Caused quite a racquet

July 24, 2017

Mike Scandolera is an inaugural Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame inductee for his badminton achievements.

Mike Scandolera partnered with Audrey Tuckey to win Australia's first Commonwealth Games badminton gold medal at Edinburgh in 1986.

Mike Scandolera ran the Queen's Baton into Shepparton Showgrounds before the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Gippsland’s loss was Shepparton’s gain when a young Mike Scandolera moved with his family to Congupna.

‘‘I had been playing badminton since the age of five and came here when Mum and Dad purchased a dairy farm,’’ he said.

‘‘My sisters both played and them playing created the interest in me.’’

By the age of eight he had won his first Victorian badminton title, in under-15 boys doubles.

‘‘I was six when I first started playing competition and it was just a natural progression because I just loved the sport so much,’’ Scandolera said.

‘‘I would stand there hour after hour hitting backhands into the corners of the court.’’

By 12, he was the Victorian under-17 champion and training up to seven days a week.

On his arrival to Shepparton aged 15, Scandolera turned up the badminton centre and asked champion Ron Howell for a game.

‘‘The association was huge back then, it had over 800 members,’’ Scandolera said.

Howell soon found out the young boy from Gippsland could really play the game, as Scandolera beat him 15-6.

Life was busy for the young badminton enthusiast as he helped milk the cows on the family’s farm, went to school and travelled extensively to play in tournaments across Victoria.

‘‘I was up at 4.45am to help Dad milk the cows, would go to school and then jump in the car to drive to Melbourne for training,’’ Scandolera said.

‘‘We’d get back home from Melbourne at around 1am and then we’d wake up at 4.45am to go again.’’

He dropped out of school at the end of Year 11, but it was obvious this young Victorian was destined for the top.

Aged 18 he became the youngest Australian badminton representative when he was selected for the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada.

‘‘Badminton wasn’t in the Olympic Games at that stage, so this was the pinnacle,’’ Scandolera said.

‘‘I was just a country kid and hadn’t seen a great deal in my time.

‘‘Walking into the stadium at my age, in front of 58000 people, was just amazing and I was awestruck.

‘‘I still have goosebumps thinking about it, it was just staggering.’’

Although the team did not enjoy any success that year, in the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games Scandolera was a key player in the team and helped lift Australia to international stature.

He led Australia to its first medal, a bronze, since badminton first became a Commonwealth Games sport in 1966.

‘‘The fanfare was amazing, the Brisbane Council put on a big function for us to celebrate and it meant a lot because we beat New Zealand, our arch rivals,’’ Scandolera said.

In 1986, Scandolera partnered with Audrey Tuckey in the mixed doubles at the Edinburgh Games and the pair made the final.

‘‘I normally remember a few points from every match, but I was so focused on this game I couldn’t remember the match at all,’’ he said.

‘‘We took home gold, which was Australia’s first Commonwealth Games badminton gold medal, that was pretty special.’’

Since retiring in 1989, Scandolera’s life remains involved in sport, running the occasional coaching clinic and playing in local competitions.

‘‘These days lots of young athletes don’t do it for the right reasons,’’ he said.

‘‘I loved travelling for training and if you want to go pro, commitment is what’s needed, four or five nights a week is a must.’’

Scandolera set the scene for many badminton players who took up the sport due to his wonderful success and has left a lasting legacy in the Goulburn Valley.

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