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Viktor Axelsen and Carolina Marin open up about their India experience

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Garima Verma

Viktor Axelsen’s victories on court — an Olympic bronze, a World Championship gold and the World No 1 ranking — are already tales to be retold. But, there are more untold from the 25-year-old Dane.

“I have been studying Mandarin for close to four years now and I am kind of fluent in it now,” he tells ET. “There was one instance in China when I was in a lift with some locals and they were talking about my height (he’s 6-foot-4). When I shot back in Mandarin, they were awkwardly surprised.” As clever as any of his shots on court. But India — he’s here for the Premier Badminton League — for him is just as ‘interesting’. “Just to drive around the roads in cities (in India) is a big experience. In Ahmedabad, we saw an elephant on the street, and cows of course; we don’t get to see this in Denmark,” he adds.

After an injury-laden 2018, Axelsen wasn’t expecting too much from the league. “I just wanted to put up a show for the team (Ahmedabad),” he says after producing one of the best matches of the season where he defeated Hyderabad’s Mark Caljouw. “I know Mark pretty well, even though he was riding a winning streak, I saw myself as a little bit favourite for that match.” But all Viktor wanted was the match practice, which he got — something that keeps him in good stead as he plans his 2019, with All England his big target. She’s not the only foreign superstar having fun in India. Carolina Marin says, “It seems I am more famous in India than in Spain.”

She adds: “I just love coming to India; the culture, the food, all is very interesting. I love the people and the way they treat me. I like every city as I have so many fans here in India and I get so much support from them.”

Even though the league is during the badminton ‘holiday season’, she says there’s something on offer. “I miss my family. I don’t have much holidays, just have one week or three in a year. I spend that time with the family or go out with friends. But PBL is a good opportunity. It’s different as you get time to interact with a lot of players.”

In a nation divided by Barcelona and Real Madrid, Marin — still only 26 — has put badminton firmly on the map. Her recent page one takeover of Spanish sports daily Marca reaffirmed this. “Badminton is coming up after my Olympic gold medal,” she says. “Now everyone knows about the game so I was very happy when the newspaper gave me the kind of coverage they did. It is a big thing back home.”

Source: Economic Times