All eyes in Myanmar are focused on one girl. She’s claimed award after award in badminton, and it seems, the hearts of Myanmar as well with her sweet and gentle smile.
Thet Htar Thuzar is now trying to climb into the world’s top 100 ranking for badminton before next April. If she does, she can become eligible to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
To be able to compete at the Olympic is not only a dream of her and her family, but also for the whole country. She would become the first Burmese person to compete in badminton under the Myanmar flag.
The twenty years old player seems to inherit her athletic talent from her parents, who are the former national badminton players. It seems the “birdie” hasn’t fallen far from the tree, and neither has the olympic dream.
Her love of badminton started growing at about seven years of age when her father was working as a badminton coach in Thailand.
I had a chance to interview Thet Htar Thuzar by phone and this is what I found out.
“When one of Dad’s students needed a partner at a competition in Thailand, I helped her out as a partner. This is how I became a badminton player. I won third prize at the competition,” she recalled about the beginning her journey.
When I commented on her winning 30 awards when she was eleven, she replied, “In fact, it is more than that. Some of them are bronze prizes, certificates and awards by His Majesty of Thailand. I only keep the highest awards, and left the others in Thailand.”
She is talented player, who is also fluent in Thai language. She has been awarded by His Majesty of Thailand six times. Those awards are given to the first place winner every year.
She moved back to Myanmar at the age of 12, and started playing in international competitions, and she’s been the number one female badminton player in Myanmar since 2012.
Not being content as the number one player in the country, she is constantly looking for new competition in various countries, and her parents fully support her dream.
Two years ago when she was considering competing at the Olympics, her world ranking was around 130. However, that hasn’t gotten her downhearted. Following the guidance and trained from her coach, Mr. Didit, she started competing at international events.
“I need to win every single competition to have a higher ranking. I need to get as many points as possible to fulfill my hopes. Other players will also be trying to do the same, so I need to better myself to compete with them,” she said.
She has also competed in both single and duals competitions in Thailand, Laos, Nepal, and Indonesia in 2016 and 2017, but competition was stiff and she did not win. However, she gained a lot of experience.
She also entered the International Challenge competitions held in Vietnam, Malaysia and Iran in 2018, but failed to place. Later that year however, she won second prize in Nepal and then took the gold prize in Egypt. That is when it caught the attention of locals, and the fans love the attractive young player and her strong sporting spirit.
“If you don’t win a prize, the people will not know you. So I focus on winning the prizes,” she said.
The preparation and hard training she has been doing for two years leading up to the 2020 Olympics have brought her closer to her dreams. She competed at numerous competitions and again won the gold prize at the Uganda International 2019 held in Kampala, Uganda. Her victories continued as she won the first prize in Future Series in Nairobi in Kenya. Then, she competed in Vietnam and China, where she fought against some of the best Asian badminton players, but she did not place. She tried to go to New Zealand for another tournament but missed out because of visa complications.
She talked about how she copes with failure and said: “When I am not performing well at a match, I become angry. That’s my weakness. I need to fix it, and I am trying meditation.”
Apparently it worked and she got back on a victory track by winning gold prizes at FLEET Mauritius International 2019, Benin International 2019, and Côte d'Ivoire International 2019. She also captured the second place award at Hellas Open 2019, in Greece. She is currently sitting at 72 in world rankings after the competitions in Nigeria and Bulgaria.
While traveling and playing badminton around the world, the main challenges she had to face was weather conditions and food.
“While hot weather causes no problem, very cold weather is not fine with me. I need to do more warmups,” she said.
The next challenge is money. Money is one of the problems for players of sports that are still relatively unknown in Myanmar. Whether Myanmar players can have a better life paying particular sports remains to be seen. Support for players in addition to courts and techniques are very important for the success of Myanmar.
“Support only comes after you succeed. Thus, I focus on winning,” she commented. Her recent success has also caught the attention of businessmen who offered her modeling gigs for their advertisements.
She will compete at the Myanmar International Series on September 10-15, 2019, and the SEA games in the Philippines in November. Over 140 players from 12 countries including 16 players from Myanmar will compete at the Myanmar International Series. The event, which will be held at Myanmar Badminton Federation’s headquarters stadium in Lanmadaw Township in Yangon, will be open to the public for free. It will be an exciting event because the cheers from the fans can empower Myanmar players.
She plans to keep training before the competition and is targeting to have a world ranking of 50 before the Olympics.
We heard that after undergoing training in Denmark and playing in various competitions, she is feeling homesick and under pressure. It might be true for a young player facing various difficulties, but that wont stop this rising star.
As she said, “Playing badminton is my first priority. If I can’t be successful, then there will be no Thet Htar Thuzar. So, I will try to reach my highest potential. Like you said, I will never give up.”