A golden goal that gave Germany glory; first glimpses of godly off-drives at the home of cricket; a Dane doing the All England-Olympic double. The summer of ‘96 felt distinctly left. But not perhaps to a then three-year-old southpaw in Andalusia.
Huelva is home to Spain’s oldest football club, Recreativo. It is also where world No 19 Carolina Marin hails from. As a kid, though, it wasn’t the exploits of Oliver Bierhoff or Sourav Ganguly or even Poul-Erik Hoyer Larsen that captured her imagination, but an art form that is synonymous with Spain’s southern region.
“I used to be a Flamenco dancer from the age of three to 12,” Marin told HT when in Delhi. That she didn’t have two left feet was firmly established. But it wasn’t until she was eight, when a friend from school took her to a hall nearby, that her deadly left hand came to the fore. Marin liked badminton enough to practice for two hours a week, but it wasn’t until a few years later that she was forced to pick one. “I chose badminton.”
At 14, she left home to move to the national centre in Madrid. Her focus on singles is not entirely by choice. “There are about a dozen singles players at the national centre (in Madrid),” said Marin. “But no doubles players - given the financial situation, it’s difficult for the federation to support them.”
With Denmark producing mostly doubles players, Europe is banking on her hybrid of a left-hander’s grace and a dancer’s poise. But in a country where badminton is “not so popular” when compared to football and tennis, it has been difficult for her to find quality sparring partners. So, she’s been moving around, playing in leagues in Denmark and now India.
She’s been on the road for several months now, training alongside Taufik Hidayat in Indonesia and at Ratchanok Inthanon’s club in Thailand. “It’s the longest I’ve been away from home,” she said. “I’ll go on a holiday with my family for a week or two (after the IBL).”
Marin’s idol is Rafael Nadal - also a left-hander but not by birth - who she was hoping to meet at last year’s London Olympics. “Sadly he withdrew due to his injury,” she said. Well, here’s hoping she bumps into him while vacationing.