Yet, there was plenty at stake in the contest between the Iranian and the Maldivian. And even as Aghaeihajiagha made a mark in the record books by becoming the first Iranian to win a match at the Olympics, her vanquished opponent walked away with pride at being the first female player from her country to play at the Games.
Aghaeihajiagha beat Abdul Razzaq 21-14 21-7, and was awash in her Everest summit moment, in its own way as intense as that of any medal winner.
“I’m really feeling so excited. This is the first time that an Iranian girl is playing at the Olympics, and I feel so proud and I won my first match, so I feel really amazing,” said the Iranian.
The only other player from her country at the Olympics was Kaveh Mehrabi, who competed in men’s singles at Beijing 2008. Mehrabi lost his first round match.
“It’s feeling so different from all the tournaments I’ve played. This is the Olympics, my dream came true. My next dream was to win at the Olympics, and that also came true. So I hope for my next match I will do my best,” said Aghaeihajiagha.
“Due to COVID-19 all qualifying tournaments were cancelled, it was difficult time for me. I had an injury in my right knee and couldn’t play any tournaments the last few months, so this is my first tournament after my surgery. After five months I’m feeling really proud of myself that I can play and that I became an Olympian, I felt good.”
Expecting a qualifying spot, Aghaeihajiagha spend sleepless nights, and her prayers were answered when the call from her federation finally came.
“I couldn’t sleep, every moment I was hoping to be on the list. I was with my brother, and I got a call from my federation and they told me my name was there, so I cried for a long time. It was amazing.
“Everyone in my family waiting for this moment. I’ve been waiting for eight years for this moment. I had my chances to qualify for Rio in 2016, but my left knee injury affected my chances.”
For Abdul Razzaq, the loss did not dull her pride at taking that momentous first step for her country.
“I’m honoured to be here and to be able to take part even though I’m from such a small country. I’m really glad even though I lost the match. It’s been amazing. I think I have set a standard for female badminton players in the Maldives. We have a handful of people who play badminton back home so I think this will be a great inspiration for them as well.
“I have been getting a lot of messages. I’m so grateful for their support and I can see that they are very happy that I am the person representing the country.”