For someone who’s swung a badminton racket since she was nine years old, stepping off the ultra-competitive sports circuit to focus on academic studies is a difficult prospect.
But Jacqueline Cheung didn’t want to sacrifice her learning.
So, she did both.
Cheung studied medical sciences at Western while playing for the Mustangs varsity badminton team, even becoming a coach in her final year. Now graduating in a fall convocation ceremony with her bachelor of science degree – opting to graduate after three years instead of staying to complete the bachelor of medical science – Cheung is already pursuing a doctor of pharmacy degree at the University of Toronto.
“I can’t let go of either one,” she said of her passion for athletics and academics.
Cheung flourished on the badminton court and in the classroom, winning Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and earning a spot in the OUA All-Stars twice. She won the 2023 Canadian U23 National Championships in women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles and the National University Championships, all while balancing her studies.
She was no slouch at school, making the Dean’s Honour List every year and graduating from the Western Scholars program for high-achieving students.
She is even considering a run at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“It’s always those two sides of me, trying to find that balance between excelling academically and in sport. I want to do both, and I strive to do it all,” Cheung said.
Her passions don’t end there, either.
Giving back to the community
Growing up training at the Mandarin Badminton Club and competing in national and international matches, Cheung didn’t have much time left to volunteer in her community. But when COVID-19 hit and badminton was paused, she knew she wanted to give back. She joined forces with the newly launched Canadian Courage Project, a Toronto-based organization supporting youth facing homelessness and their pets.
“Unfortunately, youth who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness often have to give up their pets either because they don’t have the means to support them, or because shelters usually don’t house them for sanitary, disturbance or capacity reasons,” Cheung said.
“It’s truly a great cause and we were just starting out – I wanted to be part of a group that was expanding.”
Cheung said she’s learned new skills to supplement her academic knowledge, from efficient collaboration to social media strategy to grant writing.
Once in-person classes resumed at Western, Cheung dedicated herself to additional volunteer work, joining Women in STEM as a director of community inclusion. Alongside her team members, she gave presentations on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to other clubs and societies across campus.
Her work earned her an EDI award from Western’s Science Student Council.
“We wanted our campus to be more aware of EDI issues and be more mindful of the inequities that other people face.” – Jacqueline Cheung, BSc’23
“A lot of students hear terms like privilege, bias, allyship and intersectionality bounced around in conversations, but we wanted them to have a deeper understanding of what it means to make our campus more inclusive,” Cheung added.
‘Inspire the next generation’
She also hopes to make a difference in the health-care field, particularly for aging Canadians or those with low incomes who can’t afford medications.
“Sitting on boards of organizations where I can influence policies is the vision,” Cheung said.
Sport remains a top priority, too. Even with a demanding pharmacy school schedule, Cheung is playing for the University of Toronto badminton team and hopes to compete on the international circuit between exams.
“I have a competitive nature, I would say. I love competing, and I also love the challenge,” Cheung said.
She doesn’t back down from difficulty on the court or in her schooling.
“My goal is to excel in both and inspire the next generation to pursue what they want to do.”