Spainâ€™s ace shuttler Carolina Marin made history by becoming the first non-Asian woman to win the Olympic singles gold medal by beating P. V. Sindhu. Marin can now add an Olympic title along with her 2014 and 2015 World Championship titles.
The 23-year-old from Huelva, Spain had no idea what badminton was until the day she stumbled into a badminton arena in 2001 as she was walking back with her friends having performed the flamenco dance. Marin hasn't looked back ever since.
At 14, when she was asked where she wanted to reach in the sport, she already had her goals set high: World number 1, World Champion, European Champion and an Olympic Champion. But her route to success was not smooth. There werenâ€™t any world-class trainers and players at Huelva, so she relocated to Madrid, where she trained with better sportsmen to up her game.
Talk about football and tennis can always be heard around Spain, but badminton has never been a popular sport, until Carolina Marin decided to win a World Championship in 2014. The rise of the world number 1 had changed the way Spaniards viewed the sport. Marin is now the reason for badminton's popularity in Spain.
For Marin, the appreciation from tennis champion Rafael Nadal was further encouragement. Marin had idolised and compared Nadal, and was ecstatic to get appreciated by the legend himself. Marin and Nadal are both considered idols accountable for transforming their individual sport.
Marin has become the best in her sport despite the absence of badminton history in Spain, and one of the reasons for her success is her coach, Fernando Rivas. Rivas has been training Marin since 2005 and has been the invisible force behind her, helping her make her own decisions and remain calm during critical stages of the game.
In 2015, a year after she won the world championship, Marin suffered an injury which almost forced her out of the tournament. But determined as always, Marin fought through the pain and made her way back to beat India's Saina Nehwal, and become the World Champion for the second time in a row.
But the World Championships had taken a toll on her. The same year, she wasn't able to qualify for the Super Series Finals in Dubai. But she stuck it out the year after and competed in Dubai winning the BWF Player of the Year title.
Marinâ€™s performance at the Olympics was stellar, as she did not lose a single game in all four rounds, until the first in her final match against P. V. Sindhu.
But perhaps what best describes her as a sportsmen is a remark she made at Rio â€“ that she wasnâ€™t just her to win the gold, but also enjoy the tournament.