"Berapa lama ke Istora? [¿Cuánto queda para Istora?]", Ask in Indonesian Carolina Marín, almost from the nerves, to the taxi driver. It is six o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, January 21 in Jakarta and at seven o'clock he has one of the tracks in the pavilion reserved for his first training before the tournament. "I'm going to die, we're not going to get there! The things that I do not control and that do not depend on me make me very nervous, "he exclaims. The phrase sounds premonitory … Two days later, in its premiere in the tournament, the taxi wheel is punctured that takes it to the pavilion. There is no place to stop and change it; the taxi driver holds 1.5 kilometers with the busted tire. From the Gran Meliá hotel, where the Olympic champion is staying, to the Istora Stadium there are five and a half kilometers. But the endless traffic of the capital of Indonesia turns any trip into an odyssey. To get anywhere, even if it is less than five kilometers away, it is convenient to calculate hour, hour and a half of the journey. Being a pedestrian here is a risky sport. There are no sidewalks, the open tunnels every three meters fill the shoulders with water and mud. Finding a crosswalk is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Cars and motorcycles occupy the lanes as best considered and without apparent standards; hence if you puncture or strips forward or strips forward. It is the closest thing to a jungle.
"You have to turn around and turn left, here it is not!", Indicates, again in Indonesian, Carolina Marin to the driver. Where have you learned it? "On my own; and that I lost a lot because the players who used to talk on WhatsApp have already retired, "he answers. "I read what others put in the chat and I was losing the words," he adds. He has been out of Spain since the beginning of December. First it was China (where he traveled to sign a sponsorship contract with Bi Yuan, a holding company business), then India and Malaysia. Christmas was spent in India, in the Premier Badminton League, a competition in which the best teams make an auction to sign the great players. "A video call with my parents on December 25 and ready …", he says. He has six days left in Indonesia before ending the eastern tour and returning to Madrid. He did not suspect that he would do it with crutches and the broken anterior cruciate ligament. Bad support in the final left her out of action and will keep her seven months away from the tracks that she can not do without.
"I've got an Asian face and everything," jokes that Monday January 21. In Asia, especially in Indonesia and India, Carolina is a mass phenomenon (53% of its followers on Facebook are Indian and 18% on Instagram, Indonesian). "Here badminton is what in Spain is football, basketball or tennis. And it is perceived, of course. Indonesia is the country where I like to play the most because of how they live this sport and because of the enthusiasm that exists. You're going to hallucinate this week [advierte a la periodista]! Normally, in a pavilion you do not start playing until everyone is silent, here when there is more noise is when you play. The hair on your head is amazing, it's amazing, it's as if there were 8,000 ultras, "he explains. And, indeed, the noise is deafening in the bleachers full of veiled women.
Dark circles denote tiredness. The previous midnight in Malaysia has arrived and at 11 it is already in the gym of the hotel. The nerves in the taxi because they can not get to the pavilion in time are justified. She has the track reserved for an hour for herself; The first contact before the tournament is essential. "As there is a lot of humidity and heat in the street, in the Asian pavilions they put the air on top and that affects the flight of the steering wheel. It weighs so little [menos de 5 gramos] It is easy to leave with very little. That's why my game changes in this type of pavilions; the first contact with the steering wheel allows us to have good control of the pavilion, "he explains.
'Selfies' and ovations
In Jakarta, they idolize her. "Marín, Marín!" They shout at the exit of the facilities while they surround her to ask selfies. And that's how it is every day after each game. Inside, it is an ovation every time the speakers announce that they are getting to the track. "Please, please, I'm pregnant [por favor, estoy embarazada]", Shouts a woman, who can not reach the first line of the fences, to get Carolina's attention and take a picture. In the pavilion there is a prayer area. Those who do not queue for autographs, do it for prayer. "The last name is what I have written on the shirt and in the tracksuit, that's why Marín shouts and not Carolina", explains the Spaniard. In Jakarta he has his biggest fan – they all know her for that -: she is Adhe and she is 39 years old. He met Spanish through Facebook at the beginning. It is recorded on the mobile as "My lil's Caro [mi hermana pequeña Caro]"And from the wallpaper there is a picture of them together. It is the only one that Carolina allows access to the area reserved for players. You do not miss a match of yours. "Talk to my mother …" says Marín.
In Indonesia, badminton is a national sport. The country has 250 million inhabitants and an incalculable number of licenses. Of its 30 Olympic medals, 19 are badminton. The first golds that were assigned in the debut of this sport in the Games (Barcelona 92) were won by two Indonesians: Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma. "The club system is the key to identifying phenomena in a country with so many inhabitants. The best clubs are very competitive, well financed and always in search of new talent, "explains Christian Hadinata, director of the Indonesian association of badminton, and historic doubles player. There are two types of clubs: some will prepare the athletes for excellence; others are dedicated to the training and promotion of badminton.
In Spain, according to the latest available data, there are 7,789 licenses. There is no club system that helps players emerge. Neither a competition system that allows competitiveness. Marín trains with boys in the CAR. "To measure herself against the best, Carol has had to go out. In traditional countries there are national circuits, in Spain Carol almost never played it because it did not make sense [por el nivel bajo]; he had to go outside very soon to play the international circuit, "explains Anders Thomsen, one of his two coaches. "In Indonesia it's different. Years ago I came to the national center a couple of weeks to train to develop myself much more with the help of good players and good sparrings. The level is very good and the difference is brutal. Here I trained with the girls, it was better than them but as there were many we could rotate. With the boys not, that they put a beating to me ", analyzes the Spanish.
That a 25-year-old girl from Huelva is an Olympic champion, three times world champion and four times European and has knocked down the Asian empire (China and Korea are other factories of badminton champions with 41 and 19 Olympic medals, respectively) having formed In a country without tradition, it is the closest thing to a miracle. Built based on work, stubbornness, effort, sacrifice and dedication.
