On Tuesday, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced that Myanmar badminton champion Thet Htar Thuzar was listed among the 42 players competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Japan in the singles category.
“After many years, my dream had really come true. I have been able to enter the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We can smile for a moment in the midst of a difficult time like this. My success is the success of all the people of Myanmar,” Thet Htar wrote on Facebook.
Thet Htar has not competed in international competitions since March 2020. The Tokyo Olympics will see her face her international rivals for the first time in a year and a half.
But social media hasn’t been kind about the news, as many in Myanmar are upset that Thet Htar is representing the country while it’s under the rule of the military junta, despite having been active in anti-coup protests herself.
“If you want to go, then go for it. I don’t want to compete. Do not speak for the people and do not say that you want to make them smile. Drama is suitable for you to do for yourself instead for the public good,” wrote a Facebook user named Grace.
“Personally, I no longer encourage selfish people who do not participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement,” wrote Htet Wai Phyo.
“You are going there for your own sake. It has nothing to do with the people of Myanmar and you are not even representing us. So don’t ever use us as a stepping-stone to your way out if you still have little respect for our fallen heroes,” wrote Hninn Ei Kyaw.
“I would like to know if you will be competing as an athlete that represents the country and the people, or as an athlete sent by the illegal dictatorial military junta,” wrote another user.
“I shall not march in the parade of the nations under a flag steeped in my people’s blood,” Zin Thaw Htet said, quoting swimmer Win Htet Oo, who gave up his dream of competing at the Tokyo Olympics in protest against the junta ruling his homeland, saying that taking part would be “propaganda” for the regime.
Born to parents who are both badminton players, the sport has always been part of Thet Htar’s life.
Thet Htar, 22, was born and raised in Thailand as her father was a badminton coach there. She juggled athletics and education in Thailand, and at the age of seven, she placed third in her first tournament.
Then, in 2010, she returned to Myanmar with her family, where she continued to train while balancing her academic pursuits. She was chosen to represent Yangon Region in the Regions and States Tournament shortly after her return to the homeland, where she earned the best player title. She has competed in a total of 15 events during the Olympics qualifiers and has been trying to qualify for the Olympics in the past few years.
Since 2018, she has played many Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournaments and has won eight championships and three runner-up prizes.
Despite the criticism, some supported her decision to represent Myanmar at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“We may be suffering the hardest time in our country but you make us proud! Let the world know even in dark times Myanmar still has some amazing athletes and citizens,” wrote Phone Kyaw Moe Myint.
“I support you. Go chase your dream. Show them what you got, girl,” read another comment.
Coconuts Yangon has contacted the athlete for comment.