"Making history is a motivation for me," Carolina Marin told Spanish publication Marca in a recent interview.
It's this unquenchable thirst to etch her name in the record books that has driven the Spanish shuttler throughout her career. Her tremendous resolve and fighting spirit helped put Spain — a country known for its passion for football — on the badminton map.
At the age of 21, Carolina Marin became the youngest European to be crowned world champion. At the Rio Olympics, she won the gold to end the Asian hegemony over the women's singles title. In 2018, she went on to become the first female shuttler to bag the World Championships title thrice.
Carolina Marin's tryst with history is unending, but it is the result of some meticulous planning as much as it is a reward for the southpaw's own determination. Having a team with revolutionary ideas helped shape the champion in her.
Since her emergence on the circuit, Marin's team has relied a lot on big data and sports analytics to plot her strategy to conquer the world. Her team's dependence on technology is a first in the sphere of badminton and has now opened up the possibility of it being profusely used to take promising shuttlers to the top.
"We have been working with big data and specific analysis for a really long time and it makes things much easier for me because I can know my rival much better, I can be more calm when I step on the court," Carolina Marin recently told Olympics.com.
At the age of 14 when Carolina Marin started her association with her now father-figure coach, Fernando Rivas, in Madrid, little importance was given to sports analytics technology. But Rivas' adamant attitude showed how far technology can take one.
Not only have stats and data helped the Spanish ace improve her game and study her opponents, but where it has given her an added advantage is visualizing matches even before they happen. Advancement in sports analytics technology and the introduction of virtual reality (VR) have lent Marin's team a crucial edge in preparations.
"We call them ‘virtual matches'. We analyse the data of each rival and use it to do the preparation and the strategy before the big events. Above all it helps us work out my rival's weaknesses and come up with a game plan for every opponent," Carolina Marin told El Pais in a recent interview.
From personal loss to aiming for Tokyo Olympics glory, Carolina Marin's mental strength stands out
If at Rio, Carolina Marin snapped the Asian winning streak for the first time, she is now aiming to become the first European, male or female, to win two singles golds at the Olympics. With the kind of form she has shown to begin the year with, a second Olympic crown doesn't look a distant dream.
The 27-year-old has won four out of the five tournaments she has participated in this year, throwing down the gauntlet to her challengers. Names that have fallen to Marin this year include World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying and the reigning world champion PV Sindhu.
Marin couldn't have started an Olympic year in a better way. The unbreakable spirit and the unflinching courage are back, and so are Marin's shrill screams on the court that are sure to send a shiver down her opponents' spines.
She already has three World Championships crowns as well as four titles at the European Championships, an unprecedented feat in itself. She is now looking to add yet another Olympic gold to her illustrious resume — something that will be hard to emulate any time soon.
Carolina Marin right now looks unstoppable and pretty much invincible.
But to get to this point, the Spaniard has had to overcome some of the toughest moments in her life in the past couple of years. Yet she didn't let them deter her.
A devastating anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during the Indonesia Masters final in 2019 left the southpaw in tears. The injury required surgery, eventually putting her off the circuit for eight months.
"When the doctor showed me the ligament scan and I heard the word 'torn', I just completely broke down," Carolina Marin told El Pais.
"I left the clinic crying, but in the car on the way home I said: 'Ok, this is what it is, tomorrow they operate'. Right there I had to change my thinking: if your body is ok, the knee will get better, if you stay here crying and depressed, you'll send negative messages to the knee," Marin explained.
It was this amazing spirit and resilience that helped her win the BWF Super 1000 China Open in just her second tournament on comeback.
2020 turned out to be even tougher for her on a personal level. She lost one of her biggest sources of support — her father — to an accident. Marin spent an agonizing five months while her father kept battling for his life in the hospital. His passing away left the badminton champion shattered but she was quick to pick up the pieces and immersed herself headlong into doing what her father loved seeing her do — winning trophies.
"It's been a hard year and I hardly had any time to mourn because I had to compete. Over Christmas I feel like I found myself again and I got back to enjoying badminton and the desire to keep achieving big things," Carolina Marin told Marca.
Her ability to rise above the mightiest of challenges and her fearlessness have helped her scale unimaginable heights in the sport. She isn't afraid to deal with adversities neither in life nor on the court.
Even at Rio, she didn't begin the final in the best possible manner, losing the first game to Sindhu. But Carolina Marin's innate ability to relentlessly inspire herself even when the odds are stacked against her is what helped her win gold in Brazil.
Come Tokyo, there could be more such moments in the offing as Marin sets her sights on doing what she does the best — creating more history.