Brazilian star Ygor Coelho has come a long way in the five years since his group stage exit from his home Olympic Games at Rio 2016.
While he was disappointed with his Olympic debut, the accompanying television images of youngsters practising in unison to music at his father’s badminton club in a city favela were beamed around the world.
The story would take Coelho on a remarkable journey to Europe.
“The president of Badminton France visited the social project of my father. He thought, ‘Fantastic, that Brazilians can play badminton this way’.
“Then he saw me in the Olympics and he said, ‘Do you want to train three months in Paris?’. I said, ‘Of course! It’s a great chance’.”
After his successful stint in France, Coelho found a new home in Denmark, where he plays – and sleeps at – the Hojbjerg badminton club in the city of Aarhus.
“I live inside one club, so I was training there in the beginning for four months,” he said. “But then I had to go back to Brazil to have two surgeries on my hips.”
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I couldn’t train in Brazil because everything was closed. It was hard times,” he said.
“And then I came back (to Denmark) in January of this year and I was 86kg. I was fat. I started to become fit again and now I’m ready to play in the Olympics.”
Coelho beat Georges Julien Paul in his opening men’s singles group match at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza on Monday to record Brazil’s first win in Olympic badminton history.
“Everyone at my (old) club wants to be in the Olympics and for me to win a match here makes everybody happy,” he said.
“I’ve worked five years for this moment. I’m just so happy to win and make history for my country.”