Pictured: Anona Pak, New Zealand. Photo credit: Badminton Photo
After taking home silver in last year’s Sydney International and this year’s VICTOR Oceania Women’s Team Championships in Ballarat, New Zealand’s Anona Pak was ready to embark on an eight-week tournament stint around Europe as she pursued Olympic qualification with mixed doubles partner, Oliver Leydon-Davis.
As the pair departed for Europe in February, their quest was quickly brought to a halt following the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. One month later, both players were back home in New Zealand quarantining as their planned tournaments were postponed or suspended and their home country went into lockdown.
While badminton and fitness was always on the agenda for Pak during lockdown, she also seized the rare opportunity to dust off her lab coat and study the very virus that forced the postponement of their Olympic campaign.
“I graduated with a degree in medical lab science and have experience working in a genetics lab. Therefore, I was interested in the makeup of the virus, so I read plenty of journals and articles. I’m looking forward to the day a cure or vaccine is found”, says Anona.
The extra-curricular hobbies did not end there either. Pak’s attempted trip to the YONEX German Open 2020 (where she remained in the days leading up to the postponement) inspired her to learn German, making it the sixth language in her vocabulary.
“After travelling to Vienna to prepare for the German Open, it got my curiosity stirring to learn German. I can already speak and write Chinese, Japanese, Korean and French at an intermediate level, so I thought, why not! “
“When I arrived back in New Zealand, I started virtual classes on YouTube and downloaded worksheets to learn the language”, says Anona.
As a professional athlete, Pak was used to maintaining focus and motivation to pursue ambitions during tough times, complimented by her desire to constantly remain productive.
She even featured in New Zealand’s Sky Sport Next channel, demonstrating a footwork drills session to encourage others to stay active during their lockdowns.
Thankfully, Anona was able to develop her new skillsets in good time as New Zealand became one of the few countries in the world to allow some non-contact sports to resume, which welcomed some of New Zealand’s national squad players back on court last week.