By Melissa Zhang | Sept. 01, 2019, 12:15 p.m. (ET)

Miles Krajewski competing in para badminton.
Miles Krajewski competes at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Sept. 1, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

For 14-year-old Miles Krajewski, a number of challenges stood between him and a medal at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019. 

This was Krajewski’s first international competition without his father in attendance supporting him. His primary coach, Moss Lattison, wasn’t courtside either. 

“It’s a little different not having my dad or Moss here, but I had the national team coaches with me," Krajewski said. "They’re great coaches as well."

Despite the odds, the Yankton, South Dakota native earned a silver medal in the men’s singles SS6 event as badminton made its Parapan debut in Peru. 

“It’s been really great to be here, since this is the first time badminton has been in the Parapan American Games,” Krajewski said. “It feels nice to be one of the first ones to represent the United States. It was really intense to play in the final game. A lot of people were in the stands.” 

He logged wins over Chile and Canada before falling in a hard-fought battle in the gold-medal match to Brazil’s Victor Tavares, who is six years Krajewski’s senior.

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The two have played together as doubles partners at international tournaments, but faced off against each other on Sunday. 

“I usually play in the front and (Tavares) plays in the back, so I know how he plays and what his game looks like,” Krajewski said. “I just kept it in play and kept a rally going to try and get him to make mistakes.”

Krajewski dropped the opening set 21-18, but came surging back with a 21-18 win in set two. Tavares claimed the third set 21-14, but Krajewski didn’t give his opponent an easy match. 

“This is the best I’ve ever seen him play. He’s a complete professional even at 14 years old,” said national team coaches Dean Schoppe and Yuko Kawasaki. “It is really impressive to watch how he handles himself and carries himself between training, competing and living at the athlete village. He’s an incredibly coachable athlete.” 

This is just the start for badminton. The sport will also be featured on the sport program for the first time at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, where it will get even more exposure on an even larger international stage.

And it's just the start for Krajewski as well. He will now set his sights on earning his berth to next year’s Games by winning qualification points in international tournaments.

“It’s really awesome,” Krajewski said. “At the upcoming tournaments, I hope to make it to the quarter or semifinals and beat some of the top players. Tavares has beaten some of the top players, so seeing how well I did against him makes me feel like I can play with them as well.”