By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) - For someone who took up badminton as a hobby, Carolina Marin has come a long way to be the reigning Olympic and world champion but the Spaniard yearns for more as she continues her journey towards becoming the best-ever in the sport.
In August, Marin became the first woman player to win three World Championships titles when she beat India's Pusarla Sindhu in Nanjing to add to her gold medals from 2014 and 2015.
China's Lin Dan has won two Olympic men's singles gold medals and five world championship crowns and is widely considered the greatest shuttler.
"Well I would like to be the best player in the history of badminton," Marin told Reuters in an interview. "It's very easy to say but I know it's going to be really, really difficult. I am ready to do anything to get that.
"I would like to win one more Olympic Games and minimum two more World Championships."
Dubbed the Rafa Nadal of badminton in Spain for her tenacity and fierce left-handed game, Marin ended Asia's hegemony at the Olympics when she beat Sindhu in the Rio 2016 final.
Her win secured Europe a first title in 20 years and only its second since the sport's 1992 debut at the Games - something Marin could have never imagined when she started playing.
"Badminton is not much popular in Spain. I just played badminton like a hobby, I didn't think too much about becoming a world champion," said the 25-year old, who represents Pune 7 Aces in the ongoing Premier Badminton League in India.
"When I moved to the national centre as a 14-year-old, then I started to think about what I would like to be... a badminton player, I just wanted to be the best in the world.
"Maybe I cannot explain in words, it's impossible to explain. I had to put in so much effort to make my dream come true... I had to make so many sacrifices. It was really really difficult."
Since her Rio gold, Marin has been dogged by injuries, the latest being a niggle in her right leg which kept her out of this month's BWF World Tour Finals.
Marin finds the BWF rule forcing the top 15 shuttlers to participate in at least 12 events per season too taxing and believes the governing body should do more to protect the players from injuries.
"I think that may be they (BWF) have to think more about the players because the players are the main thing for the world federation or Spanish federation or any federation," she said.
"When they force the players to play so many tournaments in a year, we cannot do that. We are human, we are not robots, so sometimes we get injured because we are being forced to play so many tournaments. If we don't play because we are injured then we have to pay a fine."
Coming from a country with no real pedigree in badminton, Marin believes she has been able to popularise the sport with many children picking up a racquet after her Olympic success.
She, however, is not too sure if Spain would see another of her kind.
"It's not easy to produce another Carolina Marin," she added. "May be because Carolina Marin has something special that may be another girl does not have or is difficult to be born with.
"I have a special character that makes me feel special... to put in efforts to fight for my dream."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)