kent para 1200

The tournament director of an innovative new para badminton festival hopes last weekend’s event in Kent will be the first of many.

Forty players took to the court in Gillingham, with members of the Great Britain squad – including Paralympians Jack Shephard and Dan Bethell – playing alongside those for whom this was a first taste of tournament badminton.

The event began with ladder games to ensure players were grouped with opponents of a similar standard while the tournament also had a new approach to classifications.


Jack Shephard in action at the inaugural Kent para badminton tournament

“This was much more about the ability of the player, rather than their categorisation under a physical disability,” said tournament director Jo Newson.

“We had a rough idea of where the better players stood but we had a number of new players who had never played tournaments before so were uncategorised.

“We wanted to make sure that players, no matter their abilities, got the best games they could in a group of similar standard players and that went down well as it meant they got closer games.

“If they’d played in their category, you could have had a GB para player in with a tournament beginner. It wouldn’t have been good for either of them.

“Given it was our inaugural event, I was really pleased with the participation. It’s something we can build on now we’ve done our first one and shown we can run a well organised, fun and successful event.”

World Over-75 singles champion Mary Jenner was an integral volunteer

Shephard and Bethell finished level on points at the top of the standing men’s singles table, Bethell triumphing 22-20 in an epic battle between the pair, while Isaak Dalglish led the way in the mixed men’s singles.

And the off-court contribution of the GB players and coaches was just as important as their performances on it, with the aim that this tournament will now become an annual addition to a calendar of circuit events which also includes events in Sheffield and Nottingham.

“We’re getting good, positive vibes about it and the GB squad were great,” Newson added.

“Their playing abilities are phenomenal and they were happy to share their knowledge and help everyone out.

“We had a few players who were overwhelmed by it at the start of Saturday – the size of the hall, the number of people.

“One girl was almost in tears. She had only been playing badminton a few months – but by the end of the tournament, I asked if she’d do it again and she said ‘oh yes! And where else can I go?’. She absolutely loved it.

“All the players had strong supporters there and we had a really good number of people cheering everybody on, it was a great atmosphere.”

Pics courtesy of Lee Funnell

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