A decade after he last played the World Championships, Kevin Cordon is back at the marquee event, with the glow from Tokyo 2020 still lighting up his face.
London 2011 was when the then-unknown Guatemalan became synonymous with the major upset, with his first round takedown of Chen Long. And while the subsequent years didn’t produce anything as noteworthy, his unexpected, electric semifinal performance in Tokyo 2020 meant that he arrives in Huelva as one of the players to watch in the draw.
That might be an unfamiliar situation for the lanky left-hander who revels as an underdog, but Cordon allows himself the possibility of making the third round after the withdrawal of top seed Kento Momota, who he was likely to face in the second round.
“I’m not playing a seed in the first round. My coach told me Momota is not playing. That makes me more confident, of course. To be honest, I haven’t seen the draw. I never see the draw. It doesn’t matter. It’s just about the next match. I knew I would play Momota if I won the first round, but now it’s opened up for me to reach the last 16,” says Cordon.
“These are like home conditions. In 2012 I had a chance to train with the (Spanish) national team, so it feels like home to be here in Spain.”
Strangely for someone with a long career, this will be only his fourth World Championships. Injuries disrupted his participation at the Worlds after 2011, and Cordon is thrilled to be back.
“Beating Chen Long was my best result, and then I reached the quarterfinals. To beat Chen Long and then have a chance to play Lee Chong Wei… he and Lin Dan were my idols. Lee Chong Wei was amazing, he made the game look so easy.
“It feels really nice to play the World Championships. I didn’t play the World Championships after 2011, so it’s 10 years. I didn’t have a chance. I had injuries in my knee, my ankle… The environment here is totally different, it feels really nice. And after Olympics, my mind changed totally. So… it’s about having fun, let’s see what happens.”
Since the Olympics in August-September, Cordon has played two events. He won the Guatemala International Series and fell in the second round of the Welsh International. Well rested, he says he is in good physical condition.
More importantly, he is thrilled by how his countrymen have responded to his Olympics performance. There is a sense of contentment about him now.
“The reception back home was really nice,” says Cordon. “I don’t know how to explain it. They think that if Kevin can do well in Olympics, they can do well in studies or at work. Most of the kids want to play badminton. It’s really nice. Most kids ask their parents to buy them a racket. They play on the streets and in their houses. In Guatemala badminton is now getting more popular because the kids want to play. Now I’m here, I’m playing the World Championships for them.”