South Korea’s Sam Seop Lee and Norway’s Helle Sofie Sagoy won the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Para-Badminton Player of the Year awards in the male and female categories, respectively, on Tuesday (8 December) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
This was the first time BWF honoured para-badminton players with the year-end awards. Helle Sofie Sagoy (SL 4) was honoured with Female Para-Badminton Player of the Year over Great Britain’s Rachel Choong (SS 6) and Denmark’s Julie Thrane (SU 5). Sagoy captured two world titles: women’s singles SL 4 and women’s doubles SL 3-SU 5.
Lee (WH 1) was named Male Para-Badminton Player of the Year, holding off competition from Malaysia’s Cheah Like Hou (SU 5) and Poland’s Bartlomiej Mroz (SU 5).
Lee took home three gold medals from the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships held in September. He defended his title in the men’s singles WH 1, and added the men’s doubles WH 1-WH 2 (combined classes) and mixed doubles WH 1-WH 2 titles to his trophy cabinet.
“It’s been 10 years since I dedicated myself to para-badminton, and I want to thank BWF for inviting me to this event,” Seop said.
“I’m honoured to receive this award. I was emotional when I won it because this was the first such award for para-badminton.”
Seop, who took up badminton after he suffered an accident, said it had been a difficult but ultimately rewarding journey.
“It was difficult for the first two years,” he said. “Then I went outside and started looking at others, and realised that there are people who are worse off than me but happy. I started looking for sports for rehabilitation and found para-badminton. It made me happy and I started representing [South] Korea. Para-badminton released my pain the most. I’d never played badminton before my accident. I realised this is the sport for me now, this is life for me now.”
The BWF Player of the Year awards were given at the Players’ Reception and Gala Dinner.