Tokyo 2020 – A Long, Extended Wait for A Dream

For many on the long road to Tokyo 2020, the postponed Paralympic Games would be worth the wait.

Shephard became world champion last year.

The arduous efforts of the Para badminton family came to fruition in October 2014 when it was announced the sport would be included at Tokyo 2020.

Jack Shephard (England)
World No.1 men’s singles, Short Stature (SH)
“It means a lot. I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to be able to compete at the Paralympics. It’s amazing Para badminton is now a Paralympic sport and a dream can come true.”

Early Years

When badminton made its Olympic bow at Barcelona 1992, Para badminton was being played by a few enthusiasts for physical activity and others purely for the love of it.

In 1995, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Russia and Israel formed the International Badminton Association for the Disabled (IBAD). This allowed international competitions to be organised for athletes in the wheelchair, standing and sitting categories.

Three years later, the Netherlands hosted the first IBAD World Championships for Disabled. It included 50 players from Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Israel, Belgium and Russia.

While the sport was gaining ground around the world, Paul Kurzo and BWF’s then vice-president Torsten Berg worked to integrate IBAD with BWF, with the ultimate aim to become an International Paralympics Committee (IPC) member and a Paralympic sport.

Paul Kurzo
Vice-President of P
ara badminton
“We had to overcome many challenges, mainly integration of the classification rules according to IPC standards, and integration and training of technical officials and classifiers into the organisation. Then we had to figure out how to bring together the national and continental members as many of them had separate organisations for different disabilities. We also had no money, so the work was done by volunteers.”

New Millennium

It was not until the early 2000s that clearer classification rules were formulated, resulting in categories for Wheelchair (WH), Standing Lower (SL), Standing Upper (SU) and Short Stature (SH).

Kurzo – a passionate Para badminton supporter. (Photo from Paul Kurzo)

With these new categories in place, in 2007, IBAD and BWF made the first attempt to join the Paralympics family but Para badminton was not included at the London 2012 Games.

Dr. Shamsul Azhar
BWF Chief Classifier
“There are many types of disabilities and impairments, and classification is a process that ensures fairness in Para sports. Classifiers examine, test and observe the athlete when they first appear in the competition and allocate them the correct class.”

A later bid to join the Rio 2016 Games also failed and the classification rules had to be redefined to meet IPC standards, because Para badminton had too many classes with too few athletes in each.

Dr. Silvia Albrecht
BWF Head of Classification
“We created new classification regulations and a system with less classes and clearly defined medical minimal impairment criteria for participation and each class.”

The developments in the new millennium also served to attract a larger group of players who began to recognise Para badminton as more than just a casual past time.

Korea’s Lee Sam Seop, who started playing in 2005, has several international titles in wheelchair men’s singles and doubles. Ma Hui Hui of China joined the national team as a teenager in 2006 and has a number of SL-SU women’s doubles medals with partner Cheng Hefang.

Karin Suter-Erath (Swizerland) and Henriette Koozs (Austria) started out playing wheelchair tennis and are now two of Europe’s more accomplished women’s singles and doubles players.

Barbara Fryer
Head Referee for Tokyo 2020
“The level of play has increased, wheelchair badminton in particular has become so much more dynamic at the top level. IPC observed us at the 2013
World Para Badminton Championships in Dortmund and was impressed by the organisation, the presentation of the game and the atmosphere. I knew we had delivered our piece of the puzzle toward being included in Tokyo 2020.”

In September 2017, IPC announced a programme of 14 Para badminton events – seven men’s, six women’s and one mixed – for Tokyo 2020. A total of 90 players (46 men and 44 women) will compete in singles, doubles and mixed doubles categories.

Realisation of a Dream

Oktila is aiming for three gold medals.

In SU5, Malaysia’s Cheah Liek Hou and Denmark’s Catherin Rosengren have held their own against able-bodied peers for years but an Olympic medal was always out of reach.

Cheah Liek Hou
World No.2 men’s singles SU5
“I’m excited (about the Paralympics) because I’ve been waiting for this for 12 years, since Beijing 2008.”

China have been a badminton force and are expected to dominate the Paralympics with youthful athletes such as 17-year-old WH2 women’s singles world champion Liu Yutong but Indonesia too have always been a badminton nation.

Leani Ratri Oktila (Indonesia)
World No.1 women’s singles SL4
“I’m playing in three categories (singles, doubles and mixed doubles). I’m challenging myself to win all three, and winning for my country motivates me more. Badminton at the Paralympics will also encourage many young Indonesians with disability to take this sport seriously.”

Tokyo 2020 for Para badminton is reward for years of blood, sweat and tears, not just for the athletes on court but also the whole Para badminton family who have rallied for this sport for almost three decades.

Kurzo: “A big dream of mine has come true and I’m pleased the Paralympics is now possible for all Para badminton players.”

Olympic and Paralympic News

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
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
Extra Time a Blessing For Suzuki and Kajiwara

Extra Time a Blessing For Suzuki and Kajiwara

30 June 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