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February 2, 1998 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - Canada's mixed doubles champions, Iain Sydie and Denyse Julien, have become the first North American players to gain a top ten world ranking in badminton. In the latest rankings list issued by the International Badminton Federation, Sydie and Julien sit at number ten with 155.93 ranking points, 1 full point ahead of Koreans Lee Dong Soo and Yim Kyung Jin and 10 points ahead of Jonas Rasmussen and Ann-Lou Jorgensen of Denmark.

The pair's rise in the rankings began at about this time last year when Sydie decided to devote more time to the mixed doubles event and less time to men's singles. The 27-year old Sydie and the 30-something Julien then teamed up at the urging of Canadian national coach and All-England mixed doubles champion Billy Gilliland and the two began competing together at the 1997 Japan Open.

The pair did not win any events on the Grand Prix circuit but always managed to make their way into the late rounds. At the world team championships in Glasgow in June, Sydie and Julien were the linchpin of the Canadian team, winning most of their matches and gaining valuable ranking points.

In September, the Canadian duo took the title in the one-star rated Pan American championships in Winnipeg. After a three-month layoff while Sydie devoted time to his university studies, the pair made a successful return to the international circuit with a convincing title win at the Portuguese International in early January. This victory together with the inactivity of the Korean pair of Lee and Yim gave them enough points to enter the ranks of the world top ten.

Sydie is a tallish, long-legged badminton player with an almost-magical wrist that helps him change directions on a shot at the last possible moment. He also has a powerful smash that devastates and demoralizes lesser opponents. His long legs as well as his singles background give him the ability to cover the court like a blanket.

Sydie also has badminton genes on his side. He comes from a badminton-playing family. His father, Jim Sydie, was a Scottish national player and is blessed with the same magical wrist that often leaves his veteran opponents shaking their heads in amazement at improbable shots. The older Sydie is a one-time Scottish men's singles titleist and also won the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship in the late 1960's.

People familiar with the younger Sydie say that he is still learning the finer points of the mixed doubles game from one of the masters of the event, Scotland's Billy Gilliland, a former All-England champion. Even his partner, Denyse Julien, has been heard to say that Sydie's mixed doubles game is getting better and better.

Julien, the thirty-something triple-threat left-handed wonder woman of badminton, is the other half of Canada's badminton jewel. Julien has won countless national and continental titles as well as international and Commonwealth Games medals. She is the only badminton player to have qualified for the Olympic Games in three events, the women's singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles. She brings to the court her vast experience and the wide variety of soft and power shots that a woman player needs in today's mixed doubles game. Julien is also a coach on the court and is a calming influence on the sometimes-fiery Sydie.

How much further can this pair go? Perhaps not much further. After all, age is not on their side. However, their goals are not that grand. According to persons close to the Sydie-Julien tandem, their target is to medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games to be held in September in Kuala Lumpur. If they keep at it, they stand a good chance of reaching that goal.