When Valeska Knoblauch served the shuttle at teammate Elke Rongen, it marked a coming-of-age moment for Para badminton at the Paralympics.
The German hadn’t been quite aware that she’d hit the first shuttle of the Paralympics, ensuring her place in history and making her a fixture in future badminton quiz competitions.
“I wasn’t aware of that, so thank you for making me aware,” said the German. “I felt very nervous before the match because it’s so different to other tournaments. There are more people running around. Everything is new so we have to learn how to focus on ourselves and not be affected by the surroundings.
“It’s not my favourite thing to play my friend. I wish we were not in the same group. It was quite difficult and maybe you play differently against your doubles partner.”
The significance of the opening day was evident. Akiko Sugino, who overcame her teammate Kaede Kameyama, talked of the occasion:
“When I found out in the draw I’d be facing my teammate I thought: ‘oh no.’” I didn’t expect to face a player from Japan in the first game but then I thought it would happen so I was prepared. I was expecting to be much more nervous. I had a lot of fun when they called my name. I was really looking forward to playing the match and having this experience here is very special for me.”
Liu Yu Tong, favourite in women’s singles WH2, said she was inspired by China’s performances in the Olympics.
“It’s every athlete’s dream to participate in the Paralympics and I’ve worked hard to qualify. China’s record has made me want to work harder because I want to catch up with other athletes.”
Portuguese Teen Impresses
Among those to make an impact was 15-year-old Portuguese Beatriz Monteiro, who beat Megan Hollander in women’s singles SU5.
The Portuguese teenager held off a late charge from the Dutchwoman, clinching the Group C match 21-12 21-19.
“I feel very proud to represent my country at the age of 15 at the first Paralympic Games in badminton. This was one of the best matches I have played so I am really happy with this win today,” said Monteiro, who idolises Carolina Marin and is as expressive as the Spaniard on court.
In men’s singles SU5, No.4 Bartlomiej Mroz was outplayed in an entertaining duel by No.6 Meril Loquette, 21-16 21-17.
In mixed doubles SL3-SU5, second seeds Lucas Mazur/Faustine Noel were taken the distance by Pramod Bhagat/Palak Kohli, 21-9 15-21 21-19.
“It was a very hard match for us,” said Mazur. “It was our first match, so we were stressed. We were keen to win but we are looking for a better level. Huge congratulations to our opponents today. It was very close.”
Other close matches included Hiroshi Murayama’s 15-21 21-13 21-17 victory over Lee Sam Seop (men’s singles WH1) and Akiko Sugino’s 20-22 21-15 21-16 win over teammate Kaeda Kameyama (women’s singles SU5).