World No.2 Standing Lower (SL3) men’s singles shuttler Daniel Bethell of England talks about family, career goals and his superstition.
I started playing badminton … In 2009 at the age of 13. I was inspired after watching the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. I had never seen disabled people do sport at such a high level and I dreamt about similar feats.
I found Para badminton… On the Internet. I was a tennis player but there was only wheelchair tennis at the Paralympics. I was in awe of the speed and dynamism of the sport, and with its potential to become a Paralympic sport, I was hooked and began training to be the best player I could be.
The person who gave me my start … Steve Hulbert. When I was a junior, Steve helped me understand the game and compete with able-bodied players at club and county level, before helping me achieve international success. I worked with Steve from 2009 until I joined the Great Britain programme in 2017.
The best thing about badminton … Competing. After so much work and effort in training it feels amazing to test your skills against players with different coaching set-ups and playing styles. This is even better as an international athlete because I get to travel all over the world, be exposed to new cultures and meet amazing people, which I would never have done if not for badminton. These elements have helped me grow as a player and a person.
The worst thing about training … Stacking shuttles, especially after a hard session. It’s annoying but sometimes my teammates and I have to stack 5,000 shuttles at a time.
My strength … My physicality on court. Speed and agility enable me to get to the shuttle early, which helps me dictate the pace of the game. I do a lot of strength training and physiotherapy to help increase my speed and movement on court, and to strengthen my limbs affected by cerebral palsy.
My teammates and I … Share an incredibly close bond as very few other people understand the stress and strains of being a professional Para badminton player. We are the pioneers of the full-time elite Para badminton programme in our country and rely on each other for support and encouragement through good and bad times.
My biggest support … My family. They have sacrificed a lot of time and money, particularly when I first started, taking me to training, buying equipment and paying for me to compete abroad. Without this support I wouldn’t have been in a position to make the Great Britain programme.
In my family … I am the younger of two siblings. My brother, who is two years older, is an accountant, studying for his final exams. We grew up playing sports, mainly rugby and tennis. My mum has started playing badminton.
Before a match … I have a set routine for when I eat, and warm-up. Making sure I complete all the elements of my warm-up routine relaxes me as then I know I had done all that I could physically and mentally to get in the right state of mind.
My superstition … Started in 2017. I was in the final of the Spanish International men’s singles and doubles (with Bobby Griffin). As I was walking to the venue, I accidentally left one song playing on repeat. I went on to win gold in both events for the first time. From then on, I wanted to replicate all the aspects of that day.
After a win … I celebrate by going out for a meal with family and eat things I never can during tournaments. After the intensity of training and competing, I like to get away for a few days and enjoy, having met my goal of winning.
After a loss … I reflect on the match and put it in perspective. I think of all the other good things in life. While it’s horrible to lose, it is not the only thing in the world. I will have the opportunity to right the wrongs.
It’s a great feeling … To share my experiences with others, in the hope it may inspire them to have the opportunities I gained through sport. Recently, my teammates and I have been working with people of different ages and disability to introduce them to Para badminton. This is important for me as the sport has given me so much. I wouldn’t be the person I am without it.
When not playing badminton … I am into gaming, in particular Call of Duty, and often play online against my teammates. I’m also interested in history and my favourite periods are the First and Second World Wars. I love going out with family and friends, and doing fun activities like bowling or going to the cinema.
It’s important … To get your priorities right at the right times. I am doing a Masters degree in International Commercial Law and plan on practicing in Commercial/Corporate Law. I became interested in this area when I realised that businesses and corporations have significant power and influence. Yet, there are laws and regulations they must abide by, from finalising large mergers and acquisitions to the morality and human rights implications of business decisions. This has created intriguing cases and scandals which fascinate me.
The postponement of Tokyo 2020 … Means I will be able to complete my degree before the Games. I had planned on taking a break from studying to focus on the Paralympics so the current closure of many universities has not affected me. I’ll return to studying in September and should finish in January. Then I’ll have nine months to fully focus on building my game for Tokyo.