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virus battle Irish Olympic hopeful tells of struggle with 'Long Covid' as he sets his sights on Tokyo Games

Though he was diagnosed with the virus in January Nhat Nguyen has yet to make a full recovery

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Nhat Nguyen has told of his struggle for fitness following after contracting Covid-19 in January

Nhat Nguyen has told of his struggle for fitness following after contracting Covid-19 in January

Nhat Nguyen has told of his struggle for fitness following after contracting Covid-19 in January

Twenty-year-old Irish badminton prodigy Nhat Nguyen remains on course for the Tokyo Olympics despite being hampered by 'Long Covid'.

Though he was diagnosed with the virus in January he has yet to make a full recovery.

“I’m definitely better than I was at the Swiss Open four weeks ago, but I’m still struggling a little bit. I haven’t been myself since I returned to training after I had Covid-19," he said.

Nguyen came to Ireland as a six-year-old with his parents and older sister. The family left their native Vietnam to find a better life on the other side of the world.

Nguyen was introduced to the sport by his father and by his mid-teens was the number-one rated senior male singles player in Ireland.

Ranked 25th in the Olympic ranking list, he is comfortably inside the cut-off point, though the selection process continues until the first week of June.

Right now, his priority is to get healthy again.

“I am getting tired reall quickl and my energy levels are not there," said Nhat. "I’ve had countless blood tests and appointments with doctors, and I have a couple of more blood tests this week.

“They’re not at normal levels but I don’t know what’s wrong. It is something that makes me feel a lot more tired. But I am getting better slowly, so that’s a good sign.”

As he is not in peak physical condition, the Irish star has had to adjust the way he plays badminton.

“I relied a lot on my speed and endurance to dictate play. But now I have to be more energy efficient and smarter in my play. I can’t be going out too fast. I actually play longer rallies but I was only going at 50 or 60 percent.

“Being able to change the way I play is one of the good things about my style. If I was in better shape (at the All-England Open ) I think I could have done even better,” said Nguyen, who beat the number 13 seed Srikanth Kidambi from India in the opening round on St Patrick’s Day. He lost in the next round to the eventual runner-up Mark Caljouw from Holland.

Currently, Nhat is on a training break in Dublin prior to heading to Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, for the European Championships at the end of the month.

“I want to get myself back into (physical) shape again. I definitely feel my game is there, but I need to be better physically. I will be looking for better results in the Europeans.”

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Three-time Irish National Badminton Champion Nhat Nguyen

Three-time Irish National Badminton Champion Nhat Nguyen

Three-time Irish National Badminton Champion Nhat Nguyen

At the last Olympics in Rio in 2016 Scott Evans created history for Irish badminton when he reached the last 16 - and Nhat wants to match his compatriot's achievements in Tokyo.

“He was the first Irish male player to win two matches and qualify for the last 16 and that’s what I want to do. To qualify from the group stages, you must beat one the top 16 players in the world who will be seeded.

“This is something I would like to do, and it is definitely something I feel I have in my arsenal. I know it’s a big goal and a big ambition in my first Olympics, but it is definitely achievable,” he said.

*Nhat Nguyen, a three time National Badminton Champion and 2017 European U-17 gold-medallist is a FBD brand ambassador.

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