Nhat Nguyen has been one of the stars of Ireland during the first week of the Olympics. Ireland is not a huge badminton stronghold, but the 21-year-old Dubliner was incredible today in his second round match against Wang of Chinese Taipei. He took the the 10th ranked player in the world to 11-11 in the deciding set. Nguyen showed incredible skill and true grit in defeat and won the hearts of the nation.
Today many of us learned a certain Dublin footballer has been instrumental in Nhat’s development as a badminton star.
Nguyen moved to Dublin from Vietnam when he was six-years-old, and barely spoke any English. He started playing badminton, which is one of the most popular sports in Vietnam, and it was clear he possessed real talent with the racket. Nhat attended St David’s in Artane, where he encountered the legendary Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, who is himself a brilliant badminton player as well as a teacher at the school. Cluxton taught Nguyen maths in third year and physics in sixth year at St David’s and became something of a mentor to the young badminton prodigy. According to John O’Donovan on RTÉ’s commentary today, the pair even set up a badminton club at St David’s.
Nhat told Sean McGoldrick of the Sunday World of Cluxton and St David’s lasting influence on his career earlier this year.
“I got on very well with Stephen and helped him with the school team. I remember he came to the 2017 Irish Open championship, as did a lot of my school mates, but unfortunately I lost the final.”
“I’d like to give something back to St David’s. I wasn’t in the school much in sixth year and the principal was very understanding. I was basically a professional by then and was trying to do two training sessions a day.”
Cluxton’s background in badminton is well-documented but underappreciated. According to the Irish Times, Cluxton can be regularly found playing badminton at Portmarnock badminton club.
Paul Flynn discussed Cluxtons prowess to Ian O’Riordan.
“I was doing a few bits, a bit of five-a-side, one or two session in the gym, and I went down and played a bit with him.
“We went in the first day, I thought he might be kind of above average, but no, the club is a very high standard and he’s up with the top lads. I was only watching from afar so I don’t know whether he was the best but he definitely looks like he was doing well. Badminton Ireland will be on to him.
We all loved watching Nhat this morning, but we like to think Stephen Cluxton particularly enjoyed this morning’s badminton.