeling pretty good – our preparation has been good and now it’s just getting ourselves ready,” he said. “We don’t play many games when we’re there, so you have to make each one count. We have a good chance to beat each country in our group, but it’s so close that we could lose them all.”
Vuong and his Australian teammates will take on Singapore, Austria and the US in the tournament, which will be the highest level at which he has played.
He started playing badminton in primary school before proceeding to Western Suburbs Badminton Association and quickly rising through the Victorian ranks.
“I wasn’t the best early, but they must have seen something in me,” Vuong said.
“I think a year after I started playing tournaments, I was representing Victoria so it wasn’t until then that I thought I was good.
“The early results weren’t the best – I was a bit of a late bloomer – but I slowly improved and the results started to come.”
His progress hasn’t been without hard work, with Vuong currently training six days a week, often involving multiple sessions in a day combining on-court play, gym workouts and cardio fitness.
Unlike other racquet sport practitioners, badminton players tend to specialise in either singles or doubles, with Vuong concentrating on his doubles play in recent years.
That’s allowed him to play men’s and mixed doubles events.
“I think more of my talent was in doubles and mixed rather than singles,” he said.
“It’s too hard to play all three events – just too hard to specialise – so for me it was an easy choice.”
After the Sudirman Cup, Vuong’s focus will turn to qualifying for the Commonwealth Games team, which would involve him returning to the same Gold Coast arena in 2018.
“I definitely want to make that Commonwealth Games team, but to do that I have to perform at this tournament and some other ones after that,” he said.
“I think I have a good chance to make the team, but it’s going to be a big 12 months for sure.”