Thomas Jakobs’ life changed after a car accident seven years ago. Things might have spiralled out of control, but for sport.
“Of course it was difficult (to accept),” says Jakobs, WH2 contender from France at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. “But sport gave me a lot of courage. I met a lot of friends though sports after my accident. So it gave me strength and courage to face my disability and it’s thanks to friends.”
A ‘switch’ got turned on when he qualified to Tokyo.
“Mentally maybe it took me four years (to adjust). I think when I knew I was qualified, it was the switch. There was ‘before’ and ‘after’, and when I knew I was qualified, it was a new life.”
Jakobs took up badminton four years ago. Initially it was a struggle because he’d been a tennis player, and the shift in technique was difficult.
“I used to play tennis. A friend asked me to play badminton with him. I had to choose and I liked badminton. I didn’t have anyone to play tennis with. Badminton felt more natural for me, because I could play with my friend, so it was easier. I tried some time with tennis, but I felt more comfortable in badminton because I improved a lot and I felt there would be an opportunity for me at the Paralympics.
“I had to change everything because I didn’t hold my racket well. I had to learn everything, it was a long way to improve, and to stop playing tennis when I was playing badminton. Now I’m a real badminton player!”
Jakobs is in Group C with second seed Chan Ho Yuen and Daiki Kajiwara. He concedes he has a difficult task, but is determined to “be a pain” for his opponents.
“In singles it’s really tough. Daniel Chan is like my idol, so I’m happy to compete against him. He’s young player, very fast, good technique, very strong player. I will be the outsider in the group, but I will try to do my best and be a pain.
“In doubles (with David Toupe) we will compete against twice world champions Koreans (Lee Dong Seop/Kim Jung Jun) and Thailand (Jakarin Homhual/Dumnern Junthong) — maybe the Thais will be the pair we will have to beat, to go to the semis. We know what we have to do, now we have to play well and we’ll see.”