Thanks to Badminton Asia Iran's Soraya embarks on her Olympic journey with confidence
A badminton racquet as a birthday present from her parents at the tender age of seven years started Soraya Aghaei Hajiagha's love affair with the shuttle sport that has made her Iran's number one woman shuttler.
The 20-year-old Soraya, however, is still learning the finer points of badminton but has set herself lofty targets with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics topping her list. It is tough call for Soraya but she is determined to walk an extra mile to achieve success.
And for that she is grateful to Badminton Asia to bring her under their wing in the Asia Olympic Project. Soraya has been a member of the Asia Olympic Project from 2013 which has motivated her to target greater heights.
After getting the racquet, Soraya says was inspired to play the game she got herself registered with a badminton club. It was a matter of time before Soraya made the grade into the national team - and this came in 2008.
It took her four years to win her first international title and it happened at the Iraq International Series in 2012 when Soraya won the bronze medal in the women's singles and the silver medal in the women's doubles.
Other successes soon followed. In 2014 Soraya won the women's doubles silver medal in the Kenya International Series and also competed in the Asian Games in Korea the same year.
Reaching the last 16 in the women's singles and doubles in the 2015 Badminton Asia Championships in Wuhan, China was a "milestone" for Soraya - the same year she won the silver in the women's doubles and the bronze in the singles in the Kazakhstan International Series.
The year 2015 also saw her win the women's doubles gold in the Mauritius International Challenge and the bronze in her country's Fajr International Challenge apart from winning silver in singles and women's doubles in the Zambia International Series and the bronze (singles) and silver (doubles) in the Uganda International Series.
This year Soraya added a bronze medal to her collection in the women's singles and doubles in the Mongolia International Series.
The Iranian hope is currently in Damansara. Selangor in Malaysia attending Badminton Asia's two-week Asia Olympic Project under well known Malaysian coaches.
Soraya, who is doing Sports Science at Iran University, is among the 12 players from Iran, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Kazakhstan in the Asia Olympics Project training camp.
"I am very grateful to be part of this development project as it inspires me to reach my targets," said Soraya, adding that she also hopes to do her badminton training in Malaysia as it "motivates" her due to the many top players in Malaysia.
"Malaysia have many top players who have grown in their game...this inspiring to my badminton career.
"This project has really helped me to improve my badminton. I hope to play in next year's World Championships (Glasgow) and also in 2018 and 2019."
In the same breath Soraya was quick to point out that qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics (2020) tops her priorities apart from carrying her country's challenge in the 2018 Asian Games.