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February 16, 2023

The path to Paris begins next week for England’s para-badminton players, with the first qualification event for the 2024 Paralympic Games taking place in Spain.

Vitoria-Gasteiz plays host to the Spanish Para Badminton International, the opening event of the 2023 BWF Para-Badminton World Tour which gives the best players in the world a vital chance to seal early qualification points.

A total of 15 English players – including Jack Shephard, Krysten Coombs, Isaak Dalglish, Daniel Bethell and Rachel Choong – will be in action as they look to get the new season off to a successful start.

With anticipation building, Para GB head coach Rich Morris is pleased that his squad are fresh and ready to face the tournament head-on.

“It has been quite nice to do training blocks leading up to Christmas, where we got some new development areas worked on, and knowing the tournament was the third week of February we had some downtime over Christmas to recharge our batteries,” he said.

“The athletes were chomping at the bit and raring to go in the first week of January. We’re in the middle of another block of training, working on areas that we feel are important that we’ve managed to box off ahead of heading to Spain.

“Now emotions are getting where they need to be, the nerves are coming out – which is good, because it makes people push and make people access another level that isn’t normally there. It gives that buzz, that feeling about the environment that I love.

“There’s nothing better than training in an environment where we’re going away like we are. We’re so up for it, everybody’s getting pumped.

“There’s over 300 entries for the tournament, which is the biggest para tournament to date, so everybody’s trying to get out the blocks early and get some points on the board for Paris qualification.

“That just wraps up the excitement, I think all the top 12 in our discipline are there so the standard is where it should be – everyone’s excited.”

There is a full calendar ahead this year and throughout the first part of 2024 that will enable qualification to the Paralympics, where para-badminton will feature for just the second time.

Britain brought back two medals from the sport’s debut in Tokyo, Dan Bethell claiming men’s singles Sl3 silver and Krysten Coombs earning men’s singles SH6 bronze.

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And Morris knows that while pressure is on his charges from the outset, they all have full faith in their own abilities.

Morris added: “If you win a Level 2 event on the first one that banks your level, you’ve got all the points you need at the level and it’s a big weight off your shoulders.

“If you go out early or underperform, you may be playing catch up all year and have to win as opposed to improving. When you factor in potential injuries, if you can bank a good solid number of points that puts you on the front foot.

“Medals are minimum for all of them, and they’ve got their sights on the top – that’s no pressure from me, that’s from themselves.

“I love them reaching for the stars and aiming for the top, and they’ve all put a shift in recently – they’re playing good stuff.”

Action begins next Monday and concludes on Sunday 26 February. You can keep up to date with all results and draws here.

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