David Follett, a wheelchair class 1 Para-badminton athlete, competed in the England Para-Badminton International at the Sir David Wallace Sports Hall at Loughborough University last weekend.
Here, in his blog about the International, he describes his preparations and how the tournament panned out for him.
I have a C6/C7 incomplete spinal cord injury following a traffic accident in 2007. I am one of the most disabled players competing in wheelchair badminton, always seeming to be at a disadvantage over my rivals.
I have been playing badminton for five years and have competed in two world championships in Guatemala in 2011 and Dortmund in 2013, as well as going to other national and international competitions.
This was the first time an international event has been held in England and I was very excited because I have improved a lot since the last world championships.
I live in Devon and am part of the Devon Racqueteers. We train for a couple hours on Tuesday nights but I also have one-to-one sessions with my coach, Sue Williams, at the Cranford Club in Exmouth. I also go to the gym to improve my strength and power as this is one of my key weaknesses.
Two weeks to go and I am stepping up training and keeping a food diary. I have a small appetite but am trying to increase how much I eat so I can train harder and for longer and increase muscle mass.
Sue Williams cannot coach at the moment so I am working with Darren Peterson for the first time. This means I need to tell him what I am capable of and what routines to do and where he needs to push me.
TWO WEEKS TO GO
I started off slowly at the beginning of the week but feel I am improving with the more I am playing and training. My arms are aching a bit I think from all the gym work.
ONE WEEK TO GO
I am feeling strong and playing well, good consistency with shots, and working on my movement around court.
I am playing as well as I have ever played, feeling strong and looking forward to the competition.
Going into the competition I am feeling confident, I know it is going to be a high standard as lots of the strong Asian teams are here, but I am hoping I surprise a few European players that I have played before. I don’t expect to get a medal in singles but my aim is to try and get out my group.
Doubles is where I reckon I could do well. I am partnering clubmate Connor Dua-Harper and, although with a new doubles system in place meaning both class 1 and class 2 players can combine, I am hoping we go quite far and have a good run. I am also playing mixed doubles with Sharon Jones-Barnes for the first time.
HOW DID I GET ON?
In singles I finished third in my group. Unfortunately I was dealt a tough group and as soon as I saw it I thought it was going to be hard to progress. I lost to a Russian I had been hoping to beat although I knew it would be difficult, but I started off poorly and lost the first game 21-10. The second game was a lot better with better rallies but I again lost it narrowly 21-19.
I then had to face a French player I had lost heavily to in the past. But with what’s probably the best game I have ever played I beat him 21-18 21-15, which surprised my opponent as well as myself. My final game was my hardest yet against a Thai player who was runner up in the world championships a few months ago. I again played well despite losing 21-15 21-18 although I believe my opponent had another couple of gears he could have used.
In doubles Connor and I managed to get through our group after losing to the seeded pair - the Thai player I met in singles partnered by a strong Hong Kong player. We then had a long, gruelling game with a French pair which was a little heated at times. After losing the first game 22-20 we came back and were victorious. We then met a Korean and German in the quarter-finals but we never got into our stride.
In mixed Sharon and I won one of three games but as our first time partnering each other we didn’t play too badly together.
TO SUM UP
Overall it was a well-organised tournament with great competition with the best players in the world there. I felt I played well but was just unlucky with the way the draws went. I wish I had started better in my first game but I can learn from that and be better prepared next time.
The European Championships is my next focus in September and I want to push on again from my current level so I can become a constant quarter-finalist in singles.
Inspired? Find your way to play at badmintonengland.co.uk/waystoplay.