BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon has blazed a trail in women’s badminton ever since she became the youngest ever world champion in 2013 at just 18.
Yet the young Thai has unfinished business later this year at the Rio Olympics, as she bids to put the heartbreak of London 2012 behind her.
Four years ago, Intanon found herself a game and 16-9 up in the quarter-finals against China’s Wang Xin. But tears were to follow as she failed to convert her advantage into a medal tilt.
“It was my worst experience as a player,” she told Reuters at the All-England championships. “When I was interviewed by reporters, I couldn’t stop crying.”
Defeat, she says, spurred her on to greater heights a year later when she broke China’s eight-year stranglehold to lift the world title.
Intanon’s rise is the more remarkable given her early dislike for the sport.
As a child her parents moved to the suburbs of Bangkok where they worked at a factory making Thai desserts. With her family keen for Intanon to avoid burns or injuries, the owner let the factory children play on the badminton court she had built.
“In the first place, I really didn’t like it,” said Intanon. “My parents said that I should give it a try. But after a few years I started to love the game and I realized that I could make a living.”
Intanon has since risen to world number four thanks to an all-round game built on deception, court craft and speed.
She reached the All-England finals in 2013 but was forced to leave the arena in a wheelchair after suffering cramp during last year’s championship.
The recent Thailand Masters champion has sought to rectify those problems ahead of Rio.
“I like to win quickly,” said Intanon, who wears dental braces. “Sometimes that can affect my body, but I have trained this year to win big events.
“I believe that I can win a medal and I am focused on a gold. There are many players coming into form, but if I can play within myself I can beat anyone.”
Editing by Mark Potter