Teenager Michaela Olsson, from Ocean View, has been selected to play for South Africa in next month’s Pan-African Under-19 tournament in Mauritius.
The 18-year-old girl has been playing badminton since she was ten years old. She now lives in Lavender Hill but grew up in Ocean View, which has an active badminton club. Olson said he often watches his older cousin play badminton at the Ocean View gym, which has three badminton courts.
“When I saw him play, it inspired me. I thought to myself. “This is what I want to do.”
He said he would also see his neighbor Francois Wessels carrying rackets and shuttlecocks and ask to borrow them to hit the street. Wessels is now his coach.
“The moment I picked up the racket and held it in my hands, I felt the thrill of the sport,” Olson said.
Olson said that although he also played cricket, “I didn’t feel the game like badminton.”
Wessels began taking him to the Ocean View gym and later to the John Tires gym in Kenilworth, where the Ocean View team also practices.
“There would be players who already had their SA colours. I would sit and watch them play their hearts out, diving for the shuttle and screaming with joy when they won.
“The other players went to other states and countries and I thought to myself, “I want to go there too.” So I trained hard and eventually got to their level,” Olson said.
He said he goes to the gym every day and practices badminton in Kenilworth for three hours every Saturday.
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Olson is the oldest of five children and lives with her aunt Tugida Stemmet in Lavender Hill since her mother passed away in 2019. His father died in 2014.
She said she initially struggled to find a balance between school and classes, but said her aunt helped her create a system that allowed enough time for both.
He also occasionally coaches young players at the badminton courts in Kenilworth. All her siblings play badminton and younger sister Michelle Adendorff won provincial colors for under-17 badminton. “My aunt always pushes us to do better in life and reminds us that there is a better life out there if we work hard.”
Stamet, who until three months ago worked as a caterer at the University of Cape Town for 17 years, said he was initially concerned it would be difficult to raise the money to send Olson to Mauritius. “But I believe the money will come and Michaela will go. He just has to believe in himself.”
The teenager still needs Rs 30,000 to cover travel and accommodation expenses. His uniform and badminton gear are provided by the sponsor. Defense Badminton Club in Kenilworth will be hosting a tournament on Saturday 26 November to help raise funds for Olson to travel to Mauritius.
Stamet said he and his family try to attend Olson’s game. When they can’t attend tournaments in another state, they watch Michaela play live on Facebook.
Wessels said Olson was enthusiastic from an early age.
“He always came to me and said: “It’s action time, we’ve got to go now,” and he’d grab the equipment and wait for me to be ready, Wessels said.
He said the children would often borrow rackets and shuttles from him and play badminton on the road when it wasn’t too windy. He said that if he sees that they have an interest, then he takes them to court.
Ocean View Badminton Club was founded in 2000 with the aim of getting children off the street and into sport. The club grew and he developed as a coach. “A lot of club kids started getting their Western State colors.”
Olson is the fourth Ocean View player to receive his South African colors for badminton, Wessels said. The first was Robert Abrahams in 2006.
Another of Olson’s coaches, Mike Noone, said his selection was the culmination of all the hard work he had done in South Africa.
“He has passed like a shining star.” DM:
Published for the first time GroundUp:.