The first Para badminton competition after almost a year – Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum 3rd Fazza-Dubai Para Badminton International 2021 (30 March-4 April) – has France’s Lucas Mazur and Faustine Noel all excited.
Mazur is top of the men’s singles Standing Lower (SL4) Road to Tokyo standings and second in mixed doubles Standing Lower/Standing Upper (SL3/SU5) with partner Noel.
For the last one year, Mazur has been based at the Youth Training Centre in Bordeaux under new coach Bertrand Louvet while Noel with Loris Dufay in Rennes, more than 400km north.
Despite the not so ideal situation, there is only one goal – the Tokyo Paralympics in September. And playing in Dubai will give them a chance to evaluate their efforts.
How do you feel about getting back on the circuit?
LM: “I’ve been upset with no competition for almost a year so I’m happy to get back to it. I’ve missed the finals atmosphere. Everyone wants to know how the other person is doing. Some of the Indian players are big opponents in singles and they’re all training very hard. I’ve been in touch with Tarun (Dhillon). He’s my biggest rival. We’re like Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed. I’m also looking forward to seeing friends. I’ve missed talking to Fredy Setiawan and Suryo Nugroho (Indonesia), Cheah Liek Hou (Malaysia) and of course Indian players Tarun, Suhas (Yathiraj Lalinakere), Sukant (Kadam).”
FN: “Extremely excited to get back on court to see how much progress we’ve made during a year entirely devoted to training. I feel we will discover new opponents, almost as if everyone is starting at zero. I can’t wait to feel the competition emotions, the pressure and victories. I enjoy the extreme concentration on court and I’m looking forward to seeing how much the opponent has improved, and how we’ve improved.”
What has this past year been like?
LM: “I spent some time in my family home to enjoy nature and went on long walks with my dog. I focused on fitness and cardio to prepare for long rallies because I feel pressured when my opponents play quickly. Rallies help me control the game better. It’s been hard to keep my mind on the game so I’ve been on video calls with the psychological team to regain my mental strength. Sometimes I get angry on court so I’m learning how to control this temper under pressure and stay confident.”
FN: “When the Paralympics were postponed, I told myself I have one more year to improve. I’m the kind of person who can find positivity in unexpected and unpleasant situations. I learnt we need to focus on essential things like family and friends, psychological and physical health. Also, how much of a pleasure sport can be.”
What has training separately been like?
LM: “It’s not ideal. I wanted to join Faustine but there were movement restrictions in the country. Luckily we understand each other’s game and Dubai will help us assess our progress.”
FN: “I tried practicing with a left-handed player but Lucas is difficult to simulate. I know how he plays and we will be prepared for the coming tournaments and Tokyo. Just by looking at each other we can figure out what we need to do to win.”
What are your expectations for Tokyo 2020?
LM: “The atmosphere will not be the same as past Paralympics but it will still be special. The opportunity is only once in four years, it’s the first time for Para badminton and everyone wants to make history, see their name at the top. I want gold in singles and try for the best medal in doubles.”
FN: “Analysis after Dubai will be important. We want the best results but don’t want to be too tough on ourselves for the first tournament back. I want the best medal in Tokyo.”