Sara Peñalver, Badminton player

"Looking back, I would leave again without a doubt"

Sport Women Gender equality Interviews


May 2019.    Reading time: 3 minutes

At 12, Sara Peñalver left her home to devote herself totally to badminton. She is now training in Madrid with the trainer of Carolina Marín, with whom she is already being compared. But she wants to make her own name for herself and, in her first year in the absolute category, she has already won her first two international tournaments. Aware that, especially for a woman, it is very difficult to live from sports, she combines her training with studying for an advanced diploma in Sports and Fitness Coaching.


Sara Peñalver knows that a hard road awaits her.

Discover how Sara Peñalver has got where she is

Sara Peñalver, badminton player: "From practically the age of 12 until now, aged 19, I have been in one residential hall after another. At only 12 years old I was putting on washing machines, dryers, hanging out the clothes and everything... [laughs]. It was a bit chaotic, but well... I think it has also helped us become independent."

"As I also had older partners, they helped me. Even if I didn't have my mother there, they played that role a bit."

"What I missed most in my first year, when I left home, was always having people around me. On weekends, as I was the smallest, everyone else left the residential hall. I could only communicate with my parents over the phone, there was no WIFI or anything like that. That's when I felt a little lonely and, at that time, I did miss being with my parents and my cousins, my friends... I think that was the hardest thing."

Kike Peñalver, Sara's brother: "I also left home when I was 12. It's very young and I know what she has been going through. I think we left to do what we love, to play badminton, and I think we did the right thing."

Anders Thomsen, Sara's trainer: "Leaving home when very young to come to a training centre is very positive for some people, but certainly for others it is very hard. We are always like their parents or family for them, but we can never be the same as their parents, can we? Because, I also have to be telling them what to do in their sport, and sometimes I have to be tough on them too."

Sara Peñalver: "I believe that every athlete has times when they are fed up and you say: 'I'm giving everything up'. Having Kike can help me get over feeling down. After all he's my brother, and the first shoulder I am going to look for is his."

Kike Peñalver: "I have felt I've had to protect her at some points."

Sara Peñalver: "Having him here supporting me every day helps a lot."

Carolina Marín, Olympic champion and three-time world badminton champion: "It's really worth it once you decide to leave your home so young, because in the end I think you are deciding to fulfil one of your dreams."

Sara Peñalver: "Looking back, I would leave without a doubt."

"When I see headlines saying 'Sara, future Carolina Marín', it's so big. Because Carolina Marín has achieved things that I think are practically impossible; being able to achieve something like that again looks far away. But it's a motivation, for me it's not a pressure, I have her as a reference, rather than as something I have to achieve.”

Anders Thomsen: "Sara doesn't have to be the new Carolina Marín: she has to be Sara Peñalver."

Carolina Marín: "I can see that she even has better characteristics than me. She does something really well, which is that she handles her racket really well."

"She needs to carry on training as she has up to now, you can see there's a way forward, that it's not easy, that you've got to work hard, but hey, in the end we're all here for you to achieve whatever you want to strive for."

Sara Peñalver: "Thank you very much for opening the way to all the girls in this sport."

Carolina Marín: "Thank you."