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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane is hosting its first world sports event at the Podium, the junior badminton championship

Arthur Lee, of Team USA, smashes an overhead shot to beat Peru on Monday morning during the Badminton World Federation’s 2023 World Junior Championships at the Podium in Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Spokane kicked off its first world sports championship Sunday – the Badminton World Federation’s World Junior Championships.

It is the first time the event has been held in the United States and is expected to bring an economic impact to the area of $5 million.

“To bring it to Spokane and put the eyes on us for two weeks straight is a huge infusion of economic impact for Spokane,” said Cherie Gwinn, senior director of events at Spokane Sports. “We’re spending money in hotels, restaurants, merchants, retails for two weeks.”

The event, held at the Podium, will continue through Oct. 8, hosting 400 players from over 40 countries. Coordinators are expecting about 1,000 spectators.

Linda French, CEO of USA Badminton, said Spokane was chosen to host the event because of the quality of its facility.

“It’s a wonderful large facility for us where we can have nine competition courts and the practice courts then can be in the same building, which is really helpful to all the teams that they don’t have to travel to a different place for the practice courts,” she said.

Spokane’s Public Facilities District worked with USA Badminton and the Badminton World Federation to organize and plan the event.

“We’ve been working on this for about 15 months, so a pretty quick turnaround for hosting a world event, and plan and execute it,” Gwinn said.

French agreed.

“We had less time than we wanted because of the way COVID ended up working,” French said.

Last year, USA Badminton sent a group to the 2022 junior world championships in Santander, Spain, to see how the event was run and how Spokane could prepare. Hosting the USA Badminton Junior National Championships at the Podium in July served as a test run for the bigger event to come.

“It was very exciting on our point to land our first world event here in Spokane,” Gwinn said. “I think that’s kind of that pipe dream that you have out there is like, you know, one day we want to be on that world stage.”

“It really sets us apart as we start to grow sports here, and not just the traditional bat and ball sport, but to bring in a sport on the grassroots side of things that supports Spokane Badminton, shed light on a sport that isn’t traditionally maybe a mainstream event in the U.S.”

Players, aged 19 and under, could be seen at the Podium Monday, facing off against opponents from all over the world.

“This will be like the culmination of their junior careers, and then a lot of these players will go on to be in the Olympics and be Olympic Medalists in the future,” French said.

Nicole Krawczyk is 15 years old and a member of Team USA.

Krawczyk, from Palo Alto, California, has been playing badminton for seven years and practices about 25 hours a week. This is her first year at the Junior World Championships, and her first time visiting Spokane.

“I used the scooters to explore around, going to different shops.” she said “It’s really nice.”

Krawczyk says what she likes about badminton is the relationships it creates.

“I’ve been playing it for so long, so I feel like I really connect with the people and we can relate.”

But not everyone understands the sport, she said.

“When I, like, tell my friends about it, they’re kind of confused what it is,” she said. “It’s hard to explain to them.”

French wants this to change, and she hopes this event will bring the sport to more people.

“There’s not a huge badminton community here in Spokane,” French said. “We’re hoping a lot of people that aren’t possibly familiar with badminton will come out and watch, be pleasantly surprised and excited by how quick and competitive and talented the players are.”

“We hope everyone that hears about it will come out and watch it and give it a chance, because I think it’s a lot different than Americans perceive what it will be.”

Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.