In 500 days from now, all eyes will be on the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo when the first ever Paralympic Para-Badminton gold medal will be presented.
But which players will find themselves on the top of the podium and, significantly, as we all hope, will they be wearing a ParalympicsGB shirt?
With Para-Badminton making its much-awaited Paralympic debut in 2020, the next year will be full of highs and lows, pressures and emotions. The qualification period will come to a close on 29 March next year – that means just under a year of constant battles both physically and mentally, worldwide travel and one vision; to secure a qualification spot and then aim for a medal at the pinnacle of our sport.
Only the very best in the world qualify.
ParalympicsGB are well placed. The 12-event qualification window is already two events down with potential ParalympicsGB players already winning medals on the world circuit to add to the ranking points.
GB’s Para-Badminton scene is vibrant with an array of talent in a number of the now defined Paralympic sports classes and we have already seen 13 England players represented in the main draws of the recent Dubai and Turkish Internationals.
Following extensive review of world circuit performances and results with the ParalympicsGB Tokyo 2020 medal targets in mind, UK Sport funding is now in place for Para-Badminton. GB Badminton have taken the opportunity to accelerate four players with the greatest potential to medal at the sports’ Paralympic debut onto a dedicated, full time training environment.
SS6 World Champions Jack Shephard and Krysten Coombs, alongside world top 5 SL3 star Daniel Bethell and European champion WH2 wheelchair star Martin Rooke will enjoy heightened focus and profile during the qualification year.
The four, already at the top of the world in their sport class, are currently seen as GB’s best hopes of standing proud on top step of the podium in 500 days’ time.
Training at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield, every day is focused on the end goal and with that comes training blocks and tournaments. From Canada to Denmark, and the BWF Para-Badminton World Championships the big one in August, there will be plenty of air miles accrued over the next few months.
Head Coach Richard Morris said: “There are very exciting times ahead for all of ParalympicsGB. They are working so hard in training and looking for any advantage against the rest of the world.
“They have a real desire to continue being world class and they have proved that by picking up six medals in the first two internationals. The aspiration for me and the rest of the team is obviously that Paralympic medal but first we have to qualify.
“Getting a good solid block of points on the board to build upon is so important not just for qualification but also our momentum for the long period ahead. I’m excited and as motivated as ever.”
Five days of top-level competition are what it will all come down to and our ones to watch will be doing everything in their power to be in the best condition possible, in order to grab themselves a seat on the plane.