“Without each other, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” says Jack Shephard, four-time SH6 (Short Stature) world champion of lifelong friend and compatriot Krysten Coombs as he prepares for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, where badminton and the Great Britain shuttler will both make their debuts.
“We started this journey together, now we are going to the Paralympics together. We couldn’t be in a better position.”
It’s been a long but worthwhile road for the 24-year-old Englishman with the postponement of the Games last year due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve been able to spend a good period of time training without breaks and work on my weaknesses and make my strengths stronger,” said the Derbyshire native.
“It’s an amazing feeling (to qualify) and something I’ve always dreamed about. I can’t wait. Last year’s postponement was a huge disappointment but it just drove me on to work harder.
“Our entire team is in a great place. I know I’ve done everything in my power to improve as much as possible over the last 12 months. I’m playing the best badminton of my life and mentally, I’m ready.”
While Shephard is favoured for gold, the world champion faces dangerous competition in men’s singles from podium prospects like Krishna Nagar (India) and Didin Taresoh (Malaysia). Shephard says he would be happy with any medal.
“The top five will still dominate, it’s just a matter of who’s trained the hardest over this period and performs best on the day,” he said.
“It would be a dream come true and mean so much (to win a medal). It would sit at home (in Sheffield) but it would show the sacrifice and efforts of our entire team. That’s what it would remind me of each time I look at it.”
Shephard is also on a mission to bring joy to his biggest cheerleader – his father Tim.
“My dad is super supportive and understands sports, which is a huge bonus. He used to race in canoe and was a division one racer in the UK,” said Shephard junior.
“My coach Richard Morris (also) has helped me through my ups and downs from the start and continues to do so.”
Shephard and Coombs have been drawn in Group A and will have Hong Kong China’s Chu Man Kai for company when competition begins at the Yoyogi National Stadium next week.