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#PuedoPorquePiensoQuePuedo | I can because I think I can

We caught up with 2015 YONEX All England champion Carolina Marin following a topsy-turvy year to talk All England, defending her Olympic crown and flamenco dancing!

It’s been a year of two halves for 2015 All England champion Carolina Marin. The 26 year old Andalusian had to hold on to her motto especially tightly following a serious injury in January. However, since recovery she has come roaring back, retaining the Super 1000 China Open and putting in a strong performance in Paris, finishing as runner up.

“I think I am better than before the injury” Carolina told us; and it is easy to see why. After an inauspicious return to the sport (a First Round exit in Vietnam to Supanida Katethong), expectations were low heading into China. How wrong we all were.

Marin blew away the competition; her run to the title included victories over Nozomi Okuhara, Beiwen Zhang, He Bing Jiao, Takahashi and, in a tight final, over Tai Tzu Ying in an hour and five minutes. “It’s been a different journey,” Marin reflects, “but I’ve learnt a lot of things, not only about badminton.”

A fierce competitor on the court, she has garnered comment on social media about her shouts of celebration. This desire is clearly what drives her on to achieve her goals. The comment above illustrates, however, time away from the sport may have added a philosophical twist to her outlook.

The final of the Indonesia Masters on January 27th. Marin has made serene progress to the final, dropping just two sets in the process. She is facing her second Indian opponent of the week; PV Sindhu having been dispatched in the Quarters, this time Saina Nehwal stands across the court. At 10-4 in the first set, she suffered a rupture to her anterior cruciate ligament and faces a spell on the sidelines, which would encompass missing the All England in March.

“I’ve been out for 8 months, but one of the worst [pieces of] news was to not be able to play in Birmingham.” She was missed – her hunger always shines through, something which definitely endears her to the Birmingham crowd. “There is a really special atmosphere around it and we feel it and also I have great memories there!”

Understatement alert. 2020 will be the 5th anniversary of Carolina’s victory in England, her first major title and the start of a run of success which also included an Olympic Gold. “It is one of the most important moments in my career. [It] was an incredible year for me.”

That win preceded the Olympic Gold she currently holds – not that she is dwelling on that past success. “Rio 2016 is so far from here,” she reflects, “it’s a new challenge [Tokyo 2020]. I am so excited to be ready to fight for it.” Not that Carolina is putting a specific target on the year ahead; sensible given her 2019.

On her day, she is possibly the best player on the circuit; certainly, when everything clicks, she is a tour de force. Her record speaks for itself. Between her victory in Birmingham and the 2016 Olympics, she also held the World & European Championship Gold. “I just want to work hard and do my best” when asked about the next year producing similar results.

Given the level of competition in the Women’s Singles at the moment, this is a good attitude. Any one of 8 or 9 players will have high aspirations that 2020 is going to be their year. “It’s really difficult to say just one name [who is the toughest opponent on tour]. In my opinion every one of the top-10 ranked are tough opponents.” This strength is further demonstrated by Okuhara; finalist 6 times in 2019 – and runner-up on each occasion. Tai Tzu Ying, Okuhara, Akane Yamaguchi, An Se Young, Chen Yufei and many more stand in Carolina’s way.

Badminton was not always the first choice for Carolina growing up. “I love dancing flamenco! I don’t remember exactly the year, but there was a moment that I needed to choose between badminton or flamenco.” Flamenco’s loss was definitely badminton’s gain. She is clearly so proud of her Spanish roots, noting how she loves spending time at home in Huelva during her limited time off. Refreshingly, she sees herself as European too – she spoke to us last month glowingly about the support she receives in Denmark – and also mentioned the All England supporters - “I love how the fans make me feel at home.”

So to March, and the chance to add a second All England title to her trophy cabinet, five years on from her previous title. Is that her aim in 2020? “I don’t like to think about this type of things.” But don’t be fooled – she can because she thinks she can.

Want to watch Carolina and all the best in the world at the All England? Buy your tickets now! Purchasing before 10am on Monday 2nd December could save you up to £10 – click here.

Interview; Rob Short