Three-time women’s singles SH6 (Short Stature) world champion Rachel Choong has had an affinity for badminton since an early age. You can see it on her face as her huge smile beams in the Zoom box on the computer screen at the mere mention of badminton during this interview.
Despite her busy diary, the English Para shuttler took time to talk to BWF about her role at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, among other things.
As the Liverpudlian prepares to board a flight to the Japanese capital in the coming days, Choong revealed how she’s feeling ahead of taking up a commentary role for host broadcaster, the Olympic Broadcasting Service.
“I’ve already started losing a bit of sleep due to my excitement,” said Choong, who has kept her colour commentary role on Para badminton close to her chest for a number of months.
“I’m just really excited to get started. I’ll be adding a bit of flair, being the Morten Frost to the Gill Clark. I’ve never done commentary so I’m just hoping I don’t mess up,” she giggled.
Choong admits the sport has changed for the better over the years.
“When I started, I remember playing at tournaments in the middle of nowhere, in a bit of a rundown sports hall,” said the 27-year-old.
“It wasn’t anywhere near what it’s like today, where we’re able to play in top venues and arenas with top facilities. It’s really come on in leaps and bounds.”
Para badminton indubitably has come a long way and will make its much-awaited debut in Tokyo after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) approved its inclusion on the programme back in 2015.
“Badminton at the Paralympics is going to be the catalyst to propel the sport in the right direction,” said Choong.
“I’m really excited. I’ve been in Para badminton since 2008. And I’ve seen BWF make several applications and bids to get badminton into the Paralympic Games. It’s a really great step for the sport. It’s what the sport needs, getting Para badminton the exposure it deserves,” Choong added.
Choong is looking forward to watching many of her friends compete on the biggest stage.
“I’m good friends with Cat (Catherine Rosengren). We always used to hang out at Para badminton events pre-COVID-19, and I think she will do really well in Tokyo,” said the 10-time world champion.
“Another player to watch is Lucas Mazur (of France in SL4). He has showed complete dominance in his event year-on-year. He’s definitely primed to be the favourite in his events. It’s really exciting for the wheelchair category too, especially in men’s singles. Wheelchair events are thrilling because of the rivalry between WH2 stars Kim Jungjun and Chan Ho Yuen Daniel.”
Para badminton will run from September 1–5.