A fitting crown for Canada's arguably greatest college badminton player may not come in time.
That is the possible future that awaits five-time Canadian Colleges' Association women's singles badminton champion Ruilin Huang of Burnaby.
The fifth-year Douglas College accounting student is hoping to get an opportunity to play for Canada, but bureaucratic formalities have so far prevented the 23-year-old student from Mainland China from getting her landed immigrant papers and one day competing for a spot on the national team.
"I want to compete at the nationals, but I'm not Canadian. I really want to be, but I tried before, but it didn't work," said Huang, who earlier this month won an unprecedented fifth consecutive national female singles title in Ontario.
At the college nationals in Barrie, Ont., Huang won all seven of her matches en route to the title, improving her collegiate career record to an outstanding 207 wins with just one defeat.
"(That loss) was against a girl from Edmonton - NAIT College - and she was from China, too," said Huang of her only collegiate defeat. "I lost to her in the team event first. I lost to her in three games and in the end, we met in the singles final, and I beat her in two games. It was my third nationals and on her court."
It is telling that Huang remembers her only loss so well.
"It was my first year for regular classes (after two years of English language training). All my attention was on school and when I was at the tournament, I was still doing my marketing homework," she said.
The four-time CCAA female badminton player of the year was named the national association's female athlete of the year across all sports last year. She is also the five-time defending PacWest player of the year.
When an 18-year-old Huang first came to Canada in 2008 to attend Douglas, she defeated five-time Canadian women's national champion Anna Rice in straight sets at a national ranking event prior to the Olympics.
"It was a big deal for me. I knew she was top 16. I was lucky and I beat her," Huang said. "In China, I was OK. There is lots of competition."
Another big accomplishment for Huang was winning the U.S. Open women's doubles with Lydia Jang in 2009.
But the clock is ticking on how long Huang can continue to compete at a high enough level to fulfill her life's ambition.
After 17 years of high-performance training and competition, much of it at China's Provincial Sport Institute in Hunan province, Huang has the battle scars to prove it.
"I don't know. I believe eventually I will get it, but I don't know when I get it that I will be able to play," Huang said, adding nagging injuries are now a competitive reality for the young star. "You can go over 30, but my body condition won't allow me to go over 30."
Douglas College head badminton coach Al Mawani, who helped bring Huang to Canada, has also been spearheading her application for landed status.
Mawani, who also heads up the progressive Shuttlesports badminton academy in Coquitlam, said the process has been frustrating, especially when he sees other athletes fast-tracked with help from their sport bodies.
Last year, the Canadian Olympic Committee got behind the application of Chinese-born table tennis star Eugene Zhen Wang, the top-ranked player in North America, in time for him to compete at the Olympic Games in London.
Nothing similar to that has happened in Huang's case despite Mawani's diligent lobbying on her behalf every step of the way.
Neither Badminton Canada nor the provincial body have stepped in to support Huang's application, said Mawani.
"Time is running out as an age factor. She wants to play," said Mawani. "I think as far as the national championship is concerned, she has to experience it once. To me, she is the best player in Canada, bar none, in the 25 years I've been coaching."