Promising badminton athletes soar

Julienne Joven
Sarah Joy Barredo and Jonathan Velasco are set to smash barriers in the sport of badminton.

FINDING FAMILY. Jonathan Velasco and Sarah Joy Barredo are all-smiles as they take a break from training.

MANILA, Philippines – There are those who believe that people have to be born great to be recognized. Then there’s Sarah and Jonathan — two kids who prove that greatness is a product of cultivation.

For Sarah Joy Barredo, 12, and Jonathan Velasco, 13, badminton has been a way of life.

Their hard work has definitely paid off.

Sarah is the Girls Singles champion at the elementary level at last year’s Palarong Pambansa. A Palaro veteran, this is her third year in the competition.

Unlike Sarah, Jonathan will be competing in Palarong Pambansa for the first time. But he has already shown great skill, winning the bid as NCR’s representative this year for Boys Singles, elementary.


To be successful anywhere, one has to start with the right attitude. And the right attitude, for most young athletes, begins with the wise instruction of parents.

Sarah credited her mother Tess for introducing her to the sport. Her mom works at the Philippine Sports Commission as venue manager of the Rizal Tennis Center.

Jonathan said that his parents Benjamin and Pam taught him the sport. After playing for a year, he learned to love it and decided to pursue being a badminton player.

But beyond the game, they said the best thing they’ve learned would have to be the values.

“First of all, sa parents ko, tinuruan nila ako ng tamang pag-uugali and dito rin sa academy, sa team namin, tinuruan nila ako kung paano ang attitude ko sa ibang tao (My parents taught me the right conduct. In the academy, with our team, they taught me the right attitude towards other people),” said Sarah.

Jonathan said that he values the correct mindset for any athlete. “I learned discipline from my parents and also from my team. And I also learned great sportsmanship,” he said.

Sarah and Jonathan both train at the William and William Gabuelo Badminton Academy (WWGBA). Their summer regimen includes 4 hours of training per day, everyday.

From 2 to 6 P.M., they do shadow training, cardio, and weights, besides actual games against their teammates.

READY FOR PANGASINAN. Sarah (far left) and Jonathan (far right) represent their academy and NCR for the coming Palarong Pambansa.

Greatness however, comes with sacrifices. Sarah and Jonathan admitted that some of their school friends bemoan the fact that they’re constantly at practice.

Luckily, both have strong support systems. Jonathan said that some of his cousins are accompanying him to Pangasinan. 

They have also found another family in their badminton academy, making going to training something to look forward to every time.

But like regular kids, Sarah said that she likes hanging out with her barkada, talking and teasing with them. Jonathan said that when he’s not training, he simply rests at home and plays video games like Call of Duty.

And although they find the drills challenging, it is their constant dedication to badminton that sets them apart from other kids their age.

Ito na yung pag-antay, you waited for this,” WWGBA Coach Tums Gabuelo told Jonathan. “Because of your patience, now you’re representing NCR this time.”

Coach Gabuelo even admitted that they have successfully won in games against him as their practices for Palarong Pambansa intensify.

Merong disiplina sa mga bata (There is discipline in the children)

,” he added.

Romancing flight

When asked about what they would want to be if they didn’t pursue badminton stardom, the two gave surprising answers.

Jonathan wants to study aeronautics abroad. Sarah, after a little thought, said she might want to be a stewardess.

One wonders if badminton has any influence on this predisposition for flight.

After all, the two never seem to settle for anything less than soaring.

Sarah even stated that she is dead-set on becoming a badminton superstar and making a career out of it.

“Gusto ko maging badminton player kasi ito na yung naumpisahan kong sport and I want na sana lumakas pa ako sa sport na ‘to (I want to be a badminton player because this is the sport I started in and I want to still be better in this sport),” she said.

Taking things a step at a time, both claim that the goal right now is gold in Palarong Pambansa.

“I’m excited about going to Pangasinan and I’m also excited to compete with other players in other provinces,” Jonathan said.

Asked about their badminton idols, Sarah said that she looks up to Lee Chong Wei and Wang Shixian while Jonathan admires Lin Dan, a left hander just like him.

Although badminton in the Philippines may not currently produce as wide a fanbase as foreign players, perhaps one day, Jonathan and Sarah may change that. –