Misha Zilberman of Israel is seen here competing at the Baku 2015 European Games. Misha Zilberman of Israel is seen here competing at the Baku 2015 European Games. Misha Zilberman of Israel is seen here competing at the Baku 2015 European Games. (Photo: Robert Prezioso / Getty Images)

This guy wants to be the world's best badminton player

Misha Zilberman spends his days with his parents training, competing, and qualifying for the Olympics.

As a child, Misha Zilberman appeared to be just like everyone else. That is, until he was 2 years old. While he was still in diapers, he watched from the sidelines as his mother, Svetlana, excelled on the international badminton stage. With his father, Mikhail, coaching and training his mother, he figured out the family business. By 12, he began training seriously, and by 16 he was Israel’s senior men’s badminton champion.

Zilberman competed at the 2012 Olympics in London, but that was just a warmup for the Rio Olympic Games. His career has seen its share of peaks and valleys, but with his parents by his side, he’s found his groove. Zilberman’s game has seen great improvement in the years since London, adding several medals to his trophy case along the way.

Training for Rio

Now 26, Zilberman is Israel’s premier male badminton player, and will be showcasing his talents to the world in Rio. (Yes, badminton is one of many sports you likely didn't know were in the Olympics.)

He has logged long hours on the court. Training alone can get monotonous and tiresome, and it's compounded when your parents are calling the shots. “Training under my parents is hard because on the court, they are always trying to push me to my limit,” Zilberman told From The Grapevine.

For Zilberman, it’s all about the family being his team. He contributes all of his success to the team and knows his career wouldn’t be as decorated without his parents by his side. “For me, we are one team,” he told us. “And I know if not for the good luck of the combination of coaches and parents, I couldn't do what I’ve done in my sports career.”

He's created quite the laundry list of accomplishments, too. Zilberman’s the first Israeli man to qualify for the Olympics in men’s badminton singles, a feat he has now accomplished twice. He’s one half of the first mother-son mixed doubles team to compete in the Badminton World Championship. He’s finished on the podium at least once in each of the past six professional tour seasons.

Seeking Olympic history

Although badminton has been around since the 1800s, it’s relatively new to the Olympic roster of athletic competitions. The sport’s first appearance came in the 1972 Olympiad and re-appeared again in 1988 as a demonstration sport, in an attempt to grow the sport and build an international following. Four years later, badminton arrived in Barcelona ready to showcase its athletes to the world. The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games marked the first Olympiad where all five events – men’s singles and doubles, women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles – were held, a format that remains the same today.

Once the Olympic competition kicks off on August 11th in Rio de Janeiro, Zilberman will be ready to go. He’s committed all his time, energy and focus towards the Games. All that’s left for him is avoiding the distractions of living in Rio’s Olympic Village while he waits to capture history in the pantheon of Israel’s Olympic greats.

“First of all, my focus in the Olympics is getting a good result,” he emphasized. “So until I’m done competing I will not have time to enjoy the Olympic Village.”

Zilberman has dedicated his life to badminton. His love of the sport and all the different ways to win is what drives him to continue training and competing at the highest level possible. “I decided to give this sport my all because there are many ways to win a match,” he told us. “I love that this game is won with a lot of variations of play.”

Despite all of his successes, and all the tournaments and Olympic matches that lie ahead, it all comes back to one thing for Zilberman – his family. “I’m happy that I’ve had this opportunity of being coached by my parents.”

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