Senior Allison Lee Trains For Olympics

Thousands of athletes from different countries congregate in the Summer Olympics, an event that occurs every four years. The Olympic Games are the fabled pinnacle of athletics that most cannot even dream of reaching. However, for badminton player senior Allison Lee, competing in the Olympics could very well become a reality. As the date inches closer and closer to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, Lee continues to participate in tournament after tournament in hopes of being a part of one of the eight women’s doubles teams selected.

Like many athletes, Lee’s love for the sport came from her badminton-involved upbringing. Ben Lee, Lee’s father, played men’s doubles in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. “Even though I started training competitively at the age of eight, badminton has been a part of my whole life because my parents met through the sport and my dad is a former Olympian,” she said. Badminton has always played a big role in Lee’s life, but competing in the Olympics was not a main goal of hers until recently. “I’ve always had the Olympics in mind, but it wasn’t until the beginning of high school when I started to take it very seriously,” Lee said. “I had to change my mindset to become more committed and think more globally from a tournament perspective.”

To help her develop into an Olympic-caliber player, Lee plays for the Synergy Badminton Academy, a club founded by her parents. She puts in extensive hours of training while trying to balance high school life with her commitment to the sport. Lee plays both women’s doubles and mixed doubles; however, she is currently more focused on women’s doubles as that is the event she hopes to compete in for the Olympics. During her practices, Lee focuses on skills that will help her become a better doubles player. “As a doubles player, you work on quick movements and specific doubles style shots to gain the offensive advantage in each rally,” she said. “We do at least 30 minutes to an hour of physical training, and when we do physical conditioning we focus on full body workouts because badminton is a sport that requires a bunch of different physical demands.”

Despite putting in a great deal of practice time every week, Lee noted that she still does not practice as much as other players around the world who are also hoping to make the Olympics. “A lot of players from other countries compete on a professional level,” she said. “They dedicate themselves to badminton full-time with training and competing. These players focus solely on badminton without having to worry about pursuing an education at the same time.”

Lee, on the other hand, has to manage her responsibilities as both a competitive athlete and student. “In the beginning, it was definitely a struggle,” Lee said. “I definitely had some issues with balancing the two. But I found that communicating with my teachers, my parents, my coaches and especially my counselor helped a lot. The Gunn administration has been extremely supportive in my goal to compete in the Olympics. I definitely couldn’t have done all this without their support.”

Lee is often forced to miss school to compete in international tournaments all around the world. She has competed in many parts of the world including countries in Asia, Europe Pan America (North America, South America and Central America). One of the most notable tournaments this year for Lee was the 2022 World Championships in Tokyo, Japan, in which she was one of the youngest from the United States to qualify. Lee appreciates the networking opportunities that international tournaments provide. “I really love meeting people from all over the world,” she said. “I feel like badminton is great in that aspect, and a lot of other sports don’t allow you to do the same thing.”

Though she enjoys the social aspect of the tournaments, Lee’s vision never strays from the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Olympic Games. Every tournament is an opportunity to get one step closer to reaching her goal. “My most recent tournament in Canada gave us a boost in rank,” Lee said. “We moved up about 15 places which gives us a current rank of 55th in the world for women’s doubles.” Lee has eight months to improve her ranking to the top 8 or to one of the best in Pan America, as the race for the 2024 Summer Olympics will officially start in May of 2023 and conclude in May of 2024. As opposed to other sports such as gymnastics or swimming that use Olympic Trials to select representatives, badminton athletes qualify by their world ranking. The Badminton World Federation uses that one-year qualification period to choose who will be representing their respective countries.

As Lee’s time in high school slowly winds down, she has begun to consider her post-high school plans. “I’m applying to all colleges in the Bay Area,” she said. “I might also potentially take a gap year next year depending on how I feel. But I’m going to stay in the Bay Area for training because it’s the best in the country.”