Badminton ace Nhat Nguyen got his Olympic campaign off to the perfect start in Tokyo on Monday night, the 21-year-old Dubliner taking a comfortable straight-sets win in his opening group game of the men’s singles.
Nguyen was up against Sri Lanka’s Nikula Karunaratne and he faced a tough first set, pulling through to win it 21-16. He wore his opponent down through the second, his class telling as he closed the match out 21-14. Afterwards he dedicated the win to his family back in Dublin, with whom he moved to Ireland from Vietnam at the age of six.
“They have sacrificed a lot for me and my sister and I am happy to give back by giving them something to cheer about,” he said. “They have worked very hard for us and I am pretty sure that they are working today as they work all day every day. I’m happy I made them proud. That is why I play badminton.
“I wanted to give my all for every single point. I was happy I was able to do that even though I didn’t play my best. I feel I shook off the nerves there than rather playing free and playing my style so it was just about getting the job done.”
Nguyen has been a star performer for Irish badminton for several years. He won a European Junior bronze medal in 2018 and made the quarter-finals at both the World Juniors and Youth Olympics. In his first year at senior level in 2019 he reached quarter-finals at four international tournaments and made the last 16 at the European Games.
His second group game takes place on Wednesday, where he faces a much tougher task against world number 10 Wang Tzu-Wei. The winner of that will advance to the knockout stages.
“I had a good seven weeks of practice in Ireland so when I arrived to the training camp in Fukuroi, it was about maintaining my condition and my energy levels and my motivation,” said Nguyen. “I have a day to rest with late practice tomorrow and today gave me a chance to test out the hall. I have no excuses going into the next game unprepared. I am excited and buzzing for it.”