Myanmar's Thae Thae's 2020 Tokyo Olympics dreams
****image taken from www.pbdjarum.org
The year 2018 was tough on Myanmar's rising badminton star Thet Htar Thuzar who had to divide her time between studies and the sport she loves but has not given up hope of playing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Currently ranked 160 the Yangon-born who is popularly known as Thae Thae to her friends and the badminton fraternity, has begun her Tokyo journey after completing her Business and Administration (BA Hons) studies at the Myanmar Imperial College in Yangon.
Thae Thae, who turns 20 on March 15 - however, due to ranking points, did not qualify to play in this month's Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters and the Malaysia Masters.
Last year Thae Thae won the Egypt International Badminton Championships in Cairo in October and finished runners-up in the Yonex Sunrise Nepal International Series in Kathmandu in December.
The Myanmar women's singles national champion since 2011, Thae Thae has also played in three Sea Games - in 2011 (Jakarta), 2013 (Myanmar) and 2017 (Kuala Lumpur).
Despite her studies Thae Thae also played in the Iran Fajr International Challenge in Teheran in February, the Ciputra Hanoi Yonex Sunrise Vietnam International (March), the Celcom Axiata Malaysia International Challenge (April), the Mauritius International Series (June) and the Yonex Sunrise Vietnam Open (August).
The road to Tokyo is a tough journey but her Indonesian coach Didit Suluh Patria hails Thae Thae's "desire and determination" to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
"It was tough on her last year because she had to divide her time between studies and training.
Without fail she would train in the mornings before rushing off to college from January to November."
Her parents are former Myanmar badminton internationals Tun Tun Zaw and Win Pa Pa Tun.
Dad Tun Tun is also a qualified badminton coach in Myanmar.
"So strong is determination to move up the rankings and make the grade to compete in the Tokyo Olympics that Thae Thae has many a time self funded her trips to compete overseas."
Coach Didit is keeping his fingers crossed that Thae Thae will be able compete in the lower tier tournaments this year to gain ranking points which will enable her to compete in the higher tiered tournaments.
"There is also the possibility that Thae Thae may get a wild card for the Tokyo Olympics reserved third world countries.
However, no efforts will be spared for Thae Thae to qualify on merit," added Didit.
"She now trains full time after completing her studies in December.
Badminton is her first love and she often spends extra hours on the court to improve her game."
As for Thae Thae, nothing is impossible.
"I am prepared to walk the extra mile in my achieving my dream of playing in the Olympics.
It is tough but there is no life without challenges," said Thae Thae who also wants to be a successful businesswoman.
The Olympic qualification points begin on May 1.
Thae Thae, who speaks fluent English, is often seen helping out in junior international meets in her country as an announcer in English as a volunteer.