New stars emerged while seasoned players stamped their dominance as curtains fell on the season-ending 5th Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International 2023.
Paralympic and Asian Para Games stars Qu Zimo and Yin Menglu (WH1) and
Liu Yutong (WH2) continued their amazing run of form to clinch two gold medals each as China finished on the top with nine gold medals.
There were also others like Li Fengmei (WS SH6), Cheng Hefang (WS SL4) adding to China’s tally with gold medals.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s Muhammed Fareez Anuar claimed his first singles title of the year while Nigeria’s Mariam Eniola Bolaji clinched her first gold in Dubai following an amazing week.
Anuar overcame Paralympic champion Cheah Liek Hou in straight games 21-19, 21-19 for the men’s singles SU5 final, before they together clinch their eighth men’s doubles SU 5 title in the year.
“I am satisfied with my performance here. I am happy to maintain a top form until the end of the year. Anuar has improved a lot in his game but there’s a lot of things he must learn and become solid at a few things,” said Liek Hou.
Bolaji, who has been unbeaten this year, was stretched to the limit by Indonesian world no. 1 Syakuroh Qonitah Ikthtiar before the Nigerian pulled off a 21-7, 13-21, 21-11 win over the latter in the women’s singles SL3 final.
“She (Syakuroh) was a tough opponent. She has good balance and is all over the court. Happy to finally win it and achieve one of my goals this year,” said an exhausted Bolaji.
Dominant and Disciplined Kajiwara
Among other top finishers were: Paralympic champion Daiki Kajiwara who maintained his dominance and pulled off the men’s singles WH2 final winning over Hong Kong’s Daniel Chan Ho Yuen 21-14, 21-15.
The Japanese star also crossed his 100th consecutive win after he won his semi-finals on Saturday. “I don’t think about records when I am in the court. For me I follow what my coach says,” said Kajiwara adding that his focus all about ‘training’ in the New Year.
Chan Ho Yuen added: “Kajiwara is a natural talent. It’s difficult to overcome his challenge; he is so disciplined and so focused and his control over the shuttle is amazing.”
In men’s standing events, Paralympic champion Pramod Bhagat finished second to his English arch-rival Daniel Bethell going down in straight games 17-21, 8-21.
Bhagat, the Asian Para Games champion, later admitted he ran out of stamina and power in the game. “He was a better player today. Post the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Bethell has worked a lot in his game, and I can see his progress. I must get back on track now, work hard on my fitness and strength,” said Bhagat who also lost his SL3-SU5 mixed doubles final to Indonesia’s Leani Ratri Oktila and Hikmat Ramdani.
Meanwhile, India’s Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj fell to Malaysia’s Mohd Amin Burhanuddin 21-13, 21-16 in the men’s singles SL4 final but was content with the way he played in the year.
Having started the year ranked 39th after missing out several Level 1 tournaments, Yathiraj slowly climbed the ladder making the most in the Level 2 events.
“The only way to be a Paralympic contender is to play exceedingly well in the Level 2 tournaments and I managed to do that. So far, it’s been a great season. You cannot afford to be complacent at any point as from India itself, it’s a tough competition to qualify for the Paralympics,” said the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic silver medallist.
Gold for Joshi-Murugesan
Top Indonesian star Oktila had to be content with one gold this time as she and her partner Khalimatus Sadiyah, the Paralympic medallist, lost to India’s Manasi Joshi and Thulasi Murugesan in the women’s doubles SL3-SU5 final .
Joshi and Murugesan came back from a game down to beat the Indonesia top seeded pair of Oktila and Sadiyah 15-21, 21-14, 21-6 to clinch the only gold for India and avenge their Asian Para Games final loss.
“Ours (I and Thulasi’s) has been a new pairing but has been working well. We have met the Indonesians before and have also won them; it was good to end the year on a high. We are looking forward to winning medals at the World Championships,” said Joshi.
The women’s doubles SL3-SU5 though will not be part of the Paris 2024 Paralympics but will be played in the upcoming World Championships in Pattaya.
Man Kai overcomes French challenge
In SH6 events, Hong Kong’s Paralympic silver medallist Chu Man Kai had to fight off a strong challenge from France Charles Noakes before winning 24-26, 21-16, 21-12 in a thrilling men’s singles SH6 final.
“It was a good game. But I made way too many mistakes. The New Year will be amedning all the mistakes and work on my mental aspect,” said Man Kai, the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games champion who pointed out that mental aspect plays a significant role in winning a game in present time.
Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Dubai 2023 International witnessed a line-up of over 300 shuttlers from 41 nations and was the last Para Badminton event of the season in the BWF calendar and offered important qualification points towards Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.