Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Good'minton? St. Louisan Finds Olympic Ticket as Line Judge

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Good'minton? St. Louisan Finds Olympic Ticket as Line Judge

Article excerpt

In 1968, young collegian Mary Ann Bowles was in a quandary.

"I needed a phys-ed class," she said, "and I wanted something easy. I didn't like volleyball or swimming and stuff like that."

So she signed up for badminton.

Nearly 30 years later, the sport is her ticket - a free ticket, at that - to the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Bowles, who lives in Oakville and teaches at House Springs Middle School, will serve as a line judge at the badminton event at Georgia State University.

She has no trouble naming the No. 1 misconception about her sport.

It's the same prejudice she held before swatting her first shuttlecock at Louisiana Tech University.

"People think how wimpy it is," Bowles said. "But there's a jump-smash shot in badminton. The best players can hit the shuttle 200 miles per hour when it leaves the racket.

"A really good tennis serve is what, 125 miles per hour? In badminton, people have gotten hit in the eye and lost the eye. I wear goggles when I play."

Bowles, 48, is a fine player.

She and a male partner from California won the national senior (over-35) mixed doubles title in 1995.

This year at nationals, Bowles and a female partner from Connecticut placed second in senior doubles.

She also has won several doubles titles at the regional level.

Bowles turned her husband, Russ, into a convert. They met while working at a school in Florida.

"I fell in love with the principal," said Bowles, giving new meaning to the principal-is-your-pal adage. "He didn't play until after he met me. And he didn't play until he dropped his weight from 225 to 150. He put on his running shoes and pushed himself away from the table."

Then he grabbed a racket and became smitten with the sport, as well as with his family and consumer sciences - i.e., home economics - teacher.

For her part, she fell in love with the game almost at first sight.

"There were only four of us playing in my college phys-ed class," Bowles said. "The instructor said, `You girls are pretty good. Let me take you to a tournament.' We did well, so she brought us back and formed a team.

"She was a player herself. We traveled to Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, all over the south. …

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