‘It was kind of surreal’: Danielle Drury enjoys triumphant return to racquetball – Saskatoon

Danielle Drury began playing racquetball at the long-defunct River Racquet Club in Saskatoon, where she was introduced to the sport as a child by her parents.

To say she’s lived her life with a bat in her hand is an understatement. Her love and dedication to the sport has resulted in many achievements and awards.

She won her first major medal, silver, at the 2013 World Junior Championships in the 14U girls’ doubles.

By 2014, she was on the national stage in women’s singles and doubles, winning a variety of medals in the process.

But after winning gold in women’s open doubles and bronze in women’s open singles in 2019, she made an extremely difficult decision and opted to trade her racquet for textbooks while pursuing her masters in physical therapy.

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“It felt really great to end that part of my life on a high,” Drury said. “But it was a bit sad to know that I had my best ever result at the Nationals and couldn’t compete at Pan Ams or Worlds this year, it was just a stopover.”

For nearly three years, Drury stayed off the courts to devote all of her time, energy and focus to her studies, while her determined work ethic shifted her focus from sports to school.

Despite her absence from the game, the competitive fire burned in the 25-year-old.

“I really missed playing these Nationals in September 2021 a lot, I was very scared to miss it, I was very sad to see it happen without me,” she admitted. “But at the same time, I think that showed me that I really wanted to get back to it because I missed it so much.”

[That summer]I was nearing the end of my masters, there was a finish line in sight and I think the Nationals really brought that up, I was like, ‘Holy shit, I really want to get back to that,'” she continued. “I missed having something outside of school that I was working toward.”

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The trio of young players are putting Saskatchewan on the racquetball map

The trio of young players put Saskatchewan on the racquetball map – May 5, 2016

In January, Drury returned to the court in a relentless bid to compete in the Canadian National Championships.

“It hit me suddenly, I was back on the pitch twice a week with the training group, off the pitch twice a week,” she said. “My body definitely took some getting used to (the strain), I wasn’t in the shape I was in three years ago, but surprisingly it all came back pretty quickly.”

One person who wasn’t surprised to see Drury’s quick return to competitive levels is longtime friend and training partner-turned-coach Tim Landeryou.

“I don’t want to say I expected anything, but at the same time I wasn’t surprised that she wanted to come back, that she wanted to be competitive,” Landeryou said. “That’s one of the things that makes her such a great player, that she has that fighting spirit.”

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Landeryou credits Drury with two qualities that allowed her to return to the sport so seamlessly.

“One of them is that she has this talent and she’s been playing from a very young age, so there’s this baseline that I want to say never really goes away. You get a little less consistent and sharp, but a lot of the skills are hard to forget, your muscles just remember eventually,” he explained.

“But I think the most important thing is her discipline and I think that’s what made her such a great student and professional, that she has the ability to focus very clearly and precisely on what she wants to do to reach the goal.”

This focus was necessary for Drury during her training as she wasn’t just preparing for one discipline – she devoted her time to training in singles and doubles, both of which brought their own unique challenges on her return to the game.

“They’re both difficult,” she explained. “I would say overall speed was more difficult in doubles just because you have less time to react to the ball compared to singles I would say more fitness was the bigger barrier.”

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After five months of rigorous training, Drury achieved her goal of returning to the national stage in late May, where she won a medal twice, winning silver in the women’s open doubles and bronze in the women’s open singles.

“I kind of made that a goal at the start of my season that it would be great to win a medal again at the nationals,” she explained. “But when it actually happened, it was kind of surreal.”

Her next goal in sight is a spot on the national team for the World Cup, which is being held in San Luis Potosí, Mexico in August. After that, with continued training, she hopes to surpass the level she achieved in 2019 before retiring from the sport.

“I’ve only been back for five months, if that, so I think I have the potential to work even harder, train even harder and really get back to the game I played. Yes, I have high hopes,” she giggled.

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