BANGKOK — Behind the pink braces, pony tail and sweet smile lies a fierce, competitive athlete. It's this side of Ratchanok Inthanon that powers a smash that can send the shuttlecock piercing the air at more than 124 mph.
The Thai teenager last week became the youngest badminton world champion in history, and the first Thai player to win a world title.
It's the latest in a line of badminton firsts for Ratchanok, who has been playing the sport for almost as long as she can remember.
Born in Thailand's poor northeast in 1995, Ratchanok — known among Thais as "May" — spent her early years next to furnaces in a confectionary factory in Bangkok's western outskirts where her parents worked.