Heather Robson, who contributed immensely to badminton as a player, coach and administrator for over 70 years, passed away in Auckland on Friday 11 October 2019 aged 91.
Robson (née Redwood) had an eventful playing career in both badminton and tennis. Several times New Zealand champion in singles, doubles and mixed doubles, she reached the semifinals of the All England women’s singles in 1954, besides winning several English county tournaments and the Irish Open the same year.
In tennis, Robson competed twice at Wimbledon. In 1954 she reached the third round of singles, doubles and mixed doubles (with husband Jeff). Three years later she made the second round of singles, quarterfinals of the doubles and fourth round of the mixed. She was in three Uber Cup teams, including the one that reached the Uber Cup semifinals in 1960.
Following her playing career, she became a respected coach, official and administrator. She was Technical Director of the Commonwealth Games in 1990 and Technical Director of the Thomas & Uber Cup (Asia Zone) in 1996.
She served as President of New Zealand Badminton for two years and was in the management committee for 13 years. She was instrumental in the founding of the Badminton Oceania Confederation and was its first President from 1987 to 2000.
She won several accolades, including the IBF Meritorious Service Award in 1988 and the BWF Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, and was included in the New Year Honours List of 2001 by the New Zealand government for her services to racket sports.
BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer said her death was an irreparable loss to the badminton community.
“Heather Robson was a guiding light for badminton in New Zealand and Oceania. Her wise counsel will be missed. I offer my condolences to the family,” Høyer said.
Tributes poured in from around the world. Badminton New Zealand President Ian Willans hailed Robson as “a true pioneer”.
“Her leadership and drive saw a staggering number of achievements that were well before their time,” Willains said.
A moment of silence was observed in Kuala Lumpur during the BWF Council Meeting in recognition of her immense contribution.
“Heather always showed the best of what a New Zealander was and her influence and passion for badminton extended out to include Oceania and even the Badminton World Federation,” said BWF Council Member and Badminton Oceania Deputy President Nigel Skelt.
Badminton Oceania CEO/Secretary General Julie Carrel hailed Robson’s contribution to badminton in the region.
“Heather was an invaluable treasure to the badminton world, bringing her extreme passion and expertise to the sport. She was a highly devoted member to Badminton Oceania and it has been our pleasure to grow alongside her influence in the badminton community,” said Carrel.