Badminton player Thomas Ashton ‘overjoyed’ at national title

King's athlete came from behind to win his first gold medal at 2024 collegiate badminton championship

4 min read
caption Thomas Ashton in action during a rally in the gold medal game at Seneca Polytechnic College King Campus on March 2.
CCAA Badminton Championship

A King’s athlete has become the first player from the Atlantic region to win a national collegiate championship in men’s badminton, after winning a tight match in the third set in early March.

Thomas Ashton, a Halifax native who plays for the University of King’s College Blue Devils, won gold in men’s singles at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) badminton championships held at Seneca College in Toronto.

Ashton won the first set 21-18, lost the second set 17-21, and won the third set 21-19 against Colin Zhou, the defending champion from Centennial College in Toronto, on March 2.

“This is the biggest tournament I have won,” Ashton said. “From past experiences, I felt regret when losing, so, in the end, I was overjoyed to have won.”

Ashton spoke to The Signal on March 14 in an interview at King’s about his journey to winning a gold medal.

Ashton said he raised his fist in the air as his teammates and coaches erupted after he scored the final point and won the game.

“It was a pretty big win,” said Jack Ronahan, one of Ashton’s coaches for the Blue Devils. “He had never gotten past 14 points against the guy who he played in the final, it was incredible.”

Ashton, a third-year student-athlete in Dalhousie’s bachelor of science program, said past adversity made this win special. He had never beaten Zhou in three prior matches, and was losing both the first and third sets but still came back to win.

Ashton is ranked second in Canada in U23 men’s singles, according to Badminton Canada, but hadn’t won gold at the national level, losing in both the U23 Canada Games and CCAA men’s singles final last year.

“Last year, I played in two of the biggest matches of my life. It was a learning experience,”
Ashton said. “They were the hardest losses of my young career. I was unsure if I would ever get the chance to redeem myself, so I had to train harder to gain more experience.”

Keys to success

Ronahan said most people do not see Ashton’s work ethic and his effort during practices on and off the court. He said Ashton is always early, never misses a practice, and is one of the last to leave.

“He’s so dedicated,” Ronahan told The Signal in a March 12 interview at the University of
King’s College gymnasium. “He trains with an attitude where he’s locked in all the time. He’s
always willing to put in the work to improve himself and it shows on the court.”

Ronahan said Ashton has a great vertical jump despite only being 5-9, which helps him make good contact with the shuttlecock in badminton.

Tomas Ashton
caption The badminton coach at King’s says a strong work ethic is the key to success for national champion Thomas Ashton.
Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association

Ashton said he is motivated to prove he can remain one of the best players in Canada.

To continue at a high level, Ashton said he tries to compare himself to other top under-23 players across the country such as Gurbaksh Singh Saini, the No. 1 ranked player in Canada at the under-23 level, and Noah Xu, the No. 3 ranked player.

King’s athletic director Neil Hooper says he remembers Ashton in middle school being on the court and training.

“I can remember being around the badminton courts with my son when he was younger and
playing,” Hooper said. “Thomas was there learning and practising. He’s an absolute gem and a fantastic person. I was so ecstatic to see him win and get rewarded for his hard work.”

Ashton’s silent aura hides his competitive streak, Hooper said.

“The first thing about Thomas you’ll notice, he is one of those quiet guys. When you meet him, he’s so humble. You think to yourself how can this guy be a competitor, but man he competes. And he learns from his losses. He dug deep and did well this year in nationals. It goes to show you can never judge a book by its cover.”

Ashton said his next step is to gain more national experience to test his limits by continuing to play at the university level and attending more tournaments around the country.

“It’s still to be determined but I want to continue to train and make it as far as I can in this game. This past year has been the most fun I have had on the court, and it goes to show where hard work and resilience can get you. It is very special,” said Ashton.

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