Badminton Comes to Brazil
Brazilian teenager Ygor Coelho knows that Olympic medals are practically out of reach, but he smiles from ear to ear because his participation in the upcoming Rio Summer Olympic Games is already a victory.
Ygor is the first badminton player ever from Brazil to qualify for the Olympics, an amazing accomplishment considering the sport is barely known in Brazil, especially in the favelas or slums where Ygor comes from. The 19-year-old athlete says with pride that he comes from the favela Morro da Chacrinha, located 11 kilometers from the Olympic Park in Rio.
“When I tell people the sport I play, they say ‘Bad what?’ If I describe it, they confuse it with squash or beach tennis,” he says.
Ygor began playing badminton at the age of 3, when his father decided to open a badminton school on the roof of his home for other children from their favela. Ygor’s father, Sebastião, said he built the school with money saved from his job to help children avoid the hardships he suffered in his childhood, which was “more difficult than anyone should bear.”
The success of the badminton school, which is now located in a pavilion with four courts, is in the training method developed by Sebastião, who uses samba steps for children, letting them have fun while learning to play the sport.
To make the leap to the badminton elite, samba was not enough for Ygor, who spent a season with a badminton club in Denmark, where he learned from one of the best players in the world, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, in addition to other coaches.
Although Ygor is today the number one ranked badminton player in Brazil, at the Rio Olympics his goal is to place among the top 20 in the world. While there, he is dreaming of meeting some of his idols, like tennis players Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
[Research for this article comes from the Latin American Herald Tribune.]