Training for the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2021 wasn’t just essential ritual for Thet Htar Thuzar; it was also her escape from the constant stream of grim news at home in Myanmar.
Difficult circumstances in her country have complicated her journey to one of her career’s biggest tournaments, but Thuzar has been working constantly at filtering out disturbing information, seeking to focus all her energies on what can get her ahead.
“When I train it helps me shut off from everything else,” says the 22-year-old. “I don’t follow bad news. I try not to think about it, and just focus on my studies and I try to make myself busy all the time.
“It’s challenging for me. Badminton is good, because when I’m training, you forget about everything else.”
Thuzar, world No. 77, was busy pursuing her MBA when she got to know of her qualification for the World Championships.
“When I got to know that I had qualified for the World Championships, it was October. Everything, like visa and flights, was a challenge. I was studying for my MBA so I wasn’t training much. I was playing, but not focused on preparing for competition. So I had to start preparing again.
“The visa was difficult because of the situation in my country. I had to ask people around, and through someone who knew the Spanish ambassador in Thailand, I had to take his help and I followed his instructions.
“My condition now is good, I’m proud that I’m at my first World Championships. I hope I can do great.”
This will be only her second event this year, having played at Tokyo 2020. She recalls the Olympics with mixed feelings – on one hand, there was the experience of having played on the world’s biggest stage, but she also had to deal with online abuse due to the charged political situation at home.
“The experience was unlike anything else. There were experiences good and bad. The good experience was that I could play at Tokyo 2020 but the bad one was that I couldn’t get much support from my people because of the political situation.
“My first match was with Gregoria (Tunjung). After that people were commenting that it was good for me to lose. When I read that, I felt a lot of pressure and sadness. And in my second match I played Lianne Tan and I was feeling down and I couldn’t perform well… But it’s OK for me, that I tried my best at the tournament.”
Paradoxically, while she had to deal with online abuse during the Olympics, she also gained a lot of Indonesian followers after her first match, and she stays engaged with them on Instagram.
“After the Olympic Games I got a lot of fans from Indonesia, so I’m thankful to them,” she says.
An admirer of Tai Tzu Ying, Thuzar is a skilful player herself, and the influence of her idol on her game is obvious. Currently training with her father and three sparring partners, two of them juniors, Thuzar is keen to go far in badminton, ad sets herself a modest target of breaking into the world’s top 30.
“If I keep training and compete internationally, I can be in the top 30. If I’m allowed to train overseas, it will be possible to get there. The problem is that for now we can’t get visas and flights to overseas tournaments. I will continue training with my father and I will prepare for other tournaments. It’s just a year for my MBA, so after that I will try to train internationally, in Thailand or Malaysia.”