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A one-man national team

A one-man national team

By Mohandas YorkPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
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When he walked out of Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, he took a look at the surging crowd around him. Over there, the sports delegation from another country almost walked out of the airport with him at the same time. Fans poured in like the tide, and the cameras in the hands of reporters and various telephoto lenses began to flash.

He gave himself an awkward smile, shrugged his shoulders, and hurried through the noisy crowd, dragging his heavy training gear. He has experienced such scenes many times, and the screams of fans impressed him, but unfortunately, those fans were directed at other sports stars.

He knew exactly who he was -- a member of the Iraqi national badminton team -- the only member of the entire badminton team.

Now for him, the most imminent task is first time to arrive at the Guangzhou Asian Games competition site and try every means to quickly adapt to the venue. Although he was playing for the national team, the head of the Iraqi sports delegation booked him an economy-class seat only the day before the game to save money. He was also told that this time, as always, there would be no coach, no trainer, and he would have to travel alone.

As a result, the 24-year-old Yala had to embark on the journey to the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games alone.

Yala dragged her luggage and training equipment to her hotel and then raced to the Asian Games venue. By the time his taxi arrived at the stadium, it was so close to the match that he had no time to warm up before the match, and adapting to the pitch was a no-brainer.

Soon, the race was on. Yala's opponent was Hu Zan, then known as the No. 1 singles badminton player in Hong Kong, China. Although the venue is not very used to it, in the first inning, the score of both sides is rising alternately, and the game even entered a stalemate. Because no one knew this unknown young man from Iraq, so no one knew the details of Yala, people are not clear how there is such a strange young man, no trainer, no doctor, not even a coach. Hoozan's performance began to look a little edgy, and his coach had to call a technical timeout to rearrange the play.

At the moment the player's seat is empty and his national teammates are swamped by other games. No one came to cheer him on. There was applause from the crowd, but Yara knew it wasn't for him -- there was a match between the badminton great Tawfik on the same court at the same time.

This knockout match against Horizon. Yara fought for 26 minutes. Before that, he had flown in from Iraq, making two layovers and taking 12 hours to reach Guangzhou. Before that, he trained 10 hours a day, five days a week, in war-torn Iraq. Before that, he was an Iranian teenager who left his parents and homeland for Iraq at the age of 14 to pursue his badminton dreams.

People watching the game were struck by the young man's spirit when officials told him his story. He was given a standing ovation when he was knocked out of the game by Husan in a three-point loss. At that moment, Yala's eyes were wet.

Now Yara is sweating in the training hall, he has a dream, to show himself perfectly on the stage of the Olympic Games, no matter how the outcome, he will play the most wonderful version of himself. As the 2012 London Olympics drew near, Yara said he would sometimes dream of seeing his feet on the ground in London and his hands swinging his racket, and he would often wake up laughing in his dreams.

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Mohandas York

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