Age certainly doesn’t bother Miles Krajewski, a preteen budding Para-badminton player who’s getting better known on the world stage. Many of his peers in the sport are twice his age, and he’s fine with that.
Krajewski is a 12-year-old middle school student in South Dakota who has aspirations for the biggest stage of all — the Paralympic Games. Though 2020 in Tokyo isn’t too far-fetched, this young student-athlete knows he could sustain longevity in the sport and make perhaps two to four different Paralympic teams.
He knows to stay focused and go after one goal at a time, though.
“I have to win the Pan Am Games in 2019,” Krajewski said. “I have to win the Pan American Games so I can go to Tokyo.”
Krajewski has achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. He picked up badminton only four years ago when he attended the 2013 World Dwarf Games at Michigan State University. While sifting through the sports options, he checked off everything — basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field, table tennis, swimming, curling and badminton, which he didn’t know at the time.
Krajewski got good, and he got good fast as a 9-year-old. While playing a tournament in 2015 in St. Louis, the family learned badminton would be making its Paralympic debut at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“I think as far as 2020, it’s going to be tough for a lot of people to make the Games,” said Miles’ father, Mike. “There’s an outside chance, but there are so many players but so few spots. (Miles) really works hard.”
Mike helps push his son to the limits several days a week. Up to three days during the week, they’ll wake up at 5:30 a.m. on weekdays, go to the gym, run and warm up, and then do footwork and racquet drills at in the rec center adjacent to Miles’ school. They have to do this in the morning as the gym is predominantly used for basketball after school.
On the weekends, it’s a road trip to nearby Sioux Falls to train with a professional coach. Miles will get done with school on Fridays, do his homework and ride up to his grandmother’s home in Sioux Falls. Miles works out Friday evening and gets up on Saturday morning to train for two more hours.
“He handles it very well because he loves it so much,” Mike said. “He loves any sport. He has a pretty good balance and we want him to have all the experiences a kid his age can have.”
Miles played circuits around the country before taking a stab at his first international tournament in Northern Ireland when he was 11. His youthfulness was highly noticeable, but not shunned.
The close-knit fraternity of badminton players took him in as one of their own.
“People were curious at time as he was 11 years old playing against guys aged 17-30 years old,” Mike said. “They really took him under their wings and I think they see he has potential.”
Miles said the older, more experienced players often “throw in tricks” at him. He added that his peers usually stick around to watch him and then give advice to the youngster on his progression.
“They tell me what I did good and what I need to work on when I get home,” Miles said. “They are very supportive, and most in their mid-20s. Most are good friends of mine.”
Right now, Miles is the young pup trying to keep up with the experienced pack, but he knows what he needs to continue to work on to catch up — and that’s footwork, speed drills and more racquet work.
Miles is the second-oldest of six children. He has an older sister, a set of triplet siblings (two girls and a boy) and another brother after that.
Miles is a gym rat who’s dabbled in all kind of sports, not letting his height keep him down. The only time he has trouble is when trying to reach for something high. His friends or family will help him out as needed.
In Yankton, South Dakota, Miles is seen as an ambitious young kid who one day aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon or dentist with the sky as the limit in his athletic career.
“His friends don’t look at him that way,” his father said of Miles’ achondroplasia. “They just know him as Miles.
“He’s got a great attitude and great outlook on things.”Scott McDonald has 18 years' experience in sports reporting. He was named the State Sports Writer of the Year in 2014 by the Texas High School Coaches Association. McDonald is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.