With its wealth of talent in various sports – best exemplified by Rafael Nadal and the soccer World Cup-winning football team – Spain can lay claim to be the sporting superpower of the world. Badminton, though, is another matter as the country did not have a tradition of producing top-level players.
However, in recent years, the emergence of Pablo Abian and, more recently, Carolina Marin have made badminton fans sit up and take notice. While Abian has given a good account of his abilities over the last three years and rose to a career-high No.20 in the world rankings, Marin is an emerging new talent who has excelled in the junior circuit and is now making ripples in the senior category as well.
With all the attention on them for the Olympics, it’s an ideal time for badminton to strike deeper roots in Spain. The 19-year-old left-hander from Huelva acknowledges that the Olympics would help get badminton some extra mileage in her country. “Badminton in Spain is not so popular but people who like badminton really appreciate that there are two players from the country who can play at the Olympic Games,” said Marin in an interview. “Badminton in my town (Huelva) is not so popular but now badminton is being played at schools and people can know more about that sport.”
Marin could not get beyond the group stage at the Olympics because she was unlucky enough to draw the eventual champion, Li Xuerui, in her three-woman group. Maria fell in straight games to Xuerui but beat Peru’s Claudia Rivera in her last group match.
For a player who was competing at the junior level until last year (she competed at the World Junior Championships last year, where she lost in the semifinals), Marin has made an impressive foray up the senior rankings. She climbed to a career-high 25 among her title victories are the European Junior Championships and the Spanish Open, both in 2011. In her young senior career, she has already claimed a few big victims, including Tine Baun at the European Team Championships in February 2012, Yip Pui Yin at the Djarum Indonesia Open in June 2012, and Eriko Hirose at last year’s World Championships. Her performances prompted world No.6 Juliane Schenk to state that Marin was one player from Europe with ‘great potential’. “If she stays injury-free she will have a great future,” Schenk told Badminton Europ’s website.
Marin is aware of her potential and is confident of her ability to move up the ladder. “I think if I focus on my practice every day and practice hard every day, I can do everything,” she says.
She might not have made an impact at the Olympics, but her performances from now on might make a world of difference to how badminton is perceived in Spain. Marin says she is happy with the recognition she has got so far, but admits she would like badminton to be as widely recognized as tennis or football. “I’m very happy (with the recognition) because in Spain it is very difficult to have many good badminton players,”
she says. “But I believe that in the future Spain will have some good badminton players.”