Guatemalan badminton player Kevin Cordon says his parents have never seen him play – but they might have to tune in now that the world number 59 is in the Olympic semi-finals.
Cordon continued his fairytale run at the Tokyo Games on Saturday, beating South Korea’s Heo Kwang-hee 21-13, 21-18 to move one win away from his country’s second-ever Olympic medal.
“I’m still a kid, playing like a kid, having fun, trying to do my best,” said the 34-year-old, who left home at 12 to pursue his Olympic dream.
“Can you believe that I’m in a semi-final right now? This feeling is just amazing.”
Unseeded Heo stunned world number one Kento Momota to reach the quarter-finals, but Cordon went straight on the attack and wrapped up the first game in 17 minutes.
He crumpled to the ground in disbelief after hitting the match-winning point, then lay sobbing on the court until the result had sunk in.
“If you compare Guatemala with any country in Europe or Asia, it won’t be the same – this is our reality,” he said.
“But we have one thing in common – we are equal when you play with your heart.”
Guatemala has only ever won one Olympic medal, when Erick Barrondo claimed silver in the men’s 20-kilometre race walk at the 2012 London Games.
Cordon said people in the Central American nation were glued to his matches despite being 15 hours behind Tokyo, but his parents had yet to tune in.
“I’m 100% sure that they didn’t watch the match,” he said.
“They are quite old people. They have never seen me play in all my career. It’s not because they don’t love me – they get nervous. When I play, my brother watches and he tells them ‘Kevin won or Kevin lost’.”
Cordon, whose father named him after English football great Kevin Keegan, will play Denmark’s world number two Viktor Axelsen in the semi-finals.
Axelsen beat China’s Shi Yuqi 21-13, 21-13, and he had some words of warning for his next opponent.
“I don’t think anyone would have guessed that Kevin would have done so well,” said Axelsen.
“It’s amazing what he has done here so far. Big respect, an awesome guy, an awesome story, but I’m going to do my best to end that story tomorrow.”
Cordon is just relishing the chance to compete against “players that you only watch on TV or the internet”.
“When you train with your heart, when you train with patience, all these good things will come into your life,” he said.