Badminton’s successful debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games is thanks in no small part to an unlikely reunion of the men's singles medallists from the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
While gold medallist Poul-Erik Hoyer of Denmark has been leading the push to include badminton on the Paralympic programme in his role as president of the Badminton World Federation, Chinese silver medallist Dong Jiong has gone back to his roots since hanging up his racket.
“After I retired I started a club and became a coach,” Dong, head coach of the China Para badminton team, told the Olympic Information Service.
“When I started my club there were some Paralympic players who asked me if I could help them to practise. I felt like it was a great opportunity to get more people playing."
Dong offered free use of his gym in Beijing and even built a row of bungalows on land behind it so the athletes had somewhere easily accessible to stay.
In Tokyo, he helped convert the seven gold medals won at the 2019 World Championships by his players into Paralympic glory - China ended with five golds, three silvers and two bronze at the Games.
“They’re all doing a really great job and I’m really proud of them," Dong said. "As long as I am healthy and have the ability to do so, I will continue to coach for sure. The longer the better. It is in my blood.”
Completing the men's singles Atlanta 1996 Olympic podium reunion in Tokyo is Malaysia's Rashid Sidek, who in 2019 responded to a plea for help by compatriot Cheah Liek Hou.
“He owns a club in Kuala Lumpur which is part of a junior development programme,” Cheah, who won Paralympic gold in the men’s singles SU5, told the OIS.
“I approached him and asked if I could join the club to train and spar with all the juniors. He has coached me on my weak points and motivated me from the moment I first met him.”