Leona Lee - a badminton star in the making
PUBLISHED: 16:08 30 November 2016
Danny Loo Photography 2016
A year ago U13 England badminton sensation Leona Lee, then age 10, was training five times a week and during the weekends entering Badminton England tournaments across the country.
The badminton ace was in an incredible winning streak, having won 45 matches in singles and doubles from October to November from U11 to U15 tournaments and was hoping to be in selection for her first U13 England training camp.
But then she suffered a serious groin injury and was sidelined for six months. Before the injury the badminton ace, now 11, was undefeated in her age group in all competitions and was firmly sitting on top of the Badminton England national ranking.
During that time the Letchworth shuttler lost her no.1 position in England and had to turn down the opportunity to train with the U13 England camp. And with frequent visits to sport physios Leona’s future as a badminton player was in doubt.
The determined youngster went through a five-month rehabilitation programme, and following that was able to return to training to prepare for her first and the biggest tournament of the year in April the U11 English National Championship.
Father and coach Ming Lee said: “Leona was very nervous after being away for so long and seeing a majority of the players had improved so much in the time she was injured.
“After six months of not competing it was a massive pressure on her to play in her first tournament, never losing to a player in her age group and especially it was the U11 English National Championship.
“I was extremely proud of her reaching both the singles and doubles final and being crowned national champion in doubles.”
Leona trains at Milton Keynes Badminton Academy under the tutelage of head coach Ross Reid, who said: “Leona is one of the most hard working and gifted children I have coached in many years.
“If she keeps focusing on her development I feel she will be able to compete with Europe’s best girls in future years.”
Since then the England ace has gone from strength to strength as in mid-May out of 27 counties the U13 Hertfordshire County team made history being the first Herts team to win the Shires League final.
With outstanding performances in the U11 English National Championship, winning a few more tournaments and being crowned national team champion, Leona was invited for the U13 England training camp in Bath for five days of training.
A week later the rising star was selected for her first international tournament held in Sweden winning a silver medal after England lost in the final against Denmark after a 3-3 draw but lost in a tie-break.
A month later Leona travelled to Denmark with the U13 England team in the Junior Danish Cup. England came fifth.
With continued success in the U13/U15 tournaments Leona set herself a challenge and at the beginning of November she entered in U17/U19 Badminton England tournaments reaching the final in the U17 Essex Silver and claimed gold in the U19 Suffolk Bronze.
From April to November the badminton prodigy won 11 golds, nine silvers and a bronze.
Meanwhile the youngster has also reclaimed her U13 England top spot in the Badminton England national ranking, jumping 95 places to 115 in women’s singles, 69 places above her nearest U13 rival.
Speaking about her return from injury and being back on top, Leona told the Comet: “Since I came back from my injury, I’ve been training very hard to be back to no.1 and without my coaches I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. Being no.1 again and playing for England feels great.
“I’d like to thank all the coaches at Milton Keynes Badminton Academy, my head coach Ross Reid, doubles coaches Jo Davies and Jurgen Van Leeuwen and Sarah Walker, doubles and singles tactician, and especially my dad who has been my rock.”