Corrie Robinson - Para badminton

When Para athlete Corrie Robinson was growing up in rural Waikato, no-one told him he was different. He helped his parents out on the farm, played cricket and rugby with the other kids at his 35-pupil school, and in his downtime he rode horses and motorbikes. In many ways his was an idyllic Kiwi upbringing.

What wasn’t immediately obvious to those who met Corrie, now 37, was that he had been born with a club foot; his left leg was amputated below the knee when he was just a year old. A promising badminton player, he didn’t even know there was such a thing as Para badminton until he was 29, because he had always played against able-bodied athletes.
“The attitude that my parents bestowed on me is that I could do anything I wanted to do,” says Corrie, a general surgical nurse at Waikato Hospital. “I haven't been treated differently and that has probably been an asset to me growing up. You know that people potentially may pity you, or make an exception for you, so I've always gravitated towards people who don't mince their words and are honest. That's how I’m able to gauge how competitive I am across all areas of my life, whether it's work or competitive sport.”

A keen sportsman, Corrie developed a passion for badminton aged nine, drawn to the challenge of working on small aspects of the game to produce big results. “Being an amputee, I could focus more on tactics than speed,” he explains. “I was able to be included with any other able-bodied players, and there was no restriction on how I could play the sport or enter tournaments.”

"What I'm really aiming for is to become the best possible player I can, and I believe the rest will take care of itself."

Now in the midst of the qualifying process for Tokyo 2020 (postponed to August 2021), the first Paralympics to include Para badminton, he is typically understated about his prospects. “What I'm really aiming for is to become the best possible player I can, and I believe the rest will take care of itself,” he says.

His close friend and coach Kenneth Yew remembers coming across Corrie at the Hamilton Badminton Club many years ago. “Every now and then I'd see this guy that was running around with one leg,” says Kenneth. “I think Corrie's biggest strength as a Para athlete is that even though he's an amputee, he moves around just like an able-bodied person.”

Corrie’s dad Keith Robinson says his son always embodied a can-do attitude and great determination – at school, on the farm and in sport. “He saw things as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block,” says Keith. “His disability never ever affected anything that he wanted to try and do. And both his mother Judy and I never ever held him back. If he wanted to have a crack at it, we let him have a go at it… And we are extremely proud of him. As time's gone on, he's been an inspiration to us with what he can do and the way he goes about things.”

When Corrie needed a kidney transplant at 23, both his parents offered to donate one. “My dad’s reaction was, ‘Mum gave me the children, so I’m going to look after them’,” remembers Corrie. To Keith’s disappointment, he wasn’t a match – but luckily Judy was.
“She donated a kidney to me in 2005, and that, together with the way they brought me up, has propelled me to keep pushing every day to make the most of this gift,” says Corrie. “I've been very, very lucky.”

Corrie trains after work six days a week, three of those with Kenneth, who he describes as an astute coach. The pair have been working on Corrie’s on-court fitness, technique and focus for the past 18 months. “It’s always a balancing act,” says Corrie. “Any free time I get away from the court, is spent around home or catching up with friends to keep me in the moment and keep me enjoying life.”

Kenneth says the badminton community is close and supportive — and everyone would be excited to watch Corrie perform in Tokyo. “It doesn't matter whether you're from the North Island or the South Island, when everyone gets together for a tournament, you know who's who and you look forward to the party afterwards. I think everyone's just really excited to see what Corrie's achieving.”

Kenneth, Corrie’s parents and all of his staunch supporters will be cheering him on no matter what happens.

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