Rio Olympics gold medallist shuttler Carolina Marin believes her trail-blazing achievements can inspire her fellow Spaniards to choose badminton as a career option in the football-crazy country.
The 23-year-old Marin, the lone European in the top-10 of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings beat India’s P.V. Sindhu in the final of the 2016 Rio Olympics to become the only non-Asian player to clinch an Olympic gold in women’s singles badminton.
Marin, who is currently playing in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) for the Hyderabad Hunters, now feels that her accolades have inspired many young Spaniards to take up the sport seriously in the football-mad nation, which has captured 2010 FIFA World Cup and 2008 and 2012 Euros.
“I can see many children playing badminton with their parents in the parks. I want to show Spain that there is more than football. So now, a lot many people follow badminton and want to see me playing,” Marin told reporters here on Tuesday.
“My motivation was always to be World No.1. I don’t care if there are any Europeans in the top 10, so my motivation is to always train hard and to be at the top. But now I have to work hard to stay at the top.”
Commenting on the changes after the Olympic gold, the two-time reigning World Champion said: “My life has changed a lot since the Olympics. I, however, still practise at the national centre but I am not staying there anymore.”
“Now many people recognise me in Spain but what I really like is a lot of people are taking up the sport.”
Despite having all the major badminton trophies in her cabinet at such a young age, the World No.2 feels there is a lot for her to achieve and she cannot afford to sit back.
“I want to get more and more titles. I want to repeat my feat in the World Championships, the European Championships, the All England and some more Superseries.”
“I think the top 10 players in the world are of the same level. So we can beat each other on any given day, but of course I can feel that everyone wants to defeat me. I need to keep working hard as the world No.1 status is very difficult to maintain,” she said.
On her rivalry with the top Indian shuttlers — Saina Nehwal and Sindhu — Marin said “both are very different and both of them are very tough to play”.
Speaking on the new 11-point scoring system adopted in the PBL, Marin said if the BWF decides to implement it globally, the shuttlers will have to work out on their game individually.
The ongoing second edition of the PBL underwent a change in format with the introduction of the race to 11 points, and a decisive play at 14-14 should the game get that far.
“I don’t know if I can recommend the use of 11-point system to the Badminton World Federation but if they decide to use this internationally, the players will have to change many things,” she felt.
“It was my first time to play with the new scoring system. I had a week’s break and couldn’t train a lot but I feel this kind of score really works for me.
“It’s very different from a Superseries because of the scoring system (11 points) and also we are playing as a team. In a Superseries, I play for myself or a team behind me but here the case is if I lose a match, it is a loss for the whole team.”
Her coach Fernando Rivas revealed that the losses to Saina in her initial days were painful, which he hated to watch.
“All the losses are very difficult but we try to get the best out of a defeat. I don’t really remember the very painful ones, maybe some of the matches she lost to Saina because I hated to see when she lost to her,” said Rivas, who coached Marin since she was 13.
“when I saw her for the first time, I found a potential champion. We got lucky that her parents allowed her to train at the National Centre and gave me the opportunity to shape her career. But all the credit goes to her,” he added.
Commenting on the absence of Chinese shuttlers in the tournament, Rivas said: “It doesn’t matter, I think most of the best players in the world are here in the PBL. I don’t think we are missing them much.”
“I think Chinese players have been too good for too long and when you are too good its difficult to question your methods, so may be they need some more time to see the others doing good,” he added.