20 July 2012
An Olympic dream comes true
It's been a few weeks since Vicky Na found out she had qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games but the RMIT University student still finds it hard to believe her childhood dream is finally coming true.
"It's still surreal to me, that it's actually happening," the Bachelor of Design (Games) student, who is representing Australia in badminton, said.
"I keep thinking how lucky I am, how all that effort that parents and I put in - all the travelling, all the money they spent, all those months away from my family - that it's all paid off.
"It's kind of unbelievable, it still hasn't clicked."
Ms Na will go into the Games as Australia's top female badminton player, ranked in the top 80 internationally.
Her achievement in qualifying for London is even more impressive considering she returned to the game only a year ago, after a 12-month break.
Coached by her father, Ms Na had played badminton intensely since she was nine, representing Victoria and Australia in junior tournaments.
"I was tired and over it - the game was consuming my life," she said.
"But it didn't really feel right, that I hadn't even tried to get to the Olympics before I quit.
"That had been my dream since I was 11 and, during the year I took off, I realised that I didn't want to give up on that dream."
While Ms Na's skills were still strong when she returned to the game, her stamina and strength needed work. And the fact she had never competed at a senior level was another challenge to overcome.
To get her ranking up and qualify for London, Ms Na travelled the globe, competing in 15 overseas badminton tournaments in 12 months.
While she is sponsored by RSL Badminton, the cost of her journey to the Olympics has been largely borne by her family.
She deferred her studies in the School of Media and Communication to concentrate on her game this year, training both with the national squad and at the Badminton Academy of Victoria, which is run by her father.
"My teachers at RMIT have been very understanding, especially last year when I was trying to juggle studying with international competitions," she said.
Supported through an RMIT Link Elite Athlete grant, Ms Na represented the Redbacks at the 2009 Australian University Games, where she won a Green and Gold medal (awarded to the best four athletes in the tournament).
While the competition will be far tougher in London, Ms Na is aiming to at least make the quarter-finals in the singles.
"I'm looking forward to the whole experience, to being surrounded by all those amazing athletes," she said.
"Usually I'm watching the Opening Ceremony at home on TV.
"To think that I'm going to be in it, in the uniform, waving a little flag, it's just incredible."
Vicky Na is representing Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games.