It’s all systems go for the Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum 3rd Dubai Para Badminton International from 30 March to 4 April 2021, the first competition after more than a one-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There were big smiles all around as athletes from 29 countries took their turn on the practice courts over the last few days at the Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club, the venue for the event.
“Everyone is excited. Not just the players but officials too, and the organisers here have worked very hard to ensure that this event runs smoothly,” said referee Julien Nys of Belgium.
While the usual headliners such as Indonesia’s Leani Ratri Oktila and Dheva Anrimusthi, and France’s Lucas Mazur are expected to shine in the standing category, the absence of the top three world ranked Standing Upper (SU5) women’s singles players paves the way for Megan Hollander (Netherlands) to be seeded first in a field of nine.
“I feel lucky to be here unlike some players whose countries have travel restrictions. Everything in this venue feels perfect for me right now,” said Poland’s Bartlomiej Mroz (no.4 seed), men’s singles Standing Upper (SU5).
China, Korea, Hong Kong China and some of Japan’s top players not competing here opens up the draw for several other Wheelchair (WH) athletes.
David Toupe (France) is the men’s singles top seed in WH1, and Rick Cornell Hellman (Germany) leads the pack in WH2.
Switzerland’s Karin Suter-Erath tops the women’s singles WH1 category while Turkey’s Emine Seckin is the leader in WH2.
The Short Stature (SH) singles has India’s Krishna Nagar as top seed and possibly facing resistance from teammate Raja Magotra and Malaysia’s Didin Taresoh.
India dominates the Standing Lower (SL3) category with Pramod Bhagat and Manoj Sarkar as the men’s singles top and second seeds, whereas Parul Dalsukhbhai Parmar and Manasi Joshi start in the top two spots in the women’s singles.
Badminton will make its Paralympic debut in Tokyo in September this year, offering 14 medal events.
While the Dubai tournament may not add to the Paralympic ranking points some have accumulated since 1 January 2019, it offers the long-awaited opportunity to be in a competition atmosphere, the chance to size up the opponent and, most of all, a time for self-assessment.
“It’s been a year so I can’t wait to see what strategy Deva (Anrimusthi) and Suryo (Nugroho) have planned and how I perform,” said Malaysia’s Cheah Liek Hou, looking fitter than ever before, about his men’s singles SU5 rivals.
This tournament, which was known as the Fazza-Dubai Para Badminton International, has been renamed to pay tribute to His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and United Arab Emirates Minister of Finance and Industry, who passed away recently.