Falling in love with badminton was almost inevitable for 15-year-old Coco Zhu. With a badminton hall right next to her school in China, afterschool volleys were a regular part of her day.
Now living in New Zealand and attending ACG Parnell College, much in Coco's life has changed. But one thing that has never waned is her passion and natural aptitude for the game.
"I love badminton because it's a really fun sport that has allowed me to expand my friend group. It's also a great way of getting exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle," says Coco, who recently won the Girls Singles title at the Badminton New Zealand Under 15 Summer Series and has just been selected for the Under 17 national squad.
Playing in the ACG Parnell College Premier team for the first time this year, the Year 11 student has been enjoying incredible success on the badminton circuit for quite some time. At the 2019 AIMS Games, she won both the girls' singles and the girls' doubles, and she was also a member of the Auckland Under 15 A badminton team which placed second at last year's national team championships.
Although injuries have hampered her training efforts, Coco's recent triumphs have provided significant impetus to continue with the sport she loves.
"Winning my division in the Summer Series made me feel happy and inspired. Unfortunately, I was losing a bit of motivation due to lockdowns and my recurring injuries. But this win showed me that I should continue to play and compete in the sport."
Currently playing for both school and club (Pacific Badminton Club), Coco spends four to five hours each week training while also remaining focused on her schoolwork – something else she is deeply committed to. That's part of what makes ACG Parnell College her perfect fit.
"The thing I enjoy most about ACG is the balance between academics and sports. The study load is slightly greater than I've had before, but at the same time, I still get to have lots of fun and enjoy playing sports."