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

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Danielle Drury enjoying triumphant return to racquetball
WATCH: The love of the game, it's what keep athletes involved in sport throughout their lives. One Saskatoon woman knows this all too well, after walking away from the game she loved, her love of the sport brought her back with a fiery passion that she's now riding to success – Jun 9, 2022

Danielle Drury first began playing racquetball at the long-since-closed River Racquet Club in Saskatoon, introduced to the sport by her parents as a child.

To say that she’s spent her life with a racquet in her hand is an understatement. Her love and dedication to the sport have resulted in many accomplishments and accolades.

She earned her first major medal, a silver, at the 2013 Junior World Championships in the 14U girl’s doubles category.

By 2014 she was on the women’s circuit competing in both singles and doubles on the national stage earning a host of medals along the way.

But after claiming gold in the women’s open doubles to go with a bronze in women’s open singles in 2019 she made an extremely difficult decision, opting to trade in her racquet for textbooks as she pursued her masters degree in physical therapy.

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“It felt really awesome to end that part of my life on a high note,” Drury said. “However it was a little sad knowing that I had my best finish at nationals ever and I couldn’t go on to compete at Pan Ams that year or Worlds, that was just a stopping point.”

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

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

“I really missed playing a lot, that Nationals in September of 2021, I had some major fear of missing out, I was very sad to see it happening without me,” she admitted. “But at the same time I think that showed me that I really did want to get back to it because I missed it that much.”

(That summer) I was getting near the end of my masters, there was a finish line in sight and I think Nationals really brought that up, I was like ‘holy crap I really want to get back to this,'” she continued. “I missed having something outside of school that I was working towards.”

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Click to play video: 'Trio of young players puts Saskatchewan on racquetball map'
Trio of young players puts Saskatchewan on racquetball map

In January Drury returned to the court in a tireless effort to make a run at the Canadian National Championships.

“It kind of hit all of the sudden, I was back with the training group twice a week on the court, twice a week off the court,” 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 fast.”

One person who wasn’t surprised to see Drury’s speedy return to a competitive level is long-time friend and training partner, now turned coach, Tim Landeryou.

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

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Landeryou credits a pair of traits possessed by Drury that allowed her to return to the sport so seamlessly.

“One is, she’s got that talent and she’s played from a very young age so there’s that baseline that I’d like to say never really goes away. You get a little less consistent and sharp but a lot of the skills they’re hard to just forget, your muscles just kind of remember eventually,” he explained.

“But, I think the more important one is her discipline and I think that’s part of what made her such a great student and such a great professional now is that she has the ability to focus very clearly and concisely on what she wants to do to accomplish the goal.”

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

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

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

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

Her next goal in sight is earning a spot on the national team for worlds which take place in San Luis Potosí, Mexico in August.  After that, with continued training, she hopes to surpass the level she reached back in 2019 before stepping away from the sport.

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

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