No one has caused a bigger stir in badminton at the Olympics than 34-year-old Kevin Cordon, who, in his fourth Olympics, made the semifinals.
That translates into 16 or more years of high-level badminton. Considering that the best result of his career happened so late, what kept him going all those years?
“I love to play,” said the Guatemalan. “Sometimes it’s five hours (a day), sometimes seven… I don’t know. It depends.
“I feel okay, I’m still young. Hopefully I don’t have any problems in my legs, so I just keep smiling, keep having fun.
“I’ve already had many years playing badminton and this kind of result, this kind of happiness, it is amazing. You don’t train for a few months, it’s years and with this kind of result (semifinals) you know all these training hours is worth it.”
Like Cordon, three others at Tokyo 2020 were in their fourth Olympics – Spain’s Pablo Abian, Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh and Estonia’s Raul Must.
What is the secret of their longevity?
“There is no secret,” said Abian, who beat fellow four-time Olympian Raul Must in their group match.
“Just work hard and be ready for every training session with my team. Every morning, every afternoon, every evening I’m ready for training – this is important if you have to be at high level.”
The 36-year-old, one of the oldest players on the circuit, made his international debut in 2003, and has spent nearly two decades in a physically demanding sport.
“I’m playing my fourth Olympics. Spending many years on the top is very hard. I’m proud of myself and my team for keeping a very good level.
“Obviously there are a lot of times when you aren’t happy, but you have to be ready every day for two or three sessions of training. The hardest losses were in the World Championships in 2011 and 2013, where there was a good possibility of reaching the quarterfinals, but I lost in three games both times.”
As for Raul Must, who’s 33, the Estonian is now beginning to acknowledge that there’s more that he’d like to do besides badminton.
“It feels good that I’m able to qualify for my fourth Olympics. It was quite difficult. I’m happy to be here,” said Must.
“Badminton’s a way of life. I’ve been trying hard, travelling to many tournaments, and competing all the time. I have enjoyed it quite a lot. Of course the last year and half have been difficult because of Covid, but after this tournament I will keep going. I’ve been doing it so long. I like what I’m doing. It does take a lot of discipline. For maybe one-two years I feel it’s not my only goal in life to be a good player, so I’m also enjoying the other side of life. You have to be a lot away from home and practice daily, it’s quite hard, so there are positive sides and some negative sides.”
Of the four, the one with the simplest formula for longevity is Nguyen Tien Minh, also the oldest at 38.
“Training every day, good sleep, good food,” says the Vietnamese.
“I’m so happy to be playing my fourth Olympics. I’ve been training five hours a day, on most days for almost 20 years.”