Extra Time a Blessing For Suzuki and Kajiwara

Team Japan’s preparations for Tokyo 2020 have placed more than 10 of their athletes in the top 10 of the world rankings across the categories contested at the Paralympic Games.

Among them are the highly experienced 33-year-old Ayako Suzuki and 19-year-old newbie Daiki Kajiwara.

Age Just a Number

Suzuki has the women’s singles and doubles gold in her sights.

Suzuki does not seem concerned she will be another year older when the Games take place in 2021.

“My advantage is my experience,” said the Standing Upper (SU5) women’s singles world No.2.

In women’s doubles Standing Lower/Upper (SL3-SU5), Suzuki partners Noriko Ito and Mio Hayashi.

She plans to make the most of the postponement.

“It gives me more time to improve my footwork and shot accuracy.”

Suzuki made her international debut in 2009 and held the women’s singles top spot for many years until the emergence of China’s 22-year-old rising star Yang Qiuxia.

The Paralympic qualifying year in 2019 saw repeated final battles between the two, with unpredictable results until almost the very end of each match.

“Yang is tenacious and it’s always fun to play her. She likes long rallies which I enjoy.

“I understand what kind of player I am. I’m the nervous type so I find it best to focus on myself. When I play, I think back to how I train and it helps me relax. I always work on getting the feel of how the match is going. I never give up on chasing shots all over the court and I send mine to the opposite place the opponent expects.”

Suzuki’s training regimen has not changed despite the lockdown.

“I live in an area which has very few Coronavirus cases. Currently I’m training in the gym, strengthening the muscles I need to overcome my shortcomings. Strength training helps me stay motivated.”

Suzuki started playing badminton with her family at the age of nine. The break from tournaments has allowed her to enjoy being home again.

“I now sleep too much. And I can’t travel which I love to do, so I spend time looking on the Internet for travel locations for when the world opens up again.”

There was a brief period when badminton could have lost Suzuki to another sport – horseback riding.

“I was in my 20s. I enjoyed it but just couldn’t get better so I went back to badminton. I’ll think about what’s next after I’m done playing.”

New Kid on the Block

Kajiwara gave world champion Kim Jungjun (left) a run for his money at the Japan Para International 2019.

In Kajiwara’s view, the longer preparation period has its pros and cons.

“I’m a college student this year so it gives me a chance to get accustomed to my new environment. For badminton, I can spend more time improving but it may be difficult to keep my motivation level up over the next year,” he said.

Currently sixth in the world in Wheelchair (WH2) men’s singles and third in WH1-WH2 men’s doubles with partner Hiroshi Murayama, Kajiwara started playing badminton in 2017.

A few years before that, at the age of 13, he lost the use of his legs in a traffic accident.

“I was on the way to baseball practice. My right leg had to be amputated and my left leg couldn’t move. I was told I would be bedridden for life. It was the most desperate time of my life. The fact I couldn’t play baseball anymore was the most painful.”

Family and friends are integral to his recovery and recent success.

“My family pays for my travels, takes me to practice and my mother cooks healthy food for me. I have a younger sister, who is lonely when I’m away but she supports me without complaining. After my accident, it was my baseball coach and school friends who helped me overcome my injuries.”

Learning to play badminton in a wheelchair proved not too difficult a challenge for this already athletic teenager.

“I played baseball before the accident, so I’m confident about my upper body strength. My chair-work on court is good but it’s still not enough against the top players.”

Despite his self-criticism, Kajiwara has held his own against some of the grand masters of the WH2 category, earning their praise.

“I look up to Kim Jungjun (Korea), Chan Ho Yuen (Hong Kong China) and Kim Kyung Hoon (Korea). I’m still new so in a match, I just try to challenge them. I don’t think about winning but it doesn’t mean I’m trying to lose.

“There’s so much I can learn from them and I want to defeat them someday. For now, I need to work on my own strengths and weaknesses. My goal is to win gold in Tokyo and someday, be a world champion.”

Olympic and Paralympic News

Tokyo 2020: Para Badminton in Stats

Tokyo 2020: Para Badminton in Stats

12 September 2021
Review: Best Matches from Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Review: Best Matches from Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

