Badminton set to make Paralympic Games bow at Tokyo 2020
Asian nations including hosts Japan, Indonesia, China, South Korea, India expect to challenge, along with European powerhouses England and France31 Aug 2021
Pramod Bhagat of India is top seed in SL3
Para badminton makes its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, with 14 gold medals up for grabs at the Yoyogi National Stadium starting on Wednesday (September 1).
Asian nations including hosts Japan, Indonesia, China, South Korea, India are expected to challenge, along with European powerhouses England and France.
Indonesia will be among the favourites with two-time Basel 2019 world champion and Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games gold medallist Dheva Anrimusthi and Indonesia 2018 silver medallist Suryo Nugroho, eager to show their skilful game in men’s singles SU5.
Incheon 2014 gold medallists Fredy Setiawan (SL4) and Ukun Raekandi (SL3) are expected to make a mark for Indonesia. However, Malaysian former world champion Cheah Liek Hou has produced excellent results in the run-up to Games with two international gold medals in men’s singles SU5.
“I am targeting the gold. And I am working very hard to fulfil my dream,” said Cheah. “As my opponents are way younger than me, I have to work more on physical fitness, but I am confident to pull off a good result in Tokyo.
“The recent tournaments in Dubai and Spain have boosted my confidence. And I am raring to go for the Games.”
India’s medal hopes rest on top seed and multiple world champion Pramod Bhagat (SL3), Tarun Dhillon (SL4), both Indonesia 2018 gold medallists, and second ranked SH6 shuttler Krishna Nagar, Basel 2019 worlds bronze medallist.
However, Great Britain’s Daniel Bethell and Jack Shephard are expected to pose strong challenges with an old rivalry between top seeds Bhagat and Bethell.
Watch out for Hong Kong’s Chu Man Kai, the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games champion, who should be in medal contention in the SH6 category.
In SL4, top seed and multiple World and European champion Lucas Mazur from France will start favourite and likely to meet Dhillon in the final. Mazur has been in great form having claimed three titles at Fazza-Dubai and Spain 2021. He is also contesting the SL3-SU5 mixed doubles event with Faustine Noel.
India’s youngest athlete is 19-year-old Palak Kohli, who competes in three events in SU5 category (women’s singles, women’s doubles SL3-SU5 and mixed doubles Sl3-SU5).
The wheelchair events are expected to be ruled by Koreans with their star para shuttler Kim Jungjun, strong favourite for men’s singles WH2 title. But watch out for Chan Ho Yuen from Hong Kong.
China’s promising star Qu Zimo is world champion in the men’s singles WH1 and doubles WH1-2 but will be tested by Korean top seed Lee Dong Seop and Lee Sam Seop waiting to challenge Zimo.
China women to dominate
The women’s competition is expected to be dominated by the Chinese with 17-year-old Liu Yutong, the multiple world champion, Xu Tingting and Li Hongyan in their ranks. Others in the Chinese team who are strong gold medal contenders are Yang Qiuxia (SU5) and Cheng Hefang (SL4), both Worlds and Asian Para Games medallists.
However, with the presence of world No 1 and top seed Leani Ratri Oktila, multiple world and Asian Para Games champion, the road will not be easy. The battle between Oktila and Hefang is set to be a keen one, both in the singles and in the women’s doubles when they team up with Khalimatus Sadiyahand and Ma Huihui respectively. To complete a busy programme, Oktila joins Hary Susanto in the mixed doubles SL3-SU5
Japan’s medal hopes
The hosts will look to women’s singles and doubles players – with world champion and top seed Satomi Sarina (WH1) and Yuma Yamazaki (WH2), Ayako Suzuki (SU5) and Haruka Fujino (SL4) in their line-up. Japan would hope top-seeded pair Sarina and Yamazaki emerge victorious in WH1-WH2 women’s doubles. However, they will have to tackle the second seeded Chinese pair of Yutong and Yin Menglu, the world and APG champion, on the way.
The action begins on Wednesday (September 1) with group matches and the finals played on September 4 and 5.