From starting out at her village hall in Estonia, to now having Danish great Peter Gade in her corner, it has been an eventful journey for Kristin Kuuba. With encouraging performances in recent months, Kuuba will be looking to make an impact at the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2022.
Her village, she says, has “2000 or 3000 people”, and while badminton is not the most popular sport, she is happy with the support she gets back home.
“When you’re from such a small village people know you and they really support you all the way so it’s really good to have that,” Kuuba says.
“They are proud of me. Estonia is quite small. Badminton is not the most popular sport like in Asia but I think it’s getting more and more popular.”
The world No.46 shifted base to train at the Peter Gade Academy in Denmark ten months ago. Late last year she won the Dutch Open and made the semifinals of the Scottish Open. This season too has seen encouraging performances as she made the quarterfinals of the Orleans Masters, before beating Michelle Li in Malaysia, where Gade was in her corner.
“I’m training at his academy, it’s really good,” says Kuuba. “He’s a legend, he knows badminton so well. He’s really good with the tactics and everything. I’m still getting used to the fact that I have such good people supporting me.
“He has been at these tournaments for such a long time. So he knows how you’re feeling at these tournaments. If you’re playing two tournaments in a row, you get tired and you’re missing home a little bit. So it’s good to have somebody to talk to about these things.
“The training is totally different (from Estonia) where we don’t have so many players in practice and also the coach hasn’t been a top player. So I think it’s like a miracle that I’m here and I’m playing at this level, because of the conditions that we had there and how we started, and it’s totally different from Asia.”
How difficult was it for her to transition from her life in her village to becoming a professional player in Denmark?
“There are some things of course that are different but overall it’s quite similar because it’s not that far from home. It’s still in Europe and quite close to my country. There are things you need to get used to. But I’m feeling good that this was the right thing to do.”
Kuuba faces France’s Léonice Huet in her opening round match in Tokyo.