CAROLINA MARÍN has become the first Spanish World Champion in badminton after beating her opponent Li Xuerui in yesterday’s final in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The 21-year-old from Huelva, Andalucía, is most definitely making her mark on a sport which has been dominated by Asian competitors for many years.
China is perhaps the global leader when it comes to producing world-class badminton players. With an estimated 100 million players in the country, it is in stark contrast to the game’s popularity in Spain, where there was not even an official federation for the sport until 1985.
Put into perspective, it makes the young woman from Huelva’s achievements in beating China’s Li Xuerui – 21-17, 17-21, and 16-21 – all the more spectacular. Marín is the first European in the last 15 years to reach the World Final in badminton, and only two European women in history have won the title before.
Marín won the European championships in April, and is currently going from strength to strength. Like her idol, tennis-superstar Rafael Nadal, she is left-handed, unusual in badminton, and a fact which forces her opponents to change their game whenever they face her.
Marín was initially nervous when the match started against Li Xuerui, who is an Olympic champion as well as world number one seed. Marín quickly went down 5-0 in the opening minutes, but then began to grow in confidence, looking her opponent in the eyes and using her body to dominate the court.
No one has ever managed to get more than 17 points when facing Li Xuerui, and the first set ended predictably, with the Chinese number one winning the set 21-17. From then on, however, Marín surprised the world and went on to win the final two sets 17-21 and 16-21 respectively, with the support of the Danish public behind her.
Carolina is already famous in Asia, having been interviewed by The Times of India, and signing autographs everywhere she goes. Now, with her Twitter account going from 6,000 to 11,000 followers overnight, she may well find fame in Europe too as the new role model for young aspiring badminton players and sportswomen everywhere.