Carolina Marín, the badminton girl from the "Far West"
Our sixth gold arrived in what, until recently, has been a rather unusual sport for us in Spain, but where a champion has been born, and one full of surprises. I remember her visit of two years ago to AS - just after winning the world championships - like it was yesterday. "I'm two people," she said, "away from the court I'm normal, but on it I'm a lioness." This is what I remember as I watch her these days: her expressions, her fury, her fanatical devotion, her screams to devour the morale of the enemy. I also remember what her coach, Fernando Rivas, recently said in regarding the toughness of her workouts. "I would not put my daughter through this."
A western shift
Work, work and more work, all so that gold is achieved. She was a dancer, she told us, and then one day she watched badminton and it fascinated her. Ever since then, all the work is for her. And when she plays, the sweet girl from Huelva with tender eyes and a soft accent turns into a fiery beast. It is remarkable how she has come to dominate the sport, how she now overwhelms her Far Eastern rivals, the land that had almost exclusively dominated badminton. She was born in the Far West, in Huelva, from where Columbus's ships went to find the Indies in the direction that the sun sets, and she now rules the roost.
A special breed
I see something in her that I can trace back to other pioneers of the past, Santana, Nieto, Ballestero or Paquito Fernández Ochoa who came into our sitting rooms, via television, in sports that until then we had not paid attention to. Like them, she belongs to a special breed. And that select group have had the power to make the whole of Spain stop in front of their TV set, as Nadal, her idol, another left-hander who shares the passion of his game, has done so often. She has filled us with pride. If a Spanish girl can snatch badminton from its natural owners, it proves that nothing is impossible.
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