"There is no more than that, I do not believe in talent," says the Spanish. As Seve with Pedreña did in golf, Huelva has put Huelva and Spain on the world map of badminton. "I'm not aware of it. It was impossible to think something like that. In fact, I did not know that I was going to dedicate myself to badminton as I am dedicating myself now … it started as a hobby, "he explains. The surprise that initially generated in the international environment has given way to admiration. "Where is Marín, where is Marín? [¿Dónde está Marín?]Exclaimed a group of girls from one of the clubs that Djarum has east of the capital as soon as they realize that those who have stepped on their pavilion are Spaniards. "We like it for its fighting spirit [fighting spirit]"They count. "He's quick on his legs and head. It is very good for the world of badminton that a country without tradition like Spain has an Olympic champion, is an example of how work can be successful, "says Hadinata sitting on a stool. It's hotter than in a sauna.
Why is there so much secrecy in the training systems? "We do not close them to hide the tactics", answers Anders Thomsen, one of the two coaches of Carolina Marín, the one who has traveled with her to Indonesia. "In badminton there are no secrets in tactics or technique: few things can be copied. But you can copy the physical training. We do not want to tell anything about that, because that is where Carolina is much better than the rest and where she makes the difference, "explains the Danish coach, who joined CAR in 2018 to work alongside Fernando Rivas. "Carol is not the best technically, but she is physically. And badminton is made up of four aspects: mental, physical, technical and tactical. We take her to the limit or beyond in training because then, when she enters the track, she knows that she will not be physically beaten and that she has won. Starting a match knowing that you are physically the best gives you more peace of mind and allows you to focus on tactics, "says Thomsen. Hence, the challenge of recovery of the crusader in the next seven months is huge. "We are going to be bad and put ourselves in the heads of the rivals who will face Carolina when I return. We will have to change something, "Rivas said on Tuesday. The time you are standing will be used for visualization, technical and tactical work.
"The first World Cup that Carolina wins  It was his first big international championship. He had not won any super-series before and there were many comments from coaches from other countries: 'Well: he's been lucky'. In 2015, when he won the All England -The Wimbledon of badminton, the most difficult tournament to win- and again the World Cup, people have already started saying: 'Maybe it's not luck'. It was a fact that Carolina was the best. The surprise then turned into admiration, "says Anders. In his team are, in addition to this Dane of 35 years, Fernando Rivas (first coach), Ernesto García (assistant coach in charge of video analysis), Diego Chapinal, Nacho Sarria and Carlos Santos (physiotherapists), Guillermo Sánchez (physical trainer), María Martínez (psychologist) and Ignacio Paramio (press officer).
The 'boss' of the team
At night, during dinner in the hotel restaurant, the atmosphere is relaxed. There is no talk of badminton or the tournament. The analyzes will then come in the coach's room. "Boss, you do not help me anything eh! The one of times that I have asked you to give me a hand to look for a girlfriend … Let's see if you promote me, "Nacho hesitates, the physio. Masseurs and technicians take turns traveling. In the most important events – World, European and Games – the two coaches are usually. In the other tournaments, only one moves, so that the rest of the badminton team of the CAR of Madrid is not left alone. For all Carol is the boss. It is what best defines its winning character and ability to excel.
The plans are adjusted on the fly and according to the tournament schedule. In this, the Spanish knows what time he plays with no more than 12 hours in advance. Today is Tuesday 22 and the getaway to a shopping center to buy a data card jumps because they have just warned that their first game will be at 9 the next day. That means getting up at 6 (your workouts start at 11). There is no time for shopping. It's time to stretch and analyze the opponent. "I do not usually buy data cards when I travel abroad: the hotel's wifi shot because outside of it I prefer to disconnect and focus on my own. But here I need it to control the traffic, which is crazy, and to ask for taxis via app, "he says lying on the stretcher that the physio has set up in his room. During the hour and a half of treatment, Carolina is seen more relaxed and prankster: the talks go through issues such as the taxi drivers strike in Madrid and how to flirt in Tinder.
Hotel bellboys ask daily for how their match has gone and for the rival of the next day. "Tomorrow we also win", they smile. The waiters greet you with familiarity. The hotel has its own badminton team and shows up in the hall one afternoon just to take a group picture with Carolina. Meliá is one of its sponsors. You steal One hour to record a small video while drinking a ginger and carrot juice. "What's wrong with this!", Jokes between takes. "Luck smiles at me", is written on the shirt. Not quite smiled at Jakarta, where he ended up crying in pain. It lasted a few hours; now he tackles his hardest battle.
Arriving in Bekasi – 18 kilometers east of Jakarta – can take up to two hours. Here is one of his projects Solibad (a solidarity organization founded by Raphaël Sachetat, a French photographer, and who sponsors, among others, Carolina Marín). It has about 20 badminton teams and guarantees equipment, training and tournament registration for around 200 young people. It also provides libraries and aid for schooling. Marín donated them 1% of their prizes last year. "It seems to me little and this year I will give a little more," he says. In Bekasi, hundreds of families live in small wooden shacks. The rains have filled the accesses of mud and the garbage attracts thousands of flies. "The first time I arrived here was early morning and I saw a man carrying dozens of cards. They go to look for waste at the supermarkets, which are still five kilometers away, they bring them here and then when they have enough they sell them to the factories, "says Miss Dom, one of Solibad's assistants. The one who carried cardboard on his shoulders was Damang, father of Nata, one of the players of the badminton team of Solibad. Thanks to practicing sports he has found work in Decathlon. "With the salary I have been able to buy a van for my father so he can carry all the garbage," he says.