How does one focus on sport when there is war back home?
World No.125 Polina Buhrova’s thoughts are far from Kuala Lumpur even though she was at the PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2022 as a spectator. War at home is a terrifying reality that she has to grapple with; yet, the 18-year-old is remarkably composed.
Buhrova has been in Kuala Lumpur since mid-June preparing for the European Junior Championships in August, having followed her national coach, who is Malaysian. There are obvious concerns over sponsorship and her future after the European Juniors; her way of dealing with the tumult is to zero in on the moment, to allow the moment to temporarily shut off larger concerns.
“I’m trying to do my best and focus on the tournament and on my performance, but it’s hard because all my thoughts are in Ukraine with my parents, with my relatives, with my teammates, so it’s a little difficult, but I try to focus and I think it will go the right way,” she says.
“I just try to focus on my performance and at the highest level of performance for my country, for my parents, for me, also for my coaches, and at practice, I focus on some individual moments, for example on my movements or my shots, some little parts of badminton.”
Buhrova began her career when she was 13. Last year she won three events including the Latvia International, and was runner-up at the Italian International. This year, she has played eight events, and hopes to play regularly on the World Tour after the European Juniors.
“My big goal is the European Junior Championships, which is the last junior event for me. So of course, I will prepare for the gold medal. In future I really hope this war will finish and I can go home but we’re not sure. So now I just have my goals like the European Junior Championship, and some tournaments like the Super 100 or 300 or 500, and try to move there and put all my strength, all my focus, all my thoughts on high performances there… I cannot say that I will come home or I will stay in Malaysia because I don’t know. but I hope that something will happen and the situation will be better and I will go home or I will have some solutions. And yes, my goal is going into the big arenas like the Super 1000, Super 750 and of course take medals there.”
What, therefore, does badminton mean to a player whose future has been threatened by war?
“Badminton is my life, my profession. So I will keep moving on this way, I will try my best. I will do everything which can help me, my country, the Ukrainians; all my wins will be for the Ukrainian people.”