Biking and badminton have very little in common, but for Steve Weir, they represent two important activities that have enriched his life immeasurably.
Every year, in the spring and summer, Weir trains to participate in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, raising money for cancer research. In the fall and winter seasons, Weir picks up a badminton racket, competes around the province and trains the next generation of players.
The 56-year-old Saskatoon native has spent much of his youth and all of his life competing on badminton courts throughout B.C. and the country. He’s won medals in the masters category of both the provincial championships and the 55+ games, and he has now been charged with finding and developing young talent to compete in the 2018 B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops — an opportunity he relishes.
“If I can find some athletes to start that life journey with badminton that would be awesome,” said Weir. “That would help me pay back the debt I owe to badminton and Terry.”
Terry Anderson was Weir’s first coach, life-long mentor and the man who first developed Weir’s skills when he was still a teenager. The two met in Houston when Weir, still new to the city and the school, decided to try out for the badminton team.
Weir was still a novice to the sport at this time. His first experience with it was playing outdoors at a family function. But even then, there was something about the intensity of the game Weir found appealing.
“It was fun, it was fast, it was competitive,” he said. “It was just you against the opponent, there wasn’t anyone else there. It was nice.”
Weir, owned neither court shoes nor his own racket when he decided to try out for the school team in his bare feet with a borrowed racket.
He played well enough to earn himself a spot on the team, and began to progress through the ranks with Anderson guiding him. One of his most memorable early matches was in the North Central tournament finals — which he won in 90 minutes. Weir said he remembered lying on the floor on the cool tiles, exhausted, spent and not wanting to get up.
“Terry was pacing the whole time though,” he said. “And I knew I was going to be in trouble later for some of the mistakes I made.”
Shortly after the tournament, Weir moved to Prince Rupert where there was an established, competitive badminton community.
By the time he arrived, Weir was an established player in the high school circuit, and was thus one of two juniors allowed to play with the adults at the club. He continued to play competitively in high school, but said he never played at the university level as life and other obligations took up more of his time.
He did, however, continue to play in club competitions, scaling back on singles play and enjoying the technical and tactical intricacies of doubles play. He also started to coach, saying he was inspired by what Anderson had done for him.
“He helped form the person I am,” Weir said. “From the time I was 14 up until last year when he watched me at provincials, he was there coaching and mentoring. He never stopped coaching me and trying to improve me.”
Recently, Weir said he has found inspiration playing against people who have a more recreational background than he did, particularly in the 55+ games. He competed for the second time in 2017, and watching people having fun simply doing something they are passionate about is extremely rewarding.
“They’re having a blast,” he said. “They’re wearing knee braces and elbow braces and just putting their body out there and loving it, and it just inspires me.”
Weir also draws inspiration at the end of each badminton season when he hangs up his racket and gets on his bike to train for the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer.
Weir was introduced to the ride by his good friend, Sandy Giordano, who had invited him on several occasions. In 2014, Sandy, who had been in an ongoing battle with cancer, was too ill to participate in the ride, and Weir decided to participate despite turning Sandy down on several occasions.
“Suddenly, there was nothing I wanted to do more than be beside my friend riding a bike,” he said.
After taking part in that first ride, Weir knew that he would be participating for a long time.
Shortly after that first ride, Weir’s family was touched by the disease. His son was diagnosed with cancer. Weir said these events made him want to participate even more in something that had already had a deep impact on him.
“As much as I was inspired after the ride to raise money for that organization, I will never quit,” he said. “I saw the work they do, I saw the progress they’ve made.”
Giordano and Anderson have both since passed away, but the impact they had continues to push Weir to give back however he can. Neither of his inspirations would have it any other way.