Daniel Bethell

February 27, 2023

Daniel Bethell made the perfect return to court as he took men’s singles SL3 gold at the Spanish Para Badminton International in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Bethell was playing for the first time since August last year at the Thailand International, but never looked like he had been away with an assured set of ever-improving performances that ended with a 21-8 21-8 victory over Paralympic champion Pramod Bhagat.

Bhagat got the better of Bethell in Tokyo in 2021 but this time the Huntingdon shuttler comfortably came out on top, having battled past Kumar Nitesh 17-21 21-17 21-17 in the semi-finals.

Bethell knocked out Mathieu Thomas, who beat England’s William Smith in the last 16, before facing the 2022 world silver medallist Nitesh, who provided a tricky test that 27-year-old negotiated before powering on to victory against Bhagat to surpass expectations on his return.

“I don’t think the expectation was to win it, the expectation was to come back and perform,” revealed head coach Richard Morris.

“We weren’t 100% sure where that level would be, but we knew we were capable of being world class again in a very short period of time.

“He settled into the draw very comfortably and as the games went on he got more and more comfortable in his ability. He performed his best in the final which is what you want.

“To come back and win it was a big statement from him. To beat the Paralympic champion to single figures in the second set was a real statement to say that he is back, and he looks as strong as ever.”

Bethell was not the only success in northern Spain, with Krysten Coombs clinching bronze in the men’s singles SH6.

Coombs overcame compatriot Isaak Dalglish before battling past Vitor Goncalves Tavares, the same player he beat to Paralympic bronze in Tokyo, with a 21-13 21-8 win only to fall to Thailand’s Nattapong Meechai 21-19 21-17 in the last four.

“It was probably the most professional and convincing performance I have ever seen from Krysten in a competition match,” reflected Morris on Coombs’ victory over Goncalves Tavares.

“He was unbelievable, he showed a really good level. He struggled to find that same level in the semi-final, but great ranking points banked for him.”

There was also bronze for Jack Shephard and Rachel Choong, who earned a podium in the SH6 mixed doubles, as they overcame American duo Miles Krajewski and Jayci Simon 21-13 21-10 before losing 21-11 21-17 to Qatar’s Subhan Subhan and Rina Marlina.

And it was also semi-final defeat for Anya Butterworth and Rosa Luisa Velasquez Turin in the SH6 women’s doubles, as they lost 21-6 21-8 to Peru’s Rubi Milagros Fernandez Vargas and Nithya Sre Sumathy Sivan.

It earns vital ranking points for the pairs, which makes the preparations for Paris much smoother according to Morris.

Jack Shephard and Rachel Choong

He said: “It just makes our life so much easier in the long-term. We will be in a position where we can have big solid training blocks as opposed to having to be on the road chasing ranking points.

“We can just really develop and work on areas rather than spendings days and weeks on planes and trains to get the points we need.

“We have really developed over the last 15, 16 weeks of training, and that’s showing which is a real positive.”

Bronze for Shephard and Choong was welcome consolation, with both players losing their singles matches at the quarter-final stage. Shephard lost 21-13 21-19 to Meechai, while Choong lost a thriller 18-21 26-24 21-16 to Simon.

The quarter-final stage was also the final hurdle for Gobi Ranganathan in the WH2 men’s singles, as he went down to Germany’s Rick Cornell Hellmann 21-8 21-14.

Men’s WH1-2 pair David Follett and Lars Porrenga also exited at the last eight, falling to French pair Thomas Jakobs and David Toupe 21-6 21-7.

Follett was also in mixed doubles action with Heidi Manninen but exited at the group stage, while Follett also fell at the group stage in WH1 men’s singles action despite a 21-14 21-18 victory over Australia’s Lochan Cowper.

There were also group stage exits for Owen Kilburn and Sharon Jones-Barnes, and Sean O’Sullivan and Cambell Plant in their mixed doubles events, while Kilburn, O’Sullivan, Plant, Butterworth, and Robert Donald all failed to make it out of the group in their singles events.

In the women’s doubles, Jones-Barnes and Manninen and Plant and Sophie van den Broek went out in the groups while it was the same stage exit in the men’s for pairs Kilburn and Ranganathan and O’Sullivan and Donald.

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