The pursuit of gold took a terrible turn for the pack leader of badminton’s golden generation in women’s singles last Friday with a twisted knee. Tokyo Games favorite Carolina Marin suffered a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament of her left knee and partial tears in the lateral and medial meniscus in practice earlier in the weekend.
The hot-time injury saw Marin ruled out of the Tokyo Olympics as a group of favorites – Nozomi Okuhara, Chen Yufei, PV Sindhu and Tai Tzu Ying, who struggled against the lightning-fast Spaniard – were immediately seen as new Championship emerged contender.
Releasing a statement regarding her surgery scheduled for this week, Marin confirmed: “This is another blow to deal with but I will definitely be back. The preparation over the past two months had become very difficult for reasons beyond the team’s control, but we were excited and I knew I would be in top form for the Olympics. That will not be possible.”
For the southpaws with the leading left hand, the movement of the left leg when lunging and stepping to the side is crucial. The second check-up and medical consultation on Sunday, after a preliminary MRI on Friday confirmed the worst fears when Marin took the call to have surgery, with the World Championships in her hometown of Huelva at the end of November as a possible target.
Marin had spent 8 months on the sidelines following her right ACL surgery but returned to claim five titles. In mid-May, she was quoted by BWF as saying, “One hundred percent train all those physical, mental, and strategic parts to show a new Carolina.”
Longtime coach Fernando Rivas was shocked and had quoted Nelson Mandela in a cryptic post on May 29, which translated as: “One should only embark on a project if one feels able to, in the event of a shipwreck, as Last to go the ship.”
Spanish media Elpais.com quoted Rivas as saying: “It was very, very hard. Too much even for a strong champion like Carol. This is very difficult to digest. We are very disturbed, especially because of what she has been able to achieve over the last two years… If there is anyone who doesn’t deserve it it’s her, it seems that every time she manages to stick her head out, one another problem occurs.”
— Carolina Marín (@CarolinaMarin) June 1, 2021
WRECKING BALL WEEKEND
El Pais told what was transpiring at the training center while coach Rivas had been forced into isolation due to a close-contact Covid situation. By the way, he wasn’t in Indonesia, where her right knee ended up unbalanced due to lack of support.
He would hear about her horrible injury again through a picture-on-phone message. Assistant coach Anders Thomsen, who oversaw Marin’s units, left several missed calls and an “Urgent, call me!” message to Rivas on Friday afternoon, according to El Pais. After missing the Zoom session due to a meeting, Rivas found the image of a distraught Marin clutching her left knee and crying on the floor after a knee twist.
Marin had a chance to let it heal since the “ruptured ligament was left in place in the intact shell,” according to El Pais, and there was a 1 percent chance it could regrow in the shell. This would mean postponing the operation until after the Games. “The player and team felt that if they could compete in the Olympic event, they would do so (only) to compete, in no way to be able to compete and for the repeat of the gold of Rio 2016,” El Pais wrote.
A second meeting with her mother by her side led to the decision to undergo surgery. The three-time world champion and five-time European champion wanted to emulate China’s Zhang Ning as consecutive Olympic champions.
Marin had beaten Tai Tzu and PV Sindhu for Chinese and Swiss titles on her return from the right knee, but was defeated by Taipein in the World Tour Finals summit.
THE NEXT PACK BEGINS
Their dominance and confirmed absence from Tokyo raises some hopes. Leading the charge is 2019 world champion PV Sindhu of India, who hasn’t missed too many high-profile finals since his silver medal in Rio. Her dominant title run in Basel makes her a contender.
The player who should undoubtedly charm and storm the field is Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, immensely talented and hungry for the big win. Japanese hopes – and regular Tour winners – 2017 world champions Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi are both capable of clinching titles at home.
China’s Chen Yufei and He Bingjiao are expected to storm out of their isolated training, while Thailand’s Ratchanok and 2021’s most consistent Pornpawee Chochuwong are aiming for a first Thai medal.
Given the pandemic-related aging and slowing speeds, it would be unwise to leave out young Korean phenomenon An Se Young as a dark horse. Fitness in this meager season could well decide the podium in Tokyo.
Marin’s distraught team, El Pais quoted as saying, had been moved to consider summoning shamans (priestly figures) hoping for a miraculous cure before making the pragmatic decision to undergo surgery. Marin will be just 30 years old when Paris 2024 catches up with the team. together with the psychologist María Martínez tried to tell her.
Spain will most likely send Carla Azurmendi, who is 1.80m tall, as Marin’s shadow in training, who clinched the Austrian title on Sunday. Still just an understudy training with Rivas, Carla joins the Danes to attempt a flutter mirroring Marin from 5 years ago in Rio.