Nguyen Tien Minh: Badminton has given me and my family a good life

Nguyen Tien Minh, Vietnam's maiden medal winner at World badminton championship, says the lack of adulation following his feat doesn't bother him anymore.

The 35-year-old is keen to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a goal he had given up on not long ago.   -  Sampath Kumar G P

In a quarterfinal outing at the 2013 World badminton championship, Nguyen Tien Minh and his rival Jan Jorgensen were involved in a marathon rally.

Minh led 20-18 in the decider when the two players exchanged a mind-boggling 108 shots – one of the longest rallies in the history of international men’s singles.

Jorgensen managed to win the point, but Minh went on to win the match and became the first player from Vietnam to clinch a medal at the World Championship.

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Struggle for recognition

Asked about the exhausting rally, the supremely-fit Minh laughed and said, “I wanted to kill myself – I was just so tired. I don’t ever want to go through that again.”

Despite creating history at the World Championship, Minh did not quite receive a hero’s welcome in his home country. “In Vietnam, football is the most popular sport. Badminton is not very popular. It’s not like in India or Japan, where top badminton players are celebrated. So the bronze medal I won did not get much attention.

"At that time, I felt bad about this, but overall, I’m happy because badminton has given me and my family a good life. I’m not rich, nor am I poor - that’s enough for me,” Minh said.

Solid partnership

The three-time Olympian is also thankful that the sport led him to meet Vietnam’s top-ranked women’s player, Vu Thi Trang, at a national camp. Minh and Vu - both part of Premier Badminton League team Bengaluru Raptors - got married a couple of years ago.

“When I lose big matches, she talks to me and takes me out for dinner, and then I feel much better. Before I met her, I would travel alone to tournaments. After practice and matches, I would return to an empty room. It was a lonely life. Now, we have each other for company, and it’s fantastic,” Minh said.

The 35-year-old is keen to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a goal he had given up on not long ago. After exiting the 2016 Rio Olympics in the group stage, Minh announced his retirement. It was short lived.

“I got terribly bored, just one week into retirement. I thought of getting a job, but I knew that I’d hate it. It didn’t take me long to realise that badminton is all I really care about,” Minh said.