The London Free Press (Canada?)
29 November 2008


By MORRIS DALLA COSTA


Jennifer Lam's future patients can rest assured they are in good hands.

The second-year medical student has proven repeatedly she has the fine touch of a surgeon.

Lam led the Western Mustangs badminton team to their fourth Ontario universities title in a row recently at McMaster University. Lam has won five titles in the past six years and she's been named the OUA most valuable player five times in those six years. Two years ago she was selected Western's female athlete-of-the-year.

Lam has also competed at the Summer Universiade in Thailand and the 10th world university badminton championship in Portugal.

She won the OUA MVP title again this year and won every set in every match in both women's singles and mixed doubles play at the recent OUA championship.

Lam has pretty much run the table in Ontario with scalpel like precision.

This is her sixth year of university competition. Lam is in her second year of medical school and while sports medicine is high on her list of possible specialities, she's going to take the next year or so to decide what she'll do.

The Toronto native started young. She hung out at a community centre with her parents when she was seven. She'd pick up a racquet and occasionally hit a bird around.

"I wasn't really playing but I was on my own running around," she said. "A bunch of family would bring their kids who were a little older and then when I got there, the coach saw me and said 'why don't you start too.' I loved it. It always felt right and I was comfortable with it."

Before she knew it, coaches were telling her she was a provincial and national calibre player.

"My parents sort of said, 'she's ready for that?'" Lam said.

When Lam came to university, she wasn't even sure how much she'd play. She said her family was pretty much education oriented and she felt she'd play a little and that was about it. She didn't even like playing singles.

"I go in cycles," she said. "I used to hate singles. The thing is with singles most players go for it because it's the glory one. You're the one if you win you get all the credit. A lot of people train for singles and it's the hardest one to train for. I was training towards doubles and mixed. I didn't like singles.

"But in Western, there were so many great players and so many different players, it helped my game not playing the same person over and over again. It helped develop my game. I grew to love singles."

As for academics, she's good there as well. Next week Western will honour their academic all-Canadians, full-time student athletes with an average of more than 80 per cent. She is one of them.

The success she's had has helped nurture her love of singles. Of all university titles and championships she's won, the one that sticks out in her mind is the title she won in her fourth year, her last as an undergraduate.

Her success and team's success was accompanied with abundant drama. Lam wasn't sure if she was returning to the team. The OUA tournament was going to be decided on the final mixed match of the day, a match she was involved in.

"It was the uncertainty," Lam said. "The past few years we've done really well and every year we've had an amazing team. We always wind up winning before the final matches. This one came down to the final mixed match. It was a whirlwind. My partner was cramping in the third game. He sprained his ankle when he landed from a midair jump. It was an amazing way to end the season."

To cap it off, she won Western's female athlete-of-the-year award.

Lam has time to decide where her career will take her but she will have to decide whether she has time to continue her badminton career.

"The thing is for the first two years, med school is very class based so I'm at the school all the time," Lam said. "It not really easy to go to practice but more so than next year when I'm doing clerkship in the hospital. When you are with a patient you can't just say 'hey, I have to go and play badminton.'

"I talked to the coach. He respects the fact I have academic commitments and we spoke about it a bit. Maybe I can come out when I could and he could fit me in but everything's pretty much up in the air. I don't know my rotations and it will be more time consuming."

One thing is certain, the badminton team would love to have a doctor in the house.