Sunday, August 20, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
There was no coyness, no hemming or hawing from the World champion.
On the eve of starting her campaign for a third straight title at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017, Spain’s Carolina Marin laid her cards on the table as she declared that she was in her best-ever shape: “It’s been two months of preparation; I’ve prepared better than I had before the Rio Olympics… my main aim is to fight for gold. I have some tough matches (coming up) but I’m not thinking of the title defence. I will take it match by match.”
Marin, along with fellow-hopefuls Pusarla V Sindhu (India) and Kirsty Gilmour (Scotland), fielded questions from the media at the Emirates Arena on their preparations and the enormity of the challenge facing them.
“The Olympics was a year ago,” reflected Marin, “I have to forget that. After the Olympics, I had some injuries and couldn’t do well and it was frustrating. Now I’m playing well again.”
Some time ago, five-time Men’s Singles champion Lin Dan had been asked about a potential sixth crown. The champion acknowledged that it would be a special moment, if it arrived.
“I will be happy to win a sixth title, but I have to do a lot of work to achieve that,” said Lin, whose last World title was won in 2013.
Inevitably, there were questions on his rivalry with Lee Chong Wei, which had seen them contest two Olympic and two World finals. With Lin and Lee in different halves of the draw, another final was possible.
Refusing to be drawn into the question, Lee reminded his audience that there were other contenders: “China have four players, and I will probably play a Chinese in the third round and the quarter-finals. This year it’s very tough. In the Olympics you only have two players from a country, but in the World Championships there are four. SO I have to focus from the first round onwards. I’ve lost in three finals. This year I feel I have nothing to lose. You just have to beat all other players if you want to win the World Championships.
“The Malaysian team arrived early in Glasgow. The weather and the conditions are fine and I’m feeling good.”
Pusarla, who fell to Marin in the Olympic final, stated how significant it was for her to beat Marin in the Yonex-Sunrise India Open final this April: “It was important for me to win the India Open. It was good to win in front of the home crowd – there were a lot of people in India who couldn’t make it to Rio and were excited to be there… I have two bronze medals from World Championships. I want the colour of my medal to change this time!”
Meanwhile, home star Gilmour – a Glaswegian who lives 15 minutes from the venue – said her experience of the local conditions would help. Gilmour said she had evolved as a player since Rio and was confident of doing well in front of family and friends:
“It’s really special to have the World Championships at home. Not many players have the chance to have the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships in their city. My friends have been taking selfies with all the posters, and everyone’s been really involved. TO watch the World Championships in person is important for badminton in Britain and Europe.
“I will take into account my past experience of playing in the Emirates Arena. It’s a privilege to have the pressure of a home World Championships. A lot has changed for me since Rio. I’m working with a new coach and I feel I’m a better player.”