When we first met Frankie Corbett, it was 2017 and she was a 12-year-old, U13 junior national badminton girls’ singles and doubles champion.
Two years later, Corbett just keeps winning. The Foster City resident and an incoming freshman at Hillsdale High School, Corbett added two more gold medals at the Junior Pan Am Games in Moncton, News Brunswick, Canada last week — an Olympic-style competition featuring athletes from the Americas. Competing in the U15 tournament, Corbett captured the titles in girls’ singles and teamed with longtime partner Allison Lee of Fremont to win the girls’ doubles crown as well.
It’s the second time in three years that Corbett has doubled at the Junior Pam Am Games, and the third time in five years.
“I think there is pressure, but I don’t really feel it,” said Corbett, 14. “I just try to have fun whenever I’m playing.”
Safe to say, not many opponents have fun facing Corbett. She has stepped up her training as well as the caliber of competition and it has resulted in more dominant play. It showed in her results in Canada. In her first match, she overwhelmed her opponent from Trinidad and Tobago, shutting her out in the first set. Corbett went on to finish off the match by losing a total of three points.
How often is a shutout posted in badminton?
“It doesn’t happen often, let’s put it that way,” said Gerry Corbett, Frankie’s father.
Frankie Corbett, who is ranked second in the nation in the U13 age bracket by USA Badminton, went on to win her next two matches in straight sets to win the singles title, never losing more than 15 points in the first-to-21, best-of-three sets format. She and Lee were just as dominant in the doubles portion of the tournament, winning all three matches in straight sets. The 18 points allowed in the first set of the championship match — a 21-18, 21-10 win — were the most Frankie Corbett allowed in any one set through the six matches of the tournament.
Frankie Corbett, who plays with Synergy Badminton Academy in Menlo Park, credits her continued dominance to an increase in the caliber of training and playing. Last summer, for instance, she spent a couple weeks training with a club in China.
“They have a different style of training (in China). It was more intense, more physical training,” Frankie Corbett said. “It was a really good experience.”
Frankie Corbett followed her step up in training by then playing against older competition. Playing in the junior nationals, Frankie Corbett (along with Lee in doubles) was playing in the U19 bracket, finishing fifth in doubles. She has also increased her play against adult-level competition, making a name for herself at a tournament in Brazil.
“She played two former Olympians. One (match), Frankie lost in three sets. … She said Francesca was the toughest match she had in that tournament,” Gerry Corbett said. “As she plays bigger girls, older girls, it just naturally forces her to work harder. You work harder, you get better.
“[Playing against older competition] allows her to stretch herself.”
While Frankie Corbett will continue to train with an eye toward bigger and better things, she also plans on playing for the Hillsdale badminton team in spring 2020. She almost instantly becomes the odds-on favorite to win the Peninsula Athletic League title — especially now that South City’s Raeka Lin has graduated. She also becomes an instant contender for a Central Coast Section title.
But Frankie Corbett said her main focus with the Knights is simply to help the team excel.
“I think I just want to bring up the placement of the team (in the standings),” Frankie Corbett said. “It’s about having fun.”
And if Frankie Corbett is having fun on the badminton court, there’s a good chance the opponent on the other side of the net is not.