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As 2021 draws to a close we’re continuing to look at some of the year’s badminton highlights.

Today we’re looking back at Paralympics GB’s remarkable campaign at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, which marked the first-time para-badminton was included in the event programme.

Fourteen different disciplines took place (seven male, six female, one mixed doubles) with Great Britain sending a squad of four shuttlers out on the long flight to Japan.

The team certainly didn’t disappoint, producing some memorable moments on their way to, not one, but two medals.

SL3 men’s singles player Dan Bethell had a summer to remember, becoming the first Briton to win a Paralympic medal, claiming a historic silver.

Bethell managed to make it to the final against world number one Pramod Bhagat, after winning his group before comfortably beating fellow Indian Manoj Sarkar in the semi-final, 21-8, 21-10.

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He even gave Bhagat a tricky contest at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, eventually being beaten 21-14, 21-17 in a hard-fought gold medal match.

“I’m so happy with this week,” he said after the final.

“It was my dream to win a Paralympic medal and to do that, it’s just fantastic.

“I really wanted to come here and win the gold but it just wasn’t to be today.

“I thought Pramod played really well and I just never got to the level I expect of myself. He made it hard for me.

“His attack was so good and kept the pressure on all the time. He did really well to come back at me in the second set after the good start I had.

“The medal is such a big milestone for me. To be on the podium will be such a proud moment and I’ll definitely be having a smile on my face.”

He wasn’t the only Brit to be on the flight home to be wearing a medal, after a brilliant SH6 men’s singles tournament from Krysten Coombs.

The 31-year-old and World Championship gold medallist, booked a semi-final spot after an impressive straight games win over another Paralympics GB team member, Jack Shephard, who was seeded first.

It was a difficult scenario for the two close friends and doubles partners, with Shephard exiting at the group stage, but Coombs went on to a last-four showdown with Krishna Nagar.

The Indian had too much on the day and triumphed 21-10, 21-11 to reach the final, which he eventually won. But Coombs’ Tokyo adventure wasn’t over yet.

He then faced off against Brazil’s Vitor Goncalves Tavares in the bronze medal match knowing he still had a chance of making history in Japan.

The Brit had to battle hard, but triumphed in a three-game thriller, 12-21, 21-10, 21-16 to win the bronze, Paralympics GB’s second badminton medal of the Games.

After a sensational win, Coombs said he hoped his triumph would inspire others.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “To be able to come away from these amazing Games with a bronze medal, it’s just unreal.

“Dan medalled yesterday and to be able to do it together, the bronze medal isn’t just mine – it’s theirs (the teams) as well. We’ve all worked together so hard over these last few years and qualified for Tokyo. It’s just amazing.

“It’s a way of inspiring people now to get into badminton and to take part. Hopefully there’s a generation of para players in Great Britain and all over the world who can take the sport up and go for medals like me.

“Hopefully this will inspire a whole generation. It’s an awesome sport as you can see, and there’s so many opportunities with it as well.

“I’d like to think I can inspire other kids with dwarfism at home, that there is a journey and you can be successful with it!”

Martin Rooke was also representing Paralympics GB on the court in the WH2 men’s singles event.

Although he wasn’t able to add to the medal haul, he did manage to escape his group after a thrilling 18-21, 21-15, 21-12 win over Dumnern Junthong, another highlight of a memorable games for the squad.

His run was ended in the quarter-finals by Hong Kong’s Chan Ho Yuen, but Rooke certainly didn’t disgrace himself against the World Championship silver medallist, eventually going down 21-9, 21-11.

In the end Paralympics GB finished eighth in the badminton medal table, with only five countries leaving with a higher overall medal total.

The entire tournament provided some thrilling action as para-badminton proved a wonderful addition to the Paralympic Games.

We look forward to seeing our 2020 squad back out on-court next season, with the 2022 BWF Para Badminton World Championships taking place in November when the world’s best return to Tokyo.

Hopefully, we’ll be given another tournament to remember!

Read more on the Tokyo Paralympic Games experience with Krysten Coombs here

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