For the first time since badminton became a medal sport at the Olympics in 1992, a Spanish player will enter the event as a hot contender for the gold medal. Fernando Rivas, coach of Women’s Singles World champion Carolina Marin hinted that his trainee has a few new weapons up her sleeve. Talking of her tune-up, Rivas said: “The preparation was mainly about changing things, creating a new Carolina in many ways. It’s about creating surprises, and it’s been very hard.”
Excerpts from an interview:
You talked of creating a “new” Carolina. Can you elaborate?
I’m sure most of the players have improved their technique and their way of playing and enhanced their playing potential. We’ve done everything that’s possible in two months, and we’re satisfied with the results. We’ve been working into a new way of training.
Carolina comes in as one of the frontline contenders. Are you feeling the weight of expectations from Spain?
There’s a lot of attention on Carolina. We’re asked about her chances of a gold medal, and we say of course there’s a chance of winning the gold, but there are at least eight players with the same chance. It’s a matter of enjoying the tournament and playing badminton which she enjoys the most.
She had a dream season last year with five World Superseries and the World title, but hasn’t won a major this year. Are you concerned about her form?
I’m quite satisfied… I’m very happy. She hasn’t won any major tournament, but the thing is nobody knows that she was injured for two weeks before the Yonex All England. She couldn’t work on any overhead shots for two weeks as she had a problem with the left shoulder. And before Malaysia and Singapore she got the flu, she was about to miss the flight. She was coughing while playing, she was not in shape. In spite of that, she reached the semi-finals of the All England and the quarter-finals in Malaysia and Singapore and the semi-finals in Indonesia, when we were actually preparing for the Olympics, and she was in the load process. I’m quite satisfied. Not being fit, she has performed the best she could.
You’ve seen her closely. How has she evolved over the last couple of years?
Of course Carolina is not the same, of course she’s getting acquainted with all the attention she’s getting. She’s very happy about her being the image of badminton in Spain, and opening the door to practising badminton and to making badminton a more popular sport in Spain.
What kind of players do you think the conditions in Rio will favour?
The same as those who do well all the time. The conditions are about the same as the Hong Kong Open, with a little drift, depending on the court. The players with technique will do well.
You did say that eight players have an equal chance of winning the gold medal. But any player you’re particularly keeping an eye on?
The first eye will be on Nanna Vainio, the second on Line (Kjaersfeldt). Then we’ll see. We’re expecting Sung Ji Hyun in the quarter-finals, but we’re taking it match by match.