Stoliarenko Balances Three Loves: Badminton, Travel, Art

When Mariia Stoliarenko set off from Ukraine for Bali, back in November, she had no idea she would be the youngest athlete to participate in the Daihatsu Indonesia Masters 2021. While most 17-year-olds are thinking about university or embarking on a gap year, Stoliarenko said she wanted to combine her three greatest loves: badminton, travel, and art.

“I just fell in love with playing badminton. And I love art too. Especially graphic design,” Stoliarenko told BWF in Bali.

Helping her along her journey during her stint in Bali was her experienced women’s doubles partner Yelyzaveta Zharka; the duo lost to Chloe Birch/Lauren Smith in the opening round, but that didn’t dent the bright smile on Stoliarenko’s face as she took in her surroundings.

“That was a tough match,” she said. “We came prepared, we knew it was going to be hard and we tried our best. But hey, look where we are. In Bali. To be here competing in the same venue as some of my heroes is incredible. This is just one big wow moment for me,” she said.

The following week they faced Mayu Matsumoto/Ayako Sakuramoto but again fell at the first hurdle 21-13 21-4.

Stoliarenko (R) and partner/mentor Zharka compete at the Indonesia Open 2021.

“The first game we really fought for it but the second – it fell away from us. But we’ll dust ourselves off and improve.”

Stoliarenko lists Japan’s Arisa Higashino and Indonesia’s Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo among her favourite badminton athletes.

“Oh my God!” she giggled. “He is my favourite player. I have always supported him. He was on my flight from Jakarta to Bali and I kept telling Yelyzaveta ‘look, here’s right there’. Higashino is fantastic too. She’s so fast and powerful. I want to be like that.”

The seventeen-year-old enjoyed her experience in Bali, including attending a special show with her teammates.

Stolirenko did ask for a photo with Sukamuljo, and he gladly obliged.

Playing from around the age of six, Stoliarenko said she felt destined to play badminton.

“It was part of our physical education at school and I really enjoy it. I kept on playing throughout school and I’m part of a great badminton club at home. I train twice a day and I study. I’m the first professional sportswoman in my family. That makes me feel really proud. Now I get to play badminton, travel, and enjoy art.”

After playing her first Super 750 and 1000 events in Indonesia, Stolienrenko says she has set her sights and target high for 2022.

“I’m still at a junior level, I’m still young and my learnings from playing at the tournaments in Bali is that I need to step up my level so I can play against the best in the world.”

Stoliarenko is back in action with Zharka at the YONEX-SUNRISE India Open 2022 next week where they face Simran Singhi/Ritika in the first round.

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