COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Tine Rasmussen has excelled on the world badminton scene in the past year to win three major titles, fuelling Danish hopes that she could become the first non-Asian woman to win an Olympic gold in the sport in Beijing.
After years in the shadow of Danish ex-world champion Camilla Martin, Rasmussen won the All England title in March, adding to victories in the Malaysia and Japan Open tournaments.
Widely expected to win the European championship on home soil in April, the 28-year-old faltered in the final, losing out to Chinese-born German Xu Huaiwen.
Rasmussen, however, believes the defeat has helped her to find the right state of mind for August’s Olympics.
“I have a lot of confidence and I will be there to fight for everything,” the world number six told Reuters in an interview.
“I will go to Beijing to play my best badminton ever and if I do that it is a success for me. When you only set goals for medals it can be tough. To win the gold medal, everything has to go right at that moment.”
Rasmussen started playing badminton when she was seven, following in the footsteps of her older brother, Per. She spent her early career watching friend and team mate Martin’s exploits, which included a silver at the Sydney Games in 2000.
“She was just always better than me and I learned a lot from her,” Rasmussen said.
“She was in that position that I’m in now, talking to all the journalists and I was just outside, watching. When she stopped I was mature enough to take over the singles mantle in Denmark.”
Her fans hope she can better Martin’s result in Beijing but top Chinese players Xie Xingfang, titleholder Zhang Ning and Lu Lan are the clear favorites if they can shoulder the enormous pressure to deliver on home court.
“If they have tough draws in the first and second round it can be really bad for them,” the 1.80-metre tall Dane said. “I think the ladies’ singles is very open.”
Rasmussen knows all about having to live up to expectations on home court after unraveling in the European final.
“I felt mentally tired,” she said. “After I won All England there was so much pressure from every side...to win on my home court.
“I don’t think it was so bad for me to lose in the final. It was my first medal ever, so for me it was an achievement. In the end, I didn’t mentally have enough left.”
After the European championships, she spent a week on the beach in the Canary Islands to clear her head before returning to her six-days-a-week training regime.
She arrives at the gym every morning at eight, then takes a break at lunch to work on a house she is building with boyfriend and physiotherapist Martin Baum.
More training follows in the afternoon and Rasmussen hopes her form will peak at the Olympics.
“When I stand on the court I know what to do and I have some mental things that work for me,” she said. “When I’m in tight matches I know what to do and what to think to be confident about winning.”
Editing by Dave Thompson