CORRECTION – Slovakia won not lost their classification match against New Zealand on Friday as first published.
The beautiful thing about the World Mixed Team Championships is the exposure the smaller nations receive in playing alongside elite badminton teams.
That benefit was not lost on the Slovakians last week who made the most of their experience at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 in Nanning.
For Jakub Horak and Mia Tarcalova, both 17, just being on court at the same time as Olympians and world champions was a dream come true.
“It’s an amazing feeling to play in the arena next to our idols,” said Tarcalova.
“Having players like (Kento) Momota and (Akane) Yamaguchi on the courts next to us was really motivating and made us feel better on the day.”
The pair made their Sudirman Cup debuts in China, with Tarcalova playing women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Horak played men’s doubles and mixed doubles, with the two combining for the tie against Switzerland which they lost 21-4 21-8.
Both are regulars on the European Junior circuit, with Horak having reached the quarterfinals and semifinals in singles and doubles on numerous occasions. Unsurprisingly, he is a big fan of Momota, too.
“My favourite player is Momota. I couldn’t wait to see him play. My aim is to be as great as I can be and climb the world rankings,” said Horak.
Tarcalova and women’s doubles partner Martina Repiska won a key match against Vytaute Fomkinaite/Gerda Voitechovskaja 22-20 21-17 in Slovakia’s 4-1 over Lithuania.
Repiska herself was also awestruck by the moment.
“It’s an interesting experience to play alongside these top players. It makes me want to go all in during the matches and keep fighting,” she said.
Slovakia finished third in Group 3B and won their match against New Zealand on Friday to finish in 25th overall.