In a country known for its football and beach sports, Lohaynny Vicente would hardly ever have imagined taking up the badminton racquet.
As a child, she was used to kicking a football in the many favelas of Rio de Janeiro her family lived in. Her father, a drug dealer, would often move the family around to evade police and rival gangs. It was only after he was shot by the police and her mother settled down in a favela in the northern part of the city that Lohaynny, then four, and her sister, Luanda, then six, started playing badminton under a community programme started by a coach.
Her rise was slow but remarkable in a country that will participate in Olympics badminton for the first time. From a low of 497 in the world in December 2012, Lohaynny has seen a career-high of 54 (in March this year). Playing doubles with Luanda, the duo won silver at the Pan American Games in Toronto. Lohaynny’s goals are more practical than impossible: She aims to be among the 15 best players in the world, and at 20, she has time on her side.
Vicente will begin her singles campaign against India’s Saina Nehwal on Thursday. Although beating the higher-ranked Indian will be a tall order, just making it to the Olympics has been a remarkable achievement by the Brazilian.
Place of birth: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
International debut: 2006
Turned professional: 2005
Been a national team member since: 2009
Current world ranking: 74 (women’s singles), 39 (women’s doubles)