Training offers Thet Htar Thuzar a way to cope.
The last few months have tested Thuzar, Myanmar’s qualifier at the Olympics. It has been some 16 months since she last played a tournament. The disruption caused by the pandemic meant that the world No.65 had to scale down her training plans.
“It’s really difficult…” she says, “but while training, I only focus on that. It’s good for me, it’s one of the things I can handle. It’s not easy.
“I motivate myself. We didn’t have tournaments, so we had to do everything by ourselves to train. I’d watch tournaments on YouTube and my performances at my last tournaments.”
Thuzar’s last events were in February-March 2020, when she won the Uganda International and made the quarterfinals of the Kenya International. She’d gone into 2020 on the back of a strong season in 2019, during which she won six events.
Yet, she refuses to dwell on the lack of competition, instead choosing to focus on the coming weeks.
“It means everything to me,” Thuzar says. “It’s my first Olympics. I’ve been trying from 2017. My federation’s Indonesian coach advised me to try for Tokyo 2020. I tried for four years and I had many difficulties in these years.
“It’s been over a year that I played a tournament. I’ve been training every day. The Olympics is my first tournament after one year, so I’m excited and nervous. But it’s ok. I’ve trained for a year, so maybe I can play well at the Olympics.
“Now I train with my father and with the federation. I train at the federation in the morning and with my father in the evening.
“Last year the badminton hall was closed. I played at a club in another city. My father’s friend has a private hall and I trained there for 10 months with my father. It’s a two-court hall and we could play any time we wanted. My father and his student were helping me. My father, he’s the one who trained me from when I started playing badminton, when I was seven. He’s proud and happy. My mom prepares everything when I go to tournaments, like my food and clothing, and she’s also very happy.”
There is more than a hint of Tai Tzu Ying in Thuzar’s strokes. She admits it’s no coincidence – she grew up admiring the prodigal Chinese Taipei shuttler, and her father has constantly reminded her of what makes the world No.1 so special.
“Tai Tzu Ying is my favourite player in women’s singles. My father always talks to me about her, he always shows me her videos. Her deception is really good, so I watch her videos a lot. I hope we can play each other one time.”
One of the outcomes of the long training stint, she says, is that it has made her feel prepared for Tokyo.
“Training for a year since March 2020, it’s good timing for me to go to a tournament, and that’s the Olympics. It will be tough and exciting. Based on my training, I think I can play well. I’ve been focussing on strokes and defence, because my defence is not really good, and I want to make my physical (condition) better.
“I’m focussing on the Olympics, and I’m trying my best. I have to set my mind too, because now the (pandemic) situation in Myanmar makes it quite difficult for players to travel. When we go to Japan we have to be in the room only and we cannot go around, so I have to set my mind. I’ll try my best. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get a medal, but I will try my best.
“I hope I can cause some upsets.”