Nearly three decades ago, badminton made a momentous leap when it was included in the Olympic programme at Barcelona 1992. Since then, its popularity has exploded, becoming one of the most-followed Olympic sports, and establishing its presence all over the world.
A similarly enticing prospect awaits Para badminton with its inclusion in the programme at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. There is little doubt that this step will turn into a giant leap for the sport. The competition will run from 1 to 5 September 2021 at Yoyogi National Stadium.
A total of 90 players – 46 male and 44 female – representing 28 National Paralympic Committees (NPC) from the five Continental Confederations will be seen in action in Tokyo. Among the competitors are Portugal’s Beatrix Monteiro (SU5), the youngest at 15, and Germany’s Thomas Wandschneider (WH1), the oldest at 57. Draws for the 14 events will be held on Thursday 26 August 2021 in Tokyo.
Para badminton was included in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics programme in 2014; the sport received a further boost when the IPC Governing Board in January 2019 confirmed that there would be no change in the programme for Paris 2024. With its immediate future on the Paralympic stage secure, Para badminton can parade its wares on the biggest stage of all.
The sport has taken one vital step after another in consolidating its popularity. International Para tournaments started in the 1990s; the first World Championships were held in 1998. In 2019 came a big moment for Para badminton as the Para Badminton World Championships were held alongside the World Championships – one of the first such instances in sport.
That event in Basel, Switzerland, provided a fillip for Para badminton athletes. The attention that Para badminton received in the aftermath of that tournament was evident, for instance, in newly-crowned world champion Manasi Joshi’s selection as a Next Generation Leader by TIME magazine in October 2020, with the SL3 champion appearing on the Asia cover of TIME and being featured in major publications worldwide. That very month, on the International Day of the Girl Child (11 October 2020), toymaker Mattel released a Manasi Joshi-lookalike doll to inspire young girls, the first such instance in badminton.
These developments, on and off the court, have helped elevate Para badminton’s profile. Now the stage is set for 90 athletes in six sport classes to showcase their talents and set new benchmarks.
Japan Field Powerful Team
Host nation Japan is represented by 13 players. For Japan’s Para badminton queen and mother of two, Yuma Yamazaki, not only will she be one of the many proud Japanese enjoying the prestige of competing at a home Paralympics, but she’ll be vying for the honour of becoming the first Paralympic gold medallist in her event.
“My aim is to be the first gold medallist at my first Paralympics,” she said. As a proud Tokyo local, Yamazaki is also aware of the importance of Para badminton’s debut at the Paralympics Games and the potential legacy it will leave in Japan and around the world.
“Through the success of Tokyo 2020, I hope the number of Para badminton athletes increases. I want to play in more different types of matches against more opponents, so I really hope we can we can get a bigger population playing.”