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Speedminton GMBH Deutschland
Speedminton is played with a redesigned racked and a "speeder," which is heavier and more aerodynamically precise than a shuttlecock.

It's fast. It's fun. It's fantastic.

It combines tennis, badminton and racquetball.

It can be played anytime, anywhere, day or night, outdoors or in.

It's the newest widely played sport to come along since Ultimate Frisbee.

So what is it?

It's called speedminton. And if you haven't heard about it yet, don't worry. You will. It is also one of the fastest growing outdoor activities around, says Catherine Masters, director of the U.S. Speedminton Association and president of Speedminton Central, a dealer for speedminton products based in Nashville, Tenn.

Masters discovered speedminton by accident. "I think I was just looking around on the Web and came across the set and decided to order it. I'm a former tennis player, so it looked intriguing. I played it once, and I was hooked. And everyone I knew wanted one. I finally called them up and asked if I could be a distributor."

It's a fast, fun workout, she says. "There's nothing like it. The more people get exposed to it, the more popular it is going to become. It's addictive."

The game was invented in Germany by Bill Brandes, who liked to play badminton outdoors but didn't like the fact that even a light wind could disturb play because of the lightness of the traditional shuttlecock.

He came up with what is called the "speeder," something that looks like the badminton shuttlecock but is heavier and is more aerodynamically precise.

It can achieve speeds of up to 175 mph. He also designed a new racket to go with it.

At first Brandes called his game shuttleball, but in 2001 the name was changed to speed badminton, which has since been shortened to speedminton.

By 2005, there were enough players in Germany (some 6,000 or so) that it became a competitive sport, with a national championship competition. It has since spread to other countries in Europe and more recently across the Atlantic to the United States.

"We don't have a championship meet yet," says Masters. But give it time. "I think it will be huge on college campuses. And it's getting big on military bases. We just shipped some sets to Baghdad."

What's so impressive, she says, it how easy it is to play. And yet it can be very challenging. "It goes so fast. It's actually hard to slow it down. So you really get a workout."

What's also exciting, she says, is how portable and versatile the game is. "It comes with cones that you set up to make two squares that are 42 feet apart. But you can do that anywhere: your backyard, on the beach, camping, even when you're skiing. It can even be played in the snow."

The biggest mistake people make, she says, is putting the squares too close. "You really need the 42 feet. The speeder flies off the racket."

On the other hand, if young kids (it is recommended for age 8 and above) or beginners are playing, you can easily adjust the field to suit the needs.

People who have played speedminton comment on its versatility and action. Maria Sharapova, former Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, has become a fan and spokeswoman. "Great fun, great exercise," she says.

The game develops hand-eye-foot coordination. Tom Kosinski, a tennis coach in New Jersey, recommends it as a way for high school tennis players to keep their skills fresh and as a "more inclusive racket sport to teach students" in high school P.E. classes.

Others like the fact that it can be a true family game, involving players of all ages. It's also a great party game, they say, for family reunions, beach parties and backyard picnics.

"I'm impressed by the quality of the equipment," says Masters. "I've worked in tennis for years, so I know there's a lot of variety out there. This is good stuff."

You can order the equipment online. A starter "fun set," which includes two rackets, eight cones and three speeders, sells for around $29.95 plus shipping. Speedminton sets are also making their way into local sporting goods stores. Several that the Deseret News checked with had the sets, although no one knew about any local competitions. It's really just getting started, they said.

Expect that to change soon, says Masters. "It's one of the coolest new sports to hit the U.S. I think it will be bigger than Ultimate Frisbee. Not everyone can throw a Frisbee, but everyone can play this. It's going to be super-popular."

• For more information, visit www.speedminton.com or www.speedmintoncentral.com.

E-mail: carma@desnews.com