She is the schoolgirl player turned national University champion. Li Lian Yang, 24, is making waves across badminton courts after winning a string of titles. Here the University of Nottingham undergraduate talks us through a typical day and shares her top five training tips.
- Start early
I started playing badminton when I was 9-years-old. I used to play with my family during the weekends but then my interest grew. I trained under former world champion, Han Jian. He saw talent in me and he put lots of effort to make me a better player. I started participating local junior tournaments when I was 12 and the feeling of winning made me want to go further. I was chosen to join the national junior squad at the age of 13 and joined the national elite squad when I was 17.
2. Train, eat, sleep repeat
On a typical day with morning training, my alarm goes off at 6.00am. I’ll usually eat some biscuits or bread for breakfast and then training starts at 6.45am. This goes on to 9am and then I’ll head to class (Li Lian is in the first year of a maths and economics degree). I go to the library during class breaks either to study or to meet up with my friends. I’ll have sandwiches for lunch if I’ve got a full day lecture. Then I will go home and prepare dinner before studying or surfing the net.
I train four times a week. This involves court training every weekday except for Wednesday and strength and conditioning training once a week. I’ll have a light training with my teammates on weekends whenever there’s an important match coming up. Training in Nottingham is the best thing ever. All the players are committed and the team spirit is good. We motivate each other and I like that very much.
3. Work on your mental game
Ahead of a game I will often watch my opponent’s matches on the internet (if available) to get some ideas on my opponent’s style of play. Badminton is a game that involves both body and mind. If you really want to play well, you’ll have to think more while playing and find your opponent’s weakness as quick as possible. You get different opponents all the time. So you can’t stick to one strategy/style of play. You have to train to be able to play any types of game. If you love the sport then nothing can stop you doing it.
4. Fuel your body
I like all food (and eating) but I try not to eat food that is high in fat if there’s a tournament around the corner. I usually try and eat more food that’s high in protein.
5. Travel broadens the mind
I grew up in Malaysia and was part of the Malaysian national squad before taking a sports scholarship with The University of Nottingham. I’m part of an elite badminton programme and play under Martyn Lewis at the David Ross Sports Village. It was quite a change but good to be able to experience different cultures and weather. It is as hot as 30 degree Celsius all year long in Malaysia which is tough when playing sport. Luckily my mum still gets to watch my matches on tv if they are aired!