11 September 2021
One Week, Two Dreams Come True

One Week, Two Dreams Come True

10 September 2021
Para Badminton at Tokyo 2020 in Quotes | Part II

Para Badminton at Tokyo 2020 in Quotes | Part II

7 September 2021
Para Badminton at Tokyo 2020 in Quotes | Part I

Para Badminton at Tokyo 2020 in Quotes | Part I

6 September 2021
Double Delight for Satomi, Oktila, Qu Zimo

Double Delight for Satomi, Oktila, Qu Zimo

5 September 2021
Father’s Memory Drives Seckin in Upset of Yamazaki

Father’s Memory Drives Seckin in Upset of Yamazaki

3 September 2021
SH6 Group A on Edge

SH6 Group A on Edge

2 September 2021
Through Sport, Study and Work, Dransfield Pushes for Change

Through Sport, Study and Work, Dransfield Pushes for Change

2 September 2021
Para Badminton Enjoys Smooth Take-Off

Para Badminton Enjoys Smooth Take-Off

1 September 2021
Milestones in Para Badminton’s Journey to Paralympics

Milestones in Para Badminton’s Journey to Paralympics

1 September 2021
Tokyo 2020: Para Badminton In Numbers

Tokyo 2020: Para Badminton In Numbers

1 September 2021
Three Shots at Gold

Three Shots at Gold

1 September 2021
Tokyo Diary: ‘Sport Gave Me Courage’

Tokyo Diary: ‘Sport Gave Me Courage’

31 August 2021
Battle of Youth Versus Experience

Battle of Youth Versus Experience

31 August 2021
Spotlight on Satomi, Liu Yu Tong

Spotlight on Satomi, Liu Yu Tong

30 August 2021
Tokyo Diary: Mroz Confident After High-Altitude Stint

Tokyo Diary: Mroz Confident After High-Altitude Stint

30 August 2021
Airbus Gives Toupe a Fast Ride for Tokyo 2020

Airbus Gives Toupe a Fast Ride for Tokyo 2020

29 August 2021
For Self, State and Nation

For Self, State and Nation

29 August 2021
Ready to Stand and Deliver

Ready to Stand and Deliver

28 August 2021
A Tattoo, A Reminder

A Tattoo, A Reminder

28 August 2021
Chan’s Dream Coming True 12 Years On

Chan’s Dream Coming True 12 Years On

28 August 2021
Alongside Old Friend, Shephard Primed for Medal Attack

Alongside Old Friend, Shephard Primed for Medal Attack

27 August 2021
Para Shuttler Leva Targets Javelin Medal in Tokyo

Para Shuttler Leva Targets Javelin Medal in Tokyo

27 August 2021
Paralympics Draw: Exciting Group Clashes in Store

Paralympics Draw: Exciting Group Clashes in Store

26 August 2021
This is Cheah Liek Hou

This is Cheah Liek Hou

26 August 2021
Choong ‘Losing Sleep Over Paralympic Excitement’

Choong ‘Losing Sleep Over Paralympic Excitement’

25 August 2021
#RaiseARacket for Your Heroes These Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

#RaiseARacket for Your Heroes These Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

24 August 2021
Tarun Undeterred by Injury Setbacks

Tarun Undeterred by Injury Setbacks

23 August 2021
Qu: I Want to Hear My National Anthem

Qu: I Want to Hear My National Anthem

20 August 2021
Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Confirmed

Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Confirmed

25 July 2021
Settled Bethell All Set to Test Mettle

Settled Bethell All Set to Test Mettle

1 June 2021
‘Bello Will Always be My Biggest Inspiration’

‘Bello Will Always be My Biggest Inspiration’

29 May 2021
Spanish Reunion Ignites Rosengren

Spanish Reunion Ignites Rosengren

11 May 2021
Spanish Para Badminton International: Stars Set to Sparkle

Spanish Para Badminton International: Stars Set to Sparkle

10 May 2021
Badminton Community Mourns Passing of Bello Rafiu Oyebanji

Badminton Community Mourns Passing of Bello Rafiu Oyebanji

23 April 2021
Resolute Kohli on the March Again

Resolute Kohli on the March Again

22 April 2021
Ellatif, a Woman on a Mission

Ellatif, a Woman on a Mission

15 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: Positive Vibes All Around

Dubai Para Badminton International: Positive Vibes All Around

11 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: Kozyna Surprises World Champion

Dubai Para Badminton International: Kozyna Surprises World Champion

5 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: Lockdown Training Pays Off

Dubai Para Badminton International: Lockdown Training Pays Off

4 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: France Threatens India’s Domination

