Badminton: Marin wants to be the greatest of all

Dubbed the Rafael Nadal of badminton in Spain for her tenacity and fierce left-handed game, Spaniard Carolina Marin ended Asia's hegemony at the Olympics, beating India's P.V. Sindhu in the Rio 2016 final.
Dubbed the Rafael Nadal of badminton in Spain for her tenacity and fierce left-handed game, Spaniard Carolina Marin ended Asia's hegemony at the Olympics, beating India's P.V. Sindhu in the Rio 2016 final.PHOTO: ST FILE

First woman to win three badminton world titles eyes further glory to cement her legacy

MUMBAI • For someone who took up badminton as a hobby, Carolina Marin has come a long way to be the reigning Olympic and world champion but she yearns for more as she aims to become the best ever in the sport.

In August, the Spaniard became the first woman to win three world titles when she beat India's P.V. Sindhu in Nanjing to add to her gold medals from 2014 and 2015.

China's Lin Dan has won two Olympic men's singles gold medals and five world championship crowns and is widely considered the greatest shuttler of all time.

"Well I would like to be the best player in the history of badminton," Marin said.

"It's very easy to say but I know it's going to be really difficult. I am ready to do anything to get that.

"I would like to win one more Olympic Games and minimum two more World Championships."

Dubbed the Rafael Nadal of badminton in Spain for her tenacity and fierce left-handed game, Marin ended Asia's hegemony at the Olympics when she beat Sindhu in the Rio 2016 final.

Her win secured Europe a first title in 20 years and only its second since the sport's 1992 debut at the Games - something Marin could never have imagined when she started playing.

"Badminton is not very popular in Spain. I just played it as a hobby. I didn't think too much about becoming a world champion," said the 25-year old, who represents Pune 7 Aces in the ongoing Premier Badminton League in India.

"When I moved to the national centre as a 14-year-old, then I started to think about what I would like to be... and I just wanted to be the best in the world.

"I had to put in so much effort to make my dream come true... I had to make so many sacrifices. It was really difficult."

Since her Rio gold, Marin has been dogged by injuries, the latest being a niggling pain in her right leg which kept her out of this month's Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Finals.

Marin also finds the BWF rule forcing the top 15 shuttlers to participate in at least 12 events a season too taxing and believes the governing body should do more to protect the players from injuries.

"When they force the players to play so many tournaments in a year, we cannot do that. We are human, not robots, so sometimes we get injured because we are being forced to play so many tournaments," the world No. 6 said.

Coming from a country with no real pedigree in badminton, Marin believes she has been able to popularise the sport with many children picking up a racket after her Olympic success.

She, however, is not too sure if Spain would see another of her kind.

"It's not easy to produce another Carolina Marin," she added.

"I have a special character that makes me feel special... to put in efforts to fight for my dream."

But Marin is not the only one with big dreams, as men's world No. 1 Kento Momota is also eyeing a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The 24-year old Japanese, who beat Shi Yuqi to win the world championship gold in Nanjing but fell to the Chinese at the World Tour Finals, is focusing on winning more tournaments next year.

"Of course I want to win a gold medal. But honestly, it depends on the 2019 results in the (Olympics) qualifiers," he said. 

"If the results are good, definitely I have a good chance for a gold. This year I had great experiences playing in many big tournaments... For 2019, I hope I can get in good preparation for the Olympics."

REUTERS, BERNAMA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 27, 2018, with the headline 'Marin wants to be the greatest of all'. Print Edition | Subscribe