Plastic shuttlecocks still a norm in landlocked Uzbekistan
Despite the severe shortcomings in the game in his country Uzbekistan the flight of a plastic shuttlecock still thrills national champion Artyom Savatyugin and is determined to pull the plugs to achieve his dreams.
"It is a long and winding journey and I have to scale mountains but it will not stop me at any level. The journey to achieve my dreams is one of self-belief. I know that badminton ranks nowhere near football, wrestling, boxing, canoeing and gymnastics...sports which have produced Olympics and world champions," said the Artyom in Wuhan during the 2017 Wuhan - City of Automobile Badminton Asia Championships.
The 22-year-old sports and science student from the University of Uzbekistan was in Wuhan with his men's doubles partner Amrullo Bakhshullaev. The pair did not make past the qualifying and neither did Artyom in the men's singles.
Football takes pride in their famous clubs like Lokomotiv Tashkent, Pakhtakor who play their football trade in Europe while Nasaf won the AFC Cup in 2011.
Landlocked Uzbekistan produced three-time Olympics gold medallist Artur Taymazov .and Ruslan Chagaev as world champion in boxing. Another boxer Hasanboy Dusmatov won the light flyweight gold medal at last year's Rio Olympics.
Inspired by his father, former Uzbek badminton international Oleg, who competed in Badminton Asia Championships as late as 2004, Olge, a former national champion, is also Artyom's coach.
Artyom also has his grandfather Mikhail as the "motivator" to scale greater heights in badminton. Mikhail, at 76, still plays '"social badminton" to keep himself fit.
Artyom, a firm believer in self-belief, he can overcome the odds to "deliver in badminton" at the highest level - thanks to the big dose of help from Badminton Asia's Asia Olympics Project which he terms as "God sent gift" to him and his country.
"I am not shy to reveal that 95 per cent of the people in my country don't know what is badminton. I have to beg my friends to spar with me because there are no players. My progress is hindered by the lack of playing halls.
"I have to go to school halls to train...that too if I am able to get one. The height of a school hall is less than six metres and training on such courts makes me '20kg heavier'. The wooden courts are slippery," says Artyom, who has conquered all in the sport in his country and won the national title in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
"We have to make do with plastic shuttles in training and also in our national championships. Once ranked a high 133 in 2016, Artyom's ranking has now dropped to the 700 plus bracket due to lack of tournaments as he concentrated on his studies.
Artyom is most appreciative for Badminton Asia's training camps in Kuala Lumpur which he has been attending since 2013.
"These camps allow me to get the best in training under best coaches and learn the finer points of the game. At the same time I must admit that it is still not enough to take my game to a higher level," added Artyom played his fourth Badminton Asia Championships in Wuhan.
Artyom will graduate in August and after that "it will be full time badminton" and ready to scale mountains to achieve his dreams with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics topping the list.
The lanky Artyom has vowed to walk the extra mile to achieve his dreams. After wrestling, boxing, canoeing and he believes badminton will join the list soon - producing champions.
"The Chinese domination in badminton has been curtailed by others and I want to join this group," added Artyom.