Basel 2019: World’s best Para Badminton stars fight for Tokyo 2020 qualification points

Basel 2019: World’s best Para Badminton stars fight for Tokyo 2020 qualification points

20 August 2019

Experience and mental toughness will be the key to glory as the year’s biggest Para badminton extravaganza – the BWF World Championships 2019 got underway with the round-robin matches in Basel, Switzerland on Tuesday (August 20, 2019).

As many as 300 Para Badminton stars from around 50 nations will be in action this week in Basel which will be the first time that Para badminton athletes compete alongside their able-bodied peers at their respective World Championships.

Ranking points earned at the Championships will count towards Tokyo 2020 and thus there has been a lot of excitement around the tournament. The sport will make its debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games next September.

Badminton powerhouses Indonesia, China, Japan and India are expected to have a strong presence in the 22 medal events, with some old rivalries to be renewed over the week.

Kim vs Chan

One of the most talked about rivalries recently has been between South Korea’s Kim Jungjun (World No. 1) and Hong Kong’s Chan Ho Yuen (No. 2) in the men’s singles Wheelchair (WH 2). Kim was unbeaten in international competition until Chan inflicted his first defeat on him, at the Australian Para-Badminton International last November.

Since then, the two athletes have met in four finals this year, splitting the honours evenly. While Chan beat Kim in Turkey and Canada, Kim got the better of his rival in Dubai and Ireland. The stage is thus set for a dramatic showdown between three-time singles world champion Kim and his biggest challenger.

In WH1, China’s promising star Qu Zimao will be the player to beat. Qu won a triple crown in Turkey, followed by two titles in Dubai, at the only two tournaments he played in this year. However on paper, Korea’s No. 1 Lee Sam Seop, Hong Kong’s No. 3 Choi Jung Man and German Thomas Wandschneider look strong.

Zimao’s teammates Yutong Liu (No. 1) and Tingting Xu (No. 3) should be among the mix in women’s WH2, which will also have Japanese veteran Yuma Yamazaki.

India aim for a better show

The men’s singles standing categories are expected to be dominated by Indians. With an amazing year on their back, India will aim to pull off better show than last championships in 2017, when they won 10 medals including two gold.

 “I am expecting our medals tally in double digits. Besides winning medals, I am also anxious about our qualification for 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Few of my players are in big lead already and I wish they can increase the gap here,” said their head coach Gaurav Khanna.

In SL3, World no. 1 Pramod Bhagat will be looking to continue his amazing form which has seen him clinching eight gold medals in six tournaments in 2019. “I will try to turn my 2017 bronze into gold this time. The competition looks strong but I believe my experience and winning confidence will play a big role in my matches,” Bhagat said.

The former world champion is expected to face England’s Daniel Bethell and Indonesia’s reigning champion Ukun Raekendi on his path to glory.

The men’s SL4 should see another Indian Tarun Dhillon, an Asian Para Games gold medallist, fighting it out against World no. 1 Lucas Mazur from France for the gold, in a repeat of 2017 Championships final.

Krishna Nagar is another name that India has high hopes on for a gold. Like Bhagat, Nagar had a terrific year having already won 10 medals in 2019, in the men’s SS6 event. “Obviously, my target here is the gold but I don’t want to think too much and play one game at a time.”

British duo favourites

However, World No. 1 and 2 Jack Shephard and Krysten Coombs might spoil Nagar’s golden dreams. The British duo have bounced back in every tournament and are among the favourites for the title.

In SU5 event, Indonesians Dheva Anrimusthi, an Asian Para Games 2018 champion, and fellow player Suryo Nugroho should battle for the top honours.

In the women’s competition, India’s former world champion Parul Parmar will be the favourite for the gold in women’s SL3 event. She will be looking to maintain her stronghold in the category, having clinched double gold medals in the women’s singles SL3 and doubles events in the 2017 championships.

Oktila aims for three gold

In other exciting clashes, Indonesia no. 1 player Leani Ratri Oktila should fight it out against her Chinese nemesis Hefang Cheng in women’s SL4, while Japan Ayako Suzuki will be favourite for SU5.

Oktila, who has made a habit of winning gold medals in tournaments, will once again look to go for three medals as she did in the international events in Ireland, Canada and Dubai. She has so far won 11 golds in four tournaments this year. “I hope I can win three medals this time. I will give my best,” said Oktila, who has one world title from the 2017 Championships.

In the doubles’ competition, the standing events are expected to be dominated by the Indonesians with their fast-paced games and sharp strokes, while the Koreans and Japanese should rule the wheelchair events.