Dan Bethell 4 Nations 1200

August 28, 2023

The countdown to the Paralympic Games is well and truly underway, with exactly one year until action begins in Paris.

Tokyo 2020 marked the first time that para badminton featured as part of the showpiece event, and Paris 2024 promises to be even bigger and better for the sport.

“It has come round so fast,” said GB para badminton head coach Rich Morris.

“I remember back in January we started our qualification, and now we’re talking about one year to go – it’s swung round so quickly.

“The qualification period really has consumed us all over the past six, seven months.”

Action has been spearheaded in recent months by four English players in Morris’ training group – Dan Bethell, Rachel Choong, Jack Shephard and Krysten Coombs – with Welsh star Jack Wilson also targeting Paris.

The qualification period got underway back in February and Morris could not be more pleased with the results so far – with all five on track to seal a spot in the French capital.

Shephard Choong 1200

He said: “Obviously every tournament comes round and then you do well, or you don’t have the results you are looking for.

“That changes the goalposts of what you need to do next time or how excited you get about actually qualifying.

“I believe Daniel has qualified automatically – that is huge for him and he’ll be starting to really look forward to Paris now.

“Krysten is right in the thick of it, he’s grafting every single tournament or every single week to make sure he picks up them ranking points that he needs. The excitement is building but in many different ways and shapes.

“In all honesty, I think we’ve over performed. We’re in better shape now than I thought we would be at this stage. Jack and Rachel have just gone to world No.2, which is amazing, Daniel hasn’t lost a completed match since the Paralympics – which is an unbelievable achievement.

“Krysten is really making some headway, he got to the finals of Sheffield and the semi-final of Euros, so he’s picking up some good ranking points compared to his competitors.

“Jack Wilson is just a fresh lad on the programme since April, but he’s performing well and making a chance for himself.

“We’ve exceeded where I thought we’d be personally and I’m really happy about that.”

The English quartet recently shone at the 4 Nations Para Badminton International in Sheffield, with Bethell winning SL3 men’s singles gold and silvers for Shephard and Choong (SH6 mixed doubles), as well as Coombs (SH6 men’s singles).

That event was quickly followed by the European Para Games in the Netherlands, which brought golds for Bethell, Shephard and Coombs, and following a gap for training, Morris is targeting three more notable events as key milestones over the coming six months as the qualification period continues to heat up.

“We’ve got a tournament in Japan in October, and then we’ve got Dubai at Christmas. The main event is in the third week of February where we’ve got our World Championships. All our eyes are on those three tournaments.

“We’ve got three mini training blocks in there which we want to use as much as we can and work as hard as we can to develop as players.

“Performing at the World Championships will be a must. The points up for grabs there are weighted heavily towards it being a World Championships, the swing that that could have in the race to Paris is massive.

“Once we get over that hurdle we’ll get into what our day-to-day looks like leading into Paris. We’ll know roughly what we need, what we’re doing and days for our prep camp and going into the village.”

Two years ago, Bethell and Coombs were medallists in the first ever Paralympic para badminton competition, taking home silver and bronze respectively.

Shephard also competed but was unable to medal, while Paris offers the chance for Choong and Wilson to make their Paralympic debuts.

All five could well contend in their respective classifications if they seal their spot, and the potential for them to seal a place in history is one Morris relishes.

He commented: “Tokyo was a different Games, in regards to it not having any audience in there.

“As we all know, the French have got a real enthusiasm for sport and I feel like their crowd will be unbelievable. To play under their support, or maybe even support for the player on the other side, will be an event in itself.

“A medal of any shape or colour, it will go down in the history books for any one of our athletes.”

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