Dubai Para Badminton International: France Threatens India’s Domination

3 April 2021
Talent From a Thousand Islands

Talent From a Thousand Islands

3 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: All-Points Battle

Dubai Para Badminton International: All-Points Battle

2 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: Standing Tall

Dubai Para Badminton International: Standing Tall

1 April 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: Communication Is Key in Doubles

Dubai Para Badminton International: Communication Is Key in Doubles

31 March 2021
Dubai Para Badminton International: Leading Ladies Set the Tone

Dubai Para Badminton International: Leading Ladies Set the Tone

30 March 2021
Gold is Goal for Mazur, Noel

Gold is Goal for Mazur, Noel

27 March 2021
Chan: Time to Show the World What We Can Do

Chan: Time to Show the World What We Can Do

23 February 2021
Para Badminton Community Rejoices, Fire Reignited

Para Badminton Community Rejoices, Fire Reignited

13 February 2021
Para Badminton Tournament Calendar for 2021

Para Badminton Tournament Calendar for 2021

2 February 2021
Another Feather in Joshi’s 2020 Cap

Another Feather in Joshi’s 2020 Cap

24 November 2020
BWF Considering Options for Para Badminton Restart

BWF Considering Options for Para Badminton Restart

29 October 2020
‘I’d Be Stuck at Home If Not for Para Badminton’

‘I’d Be Stuck at Home If Not for Para Badminton’

24 October 2020
A Role Model, Time and Again

A Role Model, Time and Again

22 October 2020
On This Day: Badminton Becomes a Paralympic Sport

On This Day: Badminton Becomes a Paralympic Sport

7 October 2020
Brian Kliwon: Umpire, athlete and future doctor

Brian Kliwon: Umpire, athlete and future doctor

6 October 2020
Manasi Joshi: Shining a Light on Gender and Disability

Manasi Joshi: Shining a Light on Gender and Disability

24 September 2020
Tokyo 2020: Paralympic Stars to Watch

Tokyo 2020: Paralympic Stars to Watch

1 September 2020
Robinson, the Kiwi Flying the World Solo

Robinson, the Kiwi Flying the World Solo

31 August 2020
Tokyo 2020 – A Long, Extended Wait for A Dream

Tokyo 2020 – A Long, Extended Wait for A Dream

25 August 2020
Countdown to Tokyo Paralympics Begins

Countdown to Tokyo Paralympics Begins

24 August 2020
Para Badminton Tournaments Suspended

Para Badminton Tournaments Suspended

13 August 2020
Barbara Fryer the High-Flyer Makes It a First

Barbara Fryer the High-Flyer Makes It a First

30 July 2020
Team Japan is Back on Court

Team Japan is Back on Court

11 July 2020
Palak Kohli Makes the Most of the Great Outdoors

Palak Kohli Makes the Most of the Great Outdoors

25 June 2020
Rashid Sidek Aids Cheah’s Quest for Paralympic Glory

Rashid Sidek Aids Cheah’s Quest for Paralympic Glory

18 June 2020
Badminton Triumphs Trump Cricket Dreams for Tarun Dhillon

Badminton Triumphs Trump Cricket Dreams for Tarun Dhillon

2 June 2020
Getting to Know … Daniel Bethell

Getting to Know … Daniel Bethell

20 May 2020
Sukant Kadam: How I Started Playing Badminton

Sukant Kadam: How I Started Playing Badminton

10 May 2020
Taliban Attack Survivor Won’t Slow Down Just Yet

Taliban Attack Survivor Won’t Slow Down Just Yet

8 May 2020
It’s All About Family and Country for Oktila

It’s All About Family and Country for Oktila

3 May 2020
Lockdown Highs and Lows

Lockdown Highs and Lows

23 April 2020
PNG Teen Ready to Fly High After ‘First Plane Trip’

PNG Teen Ready to Fly High After ‘First Plane Trip’

19 April 2020
With Willpower and Great Dedication Comes Vitor Tavares

With Willpower and Great Dedication Comes Vitor Tavares

14 April 2020
Behind the Scenes – BWF Classifier Dr Shamsul Azhar

Behind the Scenes – BWF Classifier Dr Shamsul Azhar

5 April 2020
New Dates Announced for Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

New Dates Announced for Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

30 March 2020
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Postponed

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Postponed

25 March 2020
Spanish Para Badminton International Cancelled

Spanish Para Badminton International Cancelled

6 March 2020
Dubai Para Badminton International Postponed

Dubai Para Badminton International Postponed

5 March 2020
Poveda Can’t Stop Winning

Poveda Can’t Stop Winning

24 February 2020
Venue Change for Brazil Para Badminton International 2020

Venue Change for Brazil Para Badminton International 2020

9 February 2020
Bound for Big Things – Road to Tokyo: Krishna Nagar

Bound for Big Things – Road to Tokyo: Krishna Nagar

8 February 2020
Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 4)

Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 4)

23 January 2020
Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 3)

Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 3)

3 January 2020
Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 2)

Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 2)

28 December 2019
Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 1)

Dong Jiong: A Champion of Change (Part 1)

