With the four-year countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics well and truly underway, excitement is building as para-badminton prepares to take its maiden bow at the Games.
And for Martin Rooke (WH2), his campaign to represent ParalympicsGB in four years’ time couldn’t have got off to a more perfect start as he clinched two gold medals at the European Para-Badminton Championships in the Netherlands last month, mirroring his 2014 campaign.
Having reached the finals of the mixed and men’s doubles, as well as the men’s singles, top seed Rooke’s day got off to a flyer as he was crowned mixed doubles champion alongside Switzerland’s Karin Suter-Erath.
They needed just two sets to win the gold medal, defeating France’s David Toupe and Narin Uluc of Turkey 21-18, 21-14.
After tasting early success, Rooke then went on to retain his men’s singles title, comfortably winning 21-9, 21-5 against second seed Jordy Brouwer Von Gonzenbach of the Netherlands.
But it wasn’t to be a clean sweep of the gold medals for Rooke as he lined up in the men’s doubles final alongside Toupe.
They lost 21-17, 12-21, 21-16 to his England teammate and second seed Connor Dua-Harper and Thomas Wandschneider of Germany, and while Rooke was left feeling disappointed with the end result, he admits they came up against tough opposition.
“I was very happy defending my singles and mixed titles, but I would have felt a whole lot better if I had won the third gold,” he admitted.
“That was my goal before the competition, so I came away from the competition not reaching my targets, and that is very disappointing.
“I was hoping to win the men’s doubles, but I never expect to win anything, because I don't like to be over confident.
“I knew they would single out my partner in the game as we had played more games during the week including mixed doubles. David, like myself, had three finals to play on the day and his singles final took a lot out of him.
“Our opponents played extremely well and executed a great game plan.”
The Championships saw a successful weekend for England’s para-badminton stars, as they came away with 15 medals in total, with four further gold medals to add to Rooke’s double from Krysten Coombs, Dan Bethell, Jack Shepherd, Rachel Choong and Dua-Harper.
It meant England topped the medal tally for the third successive Championships, and for Rooke, it puts the team in great stead as they look ahead to their Paralympic debut.
“Team England have a great work ethic, we work hard for ourselves and our team, and being a part of this team makes me feel hugely proud and privileged,” he said.
“England have topped the medal table at the past two European Championships and that can only be extremely positive.
“There is huge excitement in badminton with the admission of para-badminton into the 2020 Paralympics.
“We are all focused and determined to possibly be a part of that, and I can speak for all the players, it would be a dream come true.”
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A strong YONEX Belgian International 2017 campaign for Peter Briggs and Tom Wolfenden ended with a silver medal after an exciting men’s doubles final on Saturday.