Winning smile . . . Waitaki Girls' High School pupil Sai Eesha Sukumar was named "female player of the tournament" at the South Island Secondary School Badminton Cup last weekend. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Good sportsmanship pays.

Just ask Waitaki Girls’ High School year 13 pupil Sai Eesha Sukumar, who walked away from last weekend’s South Island Secondary School Badminton Cup as “female player of the tournament”.

After two days of competition in Dunedin, competitors nominated opposing players for the title based on sportsmanship.

Eesha won the title – and a brand new badminton racquet.

“I was quite taken aback,” Eesha said.

“I was just being myself, I guess.”

Before games, the 17-year-old invited opposing players to warm up with her and her teammates.

Throwing in a smile did not hurt either, she said.

Eesha and her teammates also came away from the inter-regional tournament with a bronze medal.

“I was beyond happy,” she said. “I’m really proud of our team.”

It was the first time Eesha had medalled in a badminton event, but she stressed that it was very much a team effort.

Eesha picked up her first racquet when she was 7 years old, but took training more seriously after starting secondary school.

Every Tuesday, the Waitaki Girls’ senior badminton team travels to Dunedin to play against schools and build their experience.

She likes improving her technique and learning the best ways to make her opponent run around.

“It’s something I enjoy and I don’t want to give up on it just yet.

“I’ve already come this far just by training.”