With less than a year to go for the Tokyo Paralympics, we look at some of the top contenders who have lit up Para badminton in recent times.
Kim Jungjun (Korea, WH 2)
Perhaps the most admired player in Para badminton, Kim Jungjun (featured image) has an aura about him for his extraordinary winning record over a long career. Winner of four straight World Championships singles titles, he has lost just four singles matches. This year, he won the singles title in Brazil and a double crown in Peru.
Chan Ho Yuen Daniel (Hong Kong China, WH 2)
The only player who has consistently challenged Kim Jungjun, Chan has stayed hot on the heels of his great rival, with a 4-9 head-to-head record. After falling in the final of the Para Badminton World Championships, won back to back titles in Thailand and China last year.
Liu Yutong (China, WH 2)
The 16-year-old has followed in the footsteps of her idol Kim Jungjun. Displaying great maturity for one so young, she displays tremendous grit and focus, and has yet to be beaten in her international career. Last season saw her pick up nine gold (five in singles) and two silver; this year she played a sole tournament, in Brazil, where she duly swept the singles and doubles (with Yin Menglu).
Qu Zimo (China, WH 1)
Winner of the Male Para Badminton Player of the Year last season for winning 12 gold, which included triple crowns in Turkey and China. This year he was surprised in the semifinals of the Brazil Para Badminton International by compatriot Yang Tong, but captured the doubles with Mai Jianpeng.
Pramod Bhagat (India, SL 3)
The ever-smiling Indian left-hander is a prolific champion, finishing last season with 10 gold and four silver medals. The left-hander’s chief attributes are deception, accuracy of strokes, and ability to last long rallies. This year he won singles and doubles crowns (with Manoj Sarkar) in both the Brazil and Peru Para Badminton Internationals.
Leani Ratri Oktila (Indonesia, SL 4)
Displayed sensational form last year across three categories, winning a triple crown twice and a double crown twice – including the World Championships – in a total of 12 gold, two silver, and one bronze medals. This year she picked up another double in Brazil, but was stopped in the singles final by China’s Cheng Hefang, who is her closet challenger with six wins in 12 matches.
Lucas Mazur (France, SL 4)
The Frenchman was one of the most successful players last year, with nine gold – including double crowns in Thailand and Japan. This year he had modest success in Brazil and Peru, with his best singles effort being a runner-up place in Sao Paolo.
Dheva Anrimusthi (Indonesia, SU 5)
Had an amazing season last year winning double titles in four of five tournaments contested. The only gold that escaped him was the men’s doubles title in Canada, when he and Hafizh Brilliansyah Prawiranegara fell in the semifinals to Korean duo Kim Gi Yeon/Shin Kyung Hwan. This year, close rival Cheah Liek Hou (Malaysia) got the better of him in the sole event he played – the Brazil Para Badminton International.
Ayako Suzuki (Japan, SU 5)
Had an impressive season last year, finishing with eight gold and six silver, but she missed out on the World Championships gold in a well-contested final against Yang Qiuxia. She wrapped up the season winning singles titles in Denmark and Japan, but has yet to play a tournament this year.
Jack Shephard (England, SH 6)
The first SH 6 player to get a Player of the Year award, Shephard has an ability to come good on the big occasion. He had an uneven season last year but found form at the all-important World Championships. That was followed by two bronze medals, but he finished strongly with a gold in Denmark.