Sarina Satomi did not fall in love with Para badminton at first sight, telling herself “this is such a difficult sport” when she experimented with the game.
Three years and a Para-Badminton World Championships title later, the Wheelchair (WH1-2) shuttler admits the sport has only had positive impact on her.
“When I started using wheelchair, I confined myself to home, reluctant to ride on trains and buses because I didn’t want people to see me in a wheelchair,” Satomi told tokyo2020.org recently.
“Even if I did go out, I would come across many barriers, such as stepped surfaces and inaccessible heights, which made me give up. Para badminton changed my mindset.
“If I hadn’t encountered Para badminton, I’d still be spending most of my life at home.
“I’m surprised at myself for having come this far. It makes me think whenever you have the opportunity to start something, you may as well take the plunge.”
Satomi was already a shuttler at junior high school, which prompted her father to recommend joining a wheelchair badminton club in her prefecture Chiba almost a year after she lost the ability to move her legs from injuries sustained in a road accident in 2016.
Initially a reluctant shuttler, the fire in her belly was ignited when she started participating in tournaments. When she was selected for her first international competition in Thailand in July 2018 by the Japan Para-Badminton Federation, Satomi accepted she was “an athlete”.
Satomi then took it upon herself to perfect the game and she is now world No.1 in singles and doubles (with Yuma Yamazaki), having won WH1 gold medal at last year’s TOTAL BWF Para-Badminton World Championships in Basel, Switzerland.
“Once I got serious, a whole new world opened up. I started having great fun. I’m profoundly grateful to my father, who kind of forced me to join the club,” she admits.
The 22-year-old is also a gold medal favourite in both disciplines at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where badminton will make its debut.
“I definitely would like to become the ‘first queen’,” says Satomi.
“I’m exhilarated about the Games being hosted in Japan because it will promote the sport to a wider audience. I also want people close to me get excited to see me play and win, so I’ll do my best.”