Turning a dream into reality: Timothy Lam represents Los Altos in Tokyo


Courtesy Timothy Lam

Timothy Lam, Los Altos High School ’15, will be competing in the 2021 Olympic Games, representing the U.S. Olympic men’s badminton team.

For Timothy Lam, Los Altos High School ’15, the Olympic Games — an amalgamation of the world’s best athletes — have been an inspiration, but he’s always viewed competing in the games as a dream out of reach. However, for the past three years, the five colorful Olympic rings have been an all-consuming force, as Lam has worked towards making his Olympic dream a reality. 

After 18 years of intense training since he first started badminton lessons at 6 years old, Lam has landed himself a spot on the U.S. Olympic men’s badminton team, currently getting ready for competition in Tokyo. 

Lam started off his badminton career tagging along to his older brother’s badminton lessons. His entry into the sport was a rite of passage, with both his brother and his dad involved in the sport. Continuing the family streak, Lam and his older brother played for their local badminton club, attending local tournaments at first, and then qualifying and competing in national tournaments. 

As the two grew older, they started to qualify for — and compete in — international tournaments, pushing them to practice longer and harder. 

“Badminton requires a lot of agility,” Lam said. “Many people misinterpret it as a backyard sport that you can play while drinking a beer in your left hand, but in reality, it’s actually a lot more fast paced and interesting.” 

As Lam entered high school, his passion for badminton grew, and his drive to continue to improve at the sport skyrocketed. Balancing a full high school curriculum along with over three hours of daily badminton practice was tough, according to Lam, but he enjoyed playing and getting a break from his school work. Because of his rigorous practice and school schedules, Lam wasn’t able to play badminton for LAHS, and instead focused on his own training.

“I definitely had to make huge sacrifices, especially with my social life,” Lam said. “I often had to prioritize training and school over hanging out with friends, but I was motivated to continue working hard because I enjoyed playing badminton so much; it was something that I wanted to be really good at.”

While his brother stopped playing badminton upon the start of his college career,  Lam continued through his time at Cal Poly Pomona, consistently attending tournaments and eventually earning himself a spot on the national badminton team. 

“It wasn’t until five or six years ago that I felt I had potential in the Olympics,” Lam said. “From there, I knew it was something I wanted to go for.” 

Ever since the moment that the possibility of qualifying for the Olympics gleamed before Lam’s eyes, he worked nonstop to fulfill his Olympic goal. This included constantly traveling alone across the world to attend international tournaments to rack up points for the Olympics, and focusing solely on his training with minimal distractions. 

“The process was extremely stressful,” Lam said. “Receiving an Olympic qualification was extremely rewarding — it showed that all my hard work had paid off.” 

For the upcoming Olympic games, Lam is focused on developing his skills and learning from the experience. 

“Japan has actually been my favorite place that I’ve visited for badminton,” Lam said. “I’m looking forward to enjoying the experience and just playing to the best of my ability.”