It sometimes feels as if Anne Tran has been playing at a high level forever. After all, it’s been four years since she and Emilie Lefel won silver at the 2018 European badminton championships.
But at 25, the French athlete is still young and has plenty of goals to pursue, especially with the Olympics coming to France in 2024. She is the kind of player any team would like to have, whether a sports club in a badminton league or an equipment supplier like Babolat. “I’ve always chosen my clubs according to that special spirit,” she says, “the fact that we all share something strong together, to clinch that victory for the team. It creates strong relationships and it’s a beautiful feeling. Team motivation will always be more important to me than my own individual will to perform. It transcends and boosts my energy to feel my team-mates behind me.”
Anne picked up the sport at a very early age as both her parents were deeply involved with badminton. Her mother is a pillar of the Racing Club de France, one of Paris’s oldest multisport institutions, and her dad has been her coach since the very beginning. “I held a racket when I was super young,” she recalls, “but it was only when I reached seven or eight that I picked it up seriously and began playing competitively. My dad managed both his hats perfectly – as a father and a coach – without putting any pressure on me. On the contrary, he was always positive and encouraging me to do my best.”
From these days – when she was training no more than three or four times a week and had almost a normal life, with enough time to go to school and spend time with her friends and cousins at home – she switched to a more professional mode when she went to a dedicated sports school as a teenager. “Until then, I didn’t feel it was a sacrifice at all, I was just a normal kid playing a lot of badminton, but when I started to play once or twice a day on top of school and then play competitions at weekends, I realised it was a lot, and that I was probably missing out on some things that my other friends enjoyed as teenagers.
“But to be honest, if I’d had a normal student life with university friends, I’m not sure I would be as happy as I am now. Through my sport, I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible people and build up fond memories of my time travelling for badminton. I also told myself I was lucky to be part of this world of high-level competition.”
Sharing is essential
Her hard work paid off. After being part of the French national team for many years and securing a bunch of national titles, she and Lefel won a silver medal at the European Championships in 2018, something she describes as “the best memory of my badminton career so far. This is when we really made our mark on the European scene and proved our worth. It brought us confidence about what we could achieve, and led to our next big goal, which of course is to win a medal in Paris at the 2024 Olympics.”
Despite scooping medals at national level in singles as well as doubles and mixed, Anne chose to focus on doubles. “It’s important for me to share something strong with my partners,” she says, “and create that bond with others, to feel the team spirit. This is part of my personality, to share emotions with people around me, and I’ve found that with the partnerships I’ve created on court. Besides, my game fits doubles better because I like speed, explosiveness, and anticipation.”
Does she feel doubles partners need to be very close off court? “Every relationship with your partner is unique, you don’t necessarily have to be best friends, but I do think that being close to each other feels better and helps you perform well. I think it’s important to have characters that match. But in any case, it’s crucial to have good communication, to know how and when to seek help from each other, which means we have to know how we work psychologically. I have recently emphasised this particularly with my current partners, Margot [Lambert] and William [Villeger]. I feel it’s a big bonus compared to other pairs which are not necessary in sync with each other.”
Her sense of team spirit makes Anne a perfect fit for Babolat. “We feel like we are part of this one big family,” she says. “The fact that the headquarters [in Lyon] are close, that we always feel welcome and work together as one makes a big difference to me. It is essential in my sports project. It’s all about sharing my experiences and a common goal – this is the value that I cherish the most, as an athlete and a human being.”
Even if her career is far from over, Anne Tran already has her foot in the professional world, as she’s just completed her degree in physiotherapy. No doubt she’ll share the same values when she’s on the other side as a professional helping others achieve their sporting dreams.