24 December 2019
Historic Venue to Host Para Stars

Historic Venue to Host Para Stars

27 November 2019
Double the Joy – Japan Para Badminton International 2019: Finals

Double the Joy – Japan Para Badminton International 2019: Finals

18 November 2019
Bethell Dethrones Bhagat – Japan Para Badminton 2019: Finals

Bethell Dethrones Bhagat – Japan Para Badminton 2019: Finals

17 November 2019
Kim Gives Kajiwara Four Years – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

Kim Gives Kajiwara Four Years – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

16 November 2019
Stepping Up in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

Stepping Up in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

15 November 2019
Fujihara Aims for Home Win – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

Fujihara Aims for Home Win – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

14 November 2019
Big in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International: Day 1

Big in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International: Day 1

13 November 2019
Blazing A Trail to Tokyo 2020

Blazing A Trail to Tokyo 2020

12 November 2019
Might of Mind Over Matter – Road To Tokyo: Valeska Knoblauch

Might of Mind Over Matter – Road To Tokyo: Valeska Knoblauch

5 November 2019
Excitement for Paralympic Games in Overdrive

Excitement for Paralympic Games in Overdrive

1 November 2019
Record-Breaking Demand for Paralympics Tickets

Record-Breaking Demand for Paralympics Tickets

21 October 2019
Suzuki, Mazur, Cheah Strike Twice – Thai Para-Badminton Int’l: Finals

Suzuki, Mazur, Cheah Strike Twice – Thai Para-Badminton Int’l: Finals

22 September 2019
Double Gold for Wetwithan – Thai Para-Badminton Int’l: Finals

Double Gold for Wetwithan – Thai Para-Badminton Int’l: Finals

21 September 2019
Chu Claims Champion Scalp – Thai Para-Badminton Int’l: Day 5

Chu Claims Champion Scalp – Thai Para-Badminton Int’l: Day 5

20 September 2019
Focused on Change  –  Road To Tokyo: Manasi Joshi

Focused on Change – Road To Tokyo: Manasi Joshi

19 September 2019
Para Stars Head to Thailand and China for Key Fortnight

Para Stars Head to Thailand and China for Key Fortnight

17 September 2019
Teenage Threat on Two Wheels – Road To Tokyo: Liu Yutong

Teenage Threat on Two Wheels – Road To Tokyo: Liu Yutong

15 September 2019
Historic Day for Peru and Guatemala – Parapan Am Games 2019

Historic Day for Peru and Guatemala – Parapan Am Games 2019

2 September 2019
Born Fighter – Road To Tokyo: Tim Haller

Born Fighter – Road To Tokyo: Tim Haller

6 August 2019
At the Height of His Career – Road To Tokyo: Lucas Mazur

At the Height of His Career – Road To Tokyo: Lucas Mazur

16 July 2019
Close Battle for Top Spot

Close Battle for Top Spot

7 July 2019
Badminton Saved My Life – Road To Tokyo: Chan Ho Yuen

Badminton Saved My Life – Road To Tokyo: Chan Ho Yuen

5 July 2019
In-Form Bhagat Charges Ahead

In-Form Bhagat Charges Ahead

4 July 2019
Coombs Breaks Drought – Irish Para-Badminton International

Coombs Breaks Drought – Irish Para-Badminton International

24 June 2019
Kim Jungjun Ramps Up Training With Tokyo in Mind

Kim Jungjun Ramps Up Training With Tokyo in Mind

12 June 2019
Oktila’s Sights Now On World Championships

Oktila’s Sights Now On World Championships

13 May 2019
Dong Seop, Oktila Claim Treble – Canada Para-Badminton International

Dong Seop, Oktila Claim Treble – Canada Para-Badminton International

13 May 2019
Agitos Workshop a Hit With Participants

Agitos Workshop a Hit With Participants

1 May 2019
Bello Determined to Make History

Bello Determined to Make History

1 May 2019
Sky’s the Limit for Para Badminton in Uganda

Sky’s the Limit for Para Badminton in Uganda

22 April 2019
Team Japan’s Road to the Paralympics, and Beyond

Team Japan’s Road to the Paralympics, and Beyond

12 April 2019
Super Mum – Road To Tokyo: Yuma Yamazaki

Super Mum – Road To Tokyo: Yuma Yamazaki

10 April 2019
Athlete Wellbeing and Tokyo 2020 Top Priority for Commission

Athlete Wellbeing and Tokyo 2020 Top Priority for Commission

9 April 2019
Asia Shares Out Wins – Dubai Para-Badminton Int’l

Asia Shares Out Wins – Dubai Para-Badminton Int’l

8 April 2019
Qu Zimo Wins Triple Crown – ENESCUP 2019

Qu Zimo Wins Triple Crown – ENESCUP 2019

1 April 2019
Turkey Kickstarts Paralympic Qualifying

Turkey Kickstarts Paralympic Qualifying

25 March 2019