Travis Haughton, foreground, lunges to return a shot at the net while playing doubles with Umesh Kapur. (David Pierini/staff photographer)

There is no confusing what takes place on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the gym of the West Cook YMCA with the game played in a backyard on a summer afternoon with a beer in the free hand.

Pleasantries among friends are exchanged before the first shuttle flies, but the brand of badminton on the gym’s three courts quickly becomes a series of fast and ferocious swats.

“It’s a cardiac waiting to happen,” said John Burnett of Oak Park, who clarifies any misunderstanding between sport and leisure with measures of speed and endurance.

An overhead smash by a professional badminton player is clocked at more than 200 miles per hour, which is harder than the tennis equivalent, Burnett said. A single player can cover more than a mile of territory per game. Consider that a player can compete in up to 18 games in a single tournament.

There are few places to play badminton in the Chicago area so the rotating doubles games at the Oak Park Y attracts more than 30 people who rotate in and out of games. Burnett said it is one of the oldest co-ed groups at the Y, forming in the mid 1980s.

Badminton’s appeal worldwide is also apparent on these courts, with accents that are British, Pakistani, Jamaican and Estonian to name a few.

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David Pierini

In June of 2014, David was honored with the 1st Place Award for Best Photo Series, as well as the 1st Place Award for Sports Photo, by the Illinois Press Association. Check out his award-winning caliber...

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