One year ahead of Para Badminton making its debut at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Asian nations dominated the show claiming the top three positions at the BWF Para Badminton World Championships that concluded in Basel, Switzerland recently.
At the end of the competitions, China were atop the medals tally with 13 medals including seven Golds ahead of Indonesia who took the second place with 10 medals. India claimed the third place with 12 medals that had three Gold medals.
For China, promising star Qu Ximao was among the twin gold medallists as he defeated seasoned Korean player Lee Dong Seop 21-16, 21-13 in the men’s singles WH1 for his first Worlds title.
He claimed his second title in Basel 2019 when he and Mai Jianpeng rallied from a game down to defeat the experienced Korean pair of Kim Jungjun and Lee Dong 18-21, 21-18, 21-15 in 80 minutes. Ximao’s compatriot Liu Yutong also went home with double gold, defending her women’s singles WH 2 title over fellow Chinese shuttler Li Hongyan 21-12, 21-11.
She took the second gold alongwith Yin Menglu beating Thailand’s Sujirat Pookkham and Amnouy Wetwithan 21-11, 21-15 in the women’s doubles WH1-2 final.
Three Cheers for Oktila
For Indonesia, top star Leani Ratri Oktila led the charge with an outstanding show winning three medals including two Gold. Oktila, infact, had to battle past fatigue and mental pressure to overcome her nemesis Cheng Hefang and avenged 2017 Worlds and Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games defeat, with a 21-16, 21-16 scoreline. The women’s singles SL4 final was her fourth match on the penultimate day.
“I didn’t expect to win the gold in the women’s singles final. It was a tiring day and also, Hefang is always a tough competitor to play. But I think I was better prepared this time. The win here was an important boost to my motivation to prepare well for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics,” Oktila told Asian Paralympic Committee (APC).
“My next target will be winning three Gold at the ASEAN Para Games in Philippines first and, winning three Gold at Tokyo 2020,” the 28-year-old added.
On the final day, she alongwith her partner Hary Susanto, the defending champions, took just 19 minutes to defeat the German pair of Jan-Niklas Pott and Katrin Seibert 21-4, 21-11 for the SL3- SU5 mixed doubles gold medal.
Her third medal came in SL3-SU 5 women’s doubles when China’s Cheng avenged her singles loss against Oktila and clinched the gold alongwith partner Ma Huihui over Indonesian top seeds Oktila and Khalimatus Sadiyah Sukohandoko 21-17, 21-12.
Not just women, Indonesian men shuttlers also impressed. In men’s SU5 category, Deva Anrimusthi, an Asian Para Games 2018 gold medallist, also shone with double gold. First, he overcame his fellow Indonesia shuttler Suryo Nugroho with a 21-15, 21-15 scoreline in the men’s SU5 singles.
Nugroho once again had to settle for the second place after his 2017 Worlds silver medal.
Anrimusthi then paired with Hafizh Briliansyah Prawiranegara to overcome China’s Shengzhuo Shi and He Zhirui 21-18, 21-13 in the men’s doubles event.
Bhagat leads India’s medal charge
Meanwhile, Pramod Bhagat, expectedly led the medal charge for India clinching two gold medals in men’s singles SL3 and men’s doubles SL3-SL4 events.
Both the matches went down to the wire, with the Indian star coming from a game down to win them in style. First, he paired up with Manoj Sarkar to defeat compatriots Nitesh Kumar and Tarun Dhillon 14-21, 21-15, 21-16 in the doubles final, played on the penultimate day.
Later, Bhagat bettered his winning record against the Englishman Daniel Bethell to 3-1 this season with a 6-21, 21-14, 21-5 win in the men’s singles SL3 final that lasted almost an hour. This was Bhagat’s third Worlds title in singles. Overall the win in Basel was his sixth singles gold this year, extending his stranglehold in the SL3 category.
Change of Guard in women’s singles
In the women’s category, there was a change of guard in SL3 category as India’s Manasi Girishchandra Joshi finally beat veteran Parul Parmar 21-12, 21-7 for her first Worlds title. “I have trained extremely hard, training three sessions a day. The focus was on my fitness so I also lost some weight and gained more muscle. I spent more time in the gym, working six sessions a week and put lot of effort to improve my strokes,” said the 30-year-old Joshi.
“I’ve been playing Para badminton since 2015. Winning medal at world’s is always a dream come true,” she added.
In SU5 category, Japan’s defending champion and top seed Ayako Suzuki had to settle for second place going down to China’s Yang Qiuxia 21-17, 17-21, 15-21 in 47 minutes.
Among other top names, Jack Shephard (MS SS6) and Lucas Mazur (MS SL4) defended their titles in style without dropping a game, while Kim Jungjun survived a scare from his nemesis Hong Kong’s Chan Ho Yuen before winning 21-18, 13-21, 21-18 in men’s singles WH1 final. It was Korea’s only gold in Basel 2019.
For Japan, fifth seeded Sarina Satomi was the lone gold medallist winning the women’s singles WH1 over Thailand’s Sujirat Pookkh 21-16, 21-15 in just 30 minutes.
The road to Tokyo 2020 continues with the Thailand Para Badminton International 2019 set to begin on September 16 in Bangkok.