The men’s wheelchair events have long been dominated by athletes from China and Korea. With two categories, Wheelchair 1 (WH1) and Wheelchair 2 (WH2), being contested in the singles, and WH1-WH2 in the doubles, there will be three gold medals up for grabs.
In the men’s singles, Qu Zi Mo (China) who is ranked second in the world, has three world titles to his name and will be chasing the WH1 gold. The 20-year-old Qu will be banking on his youth while Korea’s Lee Dong Seop who is world No.1 and Lee Sam Seop, ranked third, who are more than twice Qu’s age, will have the advantage of experience on their side.
The other two players in the top five are Germany’s Thomas Wandschneider and France’s David Toupe.
Korea are also dominant in the men’s singles WH2 category, with Kim Jung Jun leading the way, ahead of Chan Ho Yuen (Hong Kong China), Martin Rooke (Great Britain), Kim Kyung Hoon (Korea) and Daiki Kajiwara (Japan).
At 20, Kajiwara is badminton’s rising star. After the Tokyo 2020 test event held at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in 2019, world champion Kim Jung Jun praised Kajiwara’s performance, saying: “I’ll give him four years before he can take over from me.”
The battle to watch, however, will be the one between Kim Jung Jun and Chan. Rivals on court and friends off it, these two have been taking turns at winning tournaments the last few years in the run-up to the Paralympics. So, whose turn will it be in Tokyo?
In the men’s doubles WH1-WH2, Qu and Mai Jian Peng (China) are world No.1 and if Qu fails to overcome Lee Dong Seop in the singles, he may have a chance in the doubles when he and Mai potentially face off against Korea’s Kim Jung Jun and Lee Dong Seop.
France’s David Toupe and Thomas Jakobs and Thailand’s Jakarin Homhual and Dumnern Junthong will be close behind but it is the the Japanese pair of Hiroshi Murayama and Daiki Kajiwara that will attract the most attention as they fight for gold in their home country.