Korean badminton ace An Se Young: "I'd like to emulate Carolina Marin's power and offence"

The 19-year-old South Korean looks to learn from the best as she makes her Olympic debut at the upcoming Games in Tokyo.

By Sanjeev Palar
Picture by Stephen Caillet / Panoramic

An Se Young has six international badminton titles and a Uber Cup bronze medal to her name, and she achieved all this before her 18th birthday.

The badminton single's player made her debut with the South Korean national team when she was just 15 years old and has since been working her way up through the rankings.

After a stellar start to 2021, the 19-year-old shared exclusively with Olympic Channel how she is now looking forward to making her Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and has even allow herself to start thinking about winning the gold medal one day, describing it as,

" A dream come true, something too good to describe in words. I want to feel it." - An Se Young on winning Olympic gold

Learning from the best

When tournaments resumed after the global lockdown, An featured prominently at the three events held in Thailand at the start of the year.

She made the semi-finals in both of the Super 1000 events, and faced reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin on both occasions. Despite her not progressing to the finals, An showed that she is capable of playing to a high level as she forced the Spaniard to work hard for the win.

An subsequently made her World Tour Finals debut, where she gained a win over Marin in the final match of their group, after both of them were already certain to progress to the next round.

It was An's second victory over Marin having created headlines in 2019 when she beat the three-time world champion to the French Open title. But playing against the best has helped the teenager identify her areas of weakness as she admits, "my offence is not good enough and I have a long way to go."

"I'd like to emulate Carolina Marin's power and offence. She’s strong and powerful." - An Se Young

Inspired by the youngest badminton world champion

At the age of nine, An's coach said something to her that changed her approach to the sport.

He said to her, "You can’t be world number one by studying, but in sport, I can make you world number one"

His words has a profound impact on her as she decided then and there that she wanted to become a professional player.

Six year's later, she was invited to join the national team, and a year later in 2018, she helped South Korea finish third in the Uber Cup.

2019 was a standout year for An as she won five world tour titles and beat some formidable names in the finals including London 2012 gold medallist Li Xuerui, Carolina Marin and even senior teammate Sung Ji-Hyun.

It came as no surprise that she also picked up the Badminton World Federation's award for 'Most Promising Player of 2019"

Despite her young age, An believes that she too can achieve greatness early on.

The teenager has taken inspiration from Thailand's Rachanok Intanon who is still the youngest ever singles player to be crowned world champion, when she clinched the 2013 world title at the age of 18 years, 6 months and 6 days old.

"Ratchanok [Intanon] of Thailand was my childhood idol because she won international tournaments at a very young age" - An Se Young

Watching the Thai player succeed at a young age like herself, helped her gain the self-belief that she too could do the same.

An is currently ranked eighth in the world and will still be a teenager when she makes her Olympic debut in Tokyo. And given her rise in form, she could very well be a contender for a podium finish in Japan.