The BWF Para Badminton Commission met in Dubai on 5 and 6 April to address issues of ensuring athlete wellbeing as well as managing tournament organising costs.
Currently, there is only one level of competition for all athletes, but given the rise in the number of entries in all classes, there is the suggestion of having different levels of tournaments to allow the BWF to separate the developing athletes from the elite players.
This could also mean cutting down on the number of days and number of matches being played, thereby reducing the possibility of fatigue and injury.
“At tournaments now, some athletes are playing up to five matches a day because they play in several categories and combined class doubles. We need to protect the athletes so they can perform at their best throughout their career,” said BWF Vice President – Para-Badminton, Paul Kurzo.
The main focus for the commission remains the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which will feature Para badminton for the first time.
The official Paralympic Games Test Event – the Japan Para-Badminton International from 11-17 November – will give BWF an opportunity to test the court and playing conditions of the venue to ensure they are in accordance with BWF regulations and match requirements.
BWF Technical Delegate Guenter Kluetzke said the number of events to be played at the test event was still to be confirmed.
“We are working with the host to finalise this, although we’re probably looking at 14 with the possibility of two more to include short stature for women’s singles and mixed doubles,” he explained.
BWF is also yet to received a confirmed number of technical officials that will be assigned to Tokyo 2020. “This is a decision which we hope to confirm soon with the IPC,” said Kluetzke, who will be the technical delegate at the Paralympics.
BWF’s plan is to have four referees and 24 umpires and some of these officials have been identified and will be notified as soon as confirmation is received.
While the officials and administrators make these plans, the athletes too have a say in the matter.
The BWF Para Badminton Athlete Commission chairperson Richard Perot explained the restructuring of tournaments is probably one of the best ways in which to manage not only athletes’ health and wellbeing, but also the cost of running a tournament anywhere.
“I think we should take the best of the able-bodied event structure and incorporate it into the Para badminton tournaments,” he said.
Perot is in agreement with the plan to divide the development and beginner levels from the elite tier, where no new on-site classification will be needed.
The athlete representatives also plan to set up a working group to aid the classification process as well as evaluate the type of approved prosthetics and wheelchairs. This is expected to alleviate the pressure on the classifier alone in determining an athlete’s class for competition.
“If we, as former athletes and maybe even former coaches are involved, we believe we can assist the classifiers as well as assure the other athletes of fairness in assessment,” said Perot.