Racket Wielder of another kind from Spain!

This is a profile-feature I had written a year ago for The Teenager Today magazine, after some research on Carolina Marin. No better time to post this online, now that she is also an Olympic Champion!

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A left-handed Racket wielding Spaniard has been in the news in recent times for all the right reasons. Winning trophies, being the top-seed, defeating the best in the business, this southpaw has done it all. And it’s not Rafael Nadal. We’re talking about another champion who plays another racket sport and responds to the name, Carolina Marin.

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Spain gets its Badminton Star
A country that is going through one of its best phases of sporting history with the likes of Rafael Nadal (Tennis), Fernando Alonso (F1) and the Spanish Football Team becoming world beaters in their respective sports in the last decade or so, not to forget victories for Óscar Pereiro, Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre in Tour de France – Spain can add one more sporting hero to that bracket: Carolina Marin. In a country that is crazy about its football, Badminton comes way below in the pecking order of the most popular sports, primarily because no known name had risen out of Spain that would set the world alight with his or her badminton exploits. Yet, one young girl decided to take the racket and show Spain, and the world that she had what it takes to be among the very best in the business. Today, if Spaniards are taking interest in the racket-and-shuttle sport, it is because of what Carolina Marin has achieved in the last couple of years.

Picking the Sport by chance
Such was the popularity, or the lack of it, of Badminton in Spain that Carolina Marin incidentally did not even know that such a sport is in existence. Hailing from the Andalusian coastal city of Huelva in southern Spain, the home of Flamenco – a type of Spanish folk music and dance, it was only natural for a girl from that region to pick up on the dance form and aim to be a professional at that. Carolina’s future though would take a totally different route. She would give up her dancing shoes for her sports shoes soon, as soon as she started playing Badminton. It was merely a chance walk into a badminton court with a friend that would change her destiny, and possibly that of her country. There was no turning back from there. She started competing in the Junior’s championships, where she would go on to become the first Spaniard to win the European U17 Badminton Championships – one of the many titles she would go on to take in the years to come.

Pride of Europe
Very soon she would rise to being the best in Europe. A country that has never seen a badminton player holding aloft some major trophies, Spain was now witnessing a little girl in her teens putting her country on badminton’s world map. At just 16, she had won her first senior title by winning the Irish International in Dublin. In fact, Europe, which usually depends on the Danes or the English to compete against the mighty Asians, was now beginning to look at this Spaniard to break the domination of their neighbouring continent. Every victory was now not just cheered by the Spanish, but a good part of the European continent as well.

Into the big League
Not many believed Carolina Marin would turn out to a major success at the world-level. After all, she would have to cross roads with the mighty Chinese to win some of the major tournaments in the world. Come 2013, many skeptics would turn believers. They say, if you have to be known in the World of Badminton, you need to be known in Asia! Carolina took her first steps towards that when she won the London GP, her first BWF event victory – also a first for Spain! These steps soon became rapid strides towards the top 10 rankings with a victory at the Scottish Open GP at Glasgow. That these victories were coming in the year following the retirement of the Danish great Tine Baun were sure signs of a vacuum about to be filled. She almost won a medal at the 2013 World Championships in China, eventually losing out in three games. Europe was finding a new legend in her, and she stamped her authority on that belief by winning the European Championships in 2014. Going into the World Championships in Copenhagen, it was expected that Marin would carry the European flag. Although not many were expecting her to be the champion, they expected Carolina to be on the podium at least. Reaching the semi-finals would have been good enough for many, for she was the first Spaniard to do so. The Spaniard would shock the world, though. She broke some Indian hearts by defeating PV Sindhu in straight sets to reach the final. The final against world number 1 and Olympic Champion Li Xuerui was a classic. Marin, who was trailing for a good part of two games, came back to upset Li, and give Europe its first individual woman’s world champion since Camilla Martin won the Championships in 1999, in the process also becoming the youngest European to do so.

In June this year, she would reach the summit of rankings, and justified that billing by defeating India’s hero Saina Nehwal and win her second World Championship in August. Although Nehwal took back the number one ranking recently, the Indian would know that a young Spaniard is right over her shoulder.

Secret of Success
That she does not have too many practice partners back in Spain means she has to often travel to different countries only to train with better badminton players. That itself speaks volumes about Carolina’s determination for the sport and to succeed. What she has achieved is not just because of her talent, which is top-class, but also because of her hard-work and dedication to the sport. She is a master of come-back victories. It is her never-give-up attitude that combines with her steely determination, which puts her on the pinnacle of world badminton. No opponents can afford to relax while playing against her. Carolina is also a very astute student of the game, and can quickly change her game to surprise the opponent, while also not compromising on her attacking style of play.

At just 22, Carolina has already achieved what many through the long careers couldn’t. And to think that she is only at the start of her journey, how many more peaks can she climb is a prediction worth taking.


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