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England star Dan Bethell has only one thing on his mind with para-badminton’s Paralympic debut now just two months away.

Having been named in the Paralympics GB squad earlier this week, Bethell’s dream to reach the Tokyo Games is now a reality.

Bethell, born in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, took up the sport having had success in tennis at county level where he played against non-disabled competitors.

The 25-year-old’s badminton career is blossoming and his SL3 World Championship silver back in 2019 means he’ll be shooting for the stars in Tokyo.

Bethell said: “Going to the Paralympics, I really want to win that gold medal, that’s always been the dream.

“I feel that I’m in as good a position as I ever have been to achieve that goal.

“But it’s more than just the performance side of things, that’s why we’re going, but we’re also there to experience going to the Paralympics for the first time.

“It’s a historic moment for para-badminton and it will really be about soaking up all that atmosphere and the opportunities.

“Pushing forward, I’ve set up so many goals I want to achieve.”

It is set to be a packed season for Bethell and team, with the World Championships following the Games, also set to be staged in Tokyo from 25-31 October.

To find Dan’s inspiration, you need to wind back to 2008 and the spark that was lit to pursue a future as a full=time athlete.

Bethell said: “I started playing badminton in 2009 – I watched the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008, and it was my first real exposure to para-sport, I’d never really seen it before or really knew about its existence.

“That really inspired me, and I thought that it would be really cool one day to go to that and just to get involved in parasport.

“I was a big tennis player before taking up badminton. With tennis, there was only wheelchair tennis there wasn’t a category for my disability.

“I found out about para-badminton on an internet search and found a local club, joined that and then played my first national tournament in Manchester in 2010 and went on from there.”

When Bethell took up badminton he would often have to face non-disabled players due to the lack of opposition, and continues to do so to improve his game.

But the University of Bristol law graduate says that the inclusion of badminton in the Paralympics has seen its popularity rise.

“The sport is growing year after year and the international circuit is getting bigger, there’s a lot more media attention on the sport so you can just see a massive growth in the amount of players getting into the sport because of the exposure.

“Since the Paralympic announcement, you go on social media and you see a lot more advertising for para-badminton so that’s made the sport grow massively since I first started.”

While Bethell’s success on the world stage could encourage others to take up the sport, during lockdown he started playing golf with limited success.

It’s fair to say he won’t be hanging up the racket for the putter any time soon.

He admitted: “Particularly when I’m hitting the ball in every bush that I can possibly see, golf is very good for social distancing!

“Everyone in the squad plays as well so it’s a really nice way that we can all get out of the badminton hall and enjoy each other’s company.”

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