“I felt like screaming,” said women’s singles SL4 (Standing Lower) player Caitlin Dransfield when describing her emotions after finding out she was heading to Tokyo for her first Paralympic Games.
“A sense of relief ran through my body. I had a sudden feeling of ‘oh my God’ I’m going to the Paralympics. But ultimately the excitement of achieving my childhood dream was overwhelming,” added the Australian.
After an early take-up of tennis, the now 30-year-old switched to Para badminton in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since.
There’s a lot to take and friends to see in Tokyo, according to the 2018 Oceania Championships title winner.
“The whole thing is exciting – my matches, the atmosphere, and the Paralympic village life. I’m looking forward to wearing the green and gold uniform to represent Australia, my state and most importantly, myself as well as I can. I want to come away from the experience feeling like I’ve done the best I can,” she said.
Heavy COVID-19 restrictions in Australia meant she hasn’t been able to compete internationally but told Badminton Oceania how she managed her expectations on the postponement of Tokyo 2020 and her training.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Dransfield said.
“(The postponement) gave me an extra year to improve my game, get fitter and stronger. It didn’t affect me mentally or physically because my coach (Mark Cunningham) gave me an exercise programme to complete at home. He helped keep me on track – I was motivated and focused on my goal of qualifying for the Paralympics.”
Having used the time wisely during lockdown, Dransfield is keen to showcase her Para badminton flair in Japan.
“I’ve improved so much since my last international event. I want to surprise my opponents and show them I can be competitive,” she said.
Hoping to do more than represent Australia, Dransfield hopes to inspire other Para shuttlers back home.
“The fact Grant Manzoney (WH2) and I are going to Tokyo will hopefully encourage more Para players within the Oceania region,” she said.
Dransfield faces tricky terrain in Group C, where she has Helle Sofie Sagoy from Norway, Olivia Meier (Canada) and Chanida Srinavakul (Thailand) for company when competition begins at the Yoyogi National Stadium next week.