SAN LUIS, PERU — Some of you out there may think Badminton is a backyard sport reserved for family outings when you can’t find a volleyball. For shame!
Badminton is a fast paced sport with a rising U.S. athlete, Miles Krajewski, age 14. Krajewski’s play is sensational, even prodigy-like. Classified as a SS6, otherwise known as a “little person” (or LP for short), Krajewski has big dreams of placing gold over his shoulders. Most importantly, he was looking for gold vs. Brazil’s singular named Tavares, age 20, on Sunday, September 1st, the last day of competition for all sports in the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games. This would also be Krajewski’s first try at gold here in Lima. Could he make it one for one?
So far, Krajewski went undefeated in play, wrecking the competition. Namely, besting Bryan Abarca of Chile and Wyatt Lightfoot of Canada (twice, mind you) to get here in this gold medal match-up. Tavares had a similar route, but with different athletes in his warpath. In the round robin matches, Tavares beat Angel Ielpo of Argentina and then he (also twice) decimated host nation Peru’s Hector Salva.
Badminton haters be damned, because on paper it was a match for the ages. The winner of this match needs the ranking points to help them qualify for Tokyo. While it’s still not definite that either Tavares or Krajewski will get there, this will definitely help their individual causes.
After the first match of the morning’s early start, it was time for “The Miles Show” and there was a full crowd on hand to watch the birdie fly. Miles would win the coin toss, choosing the black side of the coin and the far end of the court. Brazil would serve first.
Tavares jumped out to a first set lead of 3-0 lead, before Krajewski masterfully placed the shuttlecock at the back of the court right before the line, earning his first point of the match. Unfortunately for the United States’ badminton player, he would soon trail 6-2. Things would stay in the direction of a Brazilian victory of the first set, before Miles could wrangle in the point differential to 7-11.
After a brief break in the action, Krajewski ramped up the effort with a number of great dives. His body would fly in every which way possible, but the deficit didn’t break. Krajewski pushed game point to 20-18, but Tavares would finish with 21-18 after a fault on a long volley between the pair of badminton studs.
In the second set, Krajewski would start with the shuttlecock, going up 2-1 immediately. On the following serve Tavares spiked the shuttlecock at Miles Krajewski’s feet, tying the match. Krajewski would fall behind on the next three shots, making it 7-4. That’s when Krajewski became visually rattled. He would become a huddled self at 10-4. When the score went to 11-4, the sides switched and Miles was ready for a pep talk from the coaches. He needed to get back into this one or else the match would be over soon.
At one point, Krajewski would go on a five-to-one run making the score 13-14 in the second game, He was on the comeback trail. A stellar dive from Krajewski and he saved the point to tie at 14 points a piece. After a short delay, for Tavares to clean his glasses, Krajewski took another lead 15-14, then 16-14, then 17-14, and then 18-14. Tavares was coming undone before our very eyes. Krajewski pumped his fist as he had Tavares right where he wanted him. Miles would eventually do it. The United States would live on for a third set. This was the first game Tavares had dropped in Lima 2019’s tournament.
“I feel my career is gonna go up if I keep playing the way I did” said Krajewski, the young Badminton Jedi Master.
In the third game, the Brazilian and the member of Team USA would keep things close, 3-3 after 6 volleys. Miles would fall behind 4-3 as he missed a running backhand attempt and it would become 4-3. The score deepened for the United States as he dove not once but twice on the next volley, making the first connection but sliding and missing the second. The score would eventually widen to 8-3, Tavares.
Krajewski would pull within two, making the score 10-8, but not to be outdone, was Tavares who right before the break went up one more making the score 11-8, and before you knew it, the comeback was over, Tavares going up 13-8.
Krajewski was ducking and dodging and flying over the court horizontally to come back within two with the score 12-14. A quick crossover of the serve and it was now 16-12 once again.
Time was running out on the United States’ hopes as he missed a diving shot, making the score 18-13, in favor of Brazil. Krajewski would try to rally, but t was all for naught. Krajewski, in tremendous effort, would drop the game and win the silver medal.
“I’m tired.” was the very short answer to how Krajewski felt after the match, keeping it simple.
Immediately after the match, in support of the United States’ performance today, Tavares put his arm on Krajewski to symbolize how great of a game he played.
The future is bright for the youngest of Team USA’s Parapan American Games medalists in the sport of Badminton.
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