Surprise results ruled the finals of the wheelchair events at the Sheikh Hamdan bin Al Rashid Maktoum Dubai Para Badminton International.
For Malaysians Muhammad Ikhwan Ramli and Noor Azwan Noorlan, focusing wholly on training and wellness during the country’s lockdown has paid off.
Ramli was his calm, composed self as he outplayed France’s David Toupe (World No.9 and top seed) to take the men’s singles Wheelchair (WH1) gold.
Ikhwan caught up to Toupe’s big lead in the first game to take it 23-21, and then finish the match with 21-13.
“My thought was to always control the game but I never expected to win. It was in the second game that I got confident and made some brave moves. I saw his weakness, pushed him to the four corners then attacked the centre. I’m quite quick on court,” said Ramli.
He added: “Our National Sports Institute has been helping us with health and nutrition, and we’ve been training this whole time.”
Another Malaysian, Noor Azwan Noorlan, endured one hour and seven minutes of play for gold when he took out Germany’s Rick Cornell Hellmann 18-21 21-18 21-18 in the men’s WH2 singles.
“Before the match, I accidentally looked at Rick’s ranking (World No.10) and that scared me but my coach said I had nothing to lose so the pressure was off. Entering the court, I was very nervous, I could hear by own heart beating fast and my chest was tight. Once I started sweating, I felt better and told myself we’re just two guys playing badminton.
“I lack skills. Rick is highly skilled but he made some mistakes today which worked to my advantage,” said Noorlan who is No.43 in the world rankings.
Ramli and Noorlan also take home the men’s WH1-WH2 doubles bronze.
Prem Kumar Ale (India) and Tatiana Gureeva (Russia) defeated Switzerland’s Luca Olgiati and Karin Suter-Erath 21-11 21-18 for the mixed doubles WH1-WH2 gold.
“It’s amazing. It’s the first time we played against them. It was difficult but we did it in two games. I think whoever made less mistakes, won,” said Gureeva.
Ale added: “I’m feeling good in this partnership. We try not to make any mistakes. The key is to let your opponent make mistakes. The chemistry is good. We tell each other exactly what we want to do, we discuss it and that is how we have reached here.”
Gureeva also takes home the women’s singles WH2 gold.
In the men’s doubles WH1-WH2, Ale had to settle for silver with partner Abu Hubaida (India) when they fell to France’s David Toupe and Thomas Jakob 19-21 21-23.
“It was pleasant playing them. It was a very close and tight match. This medal means a lot. We don’t train so hard for nothing,” said Jakob.
Toupe added: “I was not feeling very fresh after my singles. The Indian players are very strong sending shots to the back of the court. It was difficult playing the back so I had to rely on Thomas’s support.”
In the women’s WH1 singles, Switzerland’s Karin Suter-Erath took gold after she ran out teammate Cynthia Mathez 21-16 21-19.
Suter-Erath goes home with two silver as well, from the WH1-WH2 women’s doubles with Cynthia Mathez and the mixed doubles with Luca Olgiati (Switzerland).
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“Tokyo is a good goal but I just like to play. It doesn’t matter which tournament it is, whether Spain, Paralympics or World Championships.” – Gureeva
“The top women players are not here, even Thailand, but the ones here have improved a lot. When the Paralympics were postponed, it felt like it was a long time to stay focused but I had some time for myself and now it’s good to have that competition feel again.” – Suter-Erath