Tahimara Oropesa is currently Cuba’s top female badminton player. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Twenty year old Tahimara Oropesa Pupo’s participation in the individual division of the recently held Havana international badminton tournament was fleeting.
In her one and only match the young badminton player from Holguín fought hard through the last set before being defeated by Mexico’s Haramara Gaitán, member of the country’s national pre-selection squad and second seed in the tournament with extensive experience competing in international events.
Speaking to Granma International shortly before the match, Oropesa noted that she was looking forward to facing her rival, who beat the Cuban and won the overall tournament in the Veracruz 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games.
Despite being at a disadvantage against the Mexican, having not competed in a single event since the Veracruz competition, Tahimara almost eliminated Gaitán in three close sets, eventually losing 19-21, 21-19 and 21-15.
After the match, held in Havana’s Ciudad Deportiva, Tahimara Oropesa spoke again with this publication regarding her performance against a rival looking to join the list of 36 badminton players to have already qualified for the Río Olmypics.

Why the decline after the first set?

My desire to win got the better of me. I just won the first set, the second was also very close, I had the advantage, but I didn’t know how to make the final points on the court and I allowed her to comeback. My lack of experience in international competitions played a part, because you face this kind of situation all the time, and you don’t know how to overcome these moments of the game. Anyway, Haramara Gaitán is among the top 80 or 90 in the world rankings and I’m 400 and something.

 How do you think you performed?

I am pleased with my result, bearing in mind that we members of the national badminton squad don’t have a fixed place to train, we practice anywhere from Cienfuegos to the university courts at Havana’s Kid Chocolate Sports Center.

Changing places also affects the teaching, we sometimes fall behind in class. We train on courts but they’re not made of the right surface for badminton, which impacts our play, because synthetic badminton courts generate more friction. The difference between the courts is so great that you can’t calculate your real chances.

 How old were you when you started to play badminton?

I started when I was 14, a little late, because I came from tennis, which I had been playing since I was eight. I made the change because my mum asked me to find another sport where I was less exposed to the sun. I started playing, I didn’t know anything about badminton and I gradually started to like it.
What kind of player are you?
I am a fighter; I fight until the last point even if the other player has a big advantage, I always want to do my best on the court. My biggest problem is not knowing how to manage my play in games when I want to win points at the end of a set, but this is surmountable.
What is your relationship like with your doubles partner Melissa Azcuy?
Melissa is very good, despite her young age – 17 years old – she is physically very well prepared, she attacks hard close to the net, is a strong defender and maintains that desire to win. I hope we continue to play together to become a stronger team.
Hopes for the future?
Continue training, overcome challenges and become a better international level badminton player, that’s been my goal for the last three years since I joined the national team.