Leani Ratri Oktila, Palak Kohli, Faustine Noel and Nipada Saensupa have thrice as many opportunities to win gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics compared to most of their peers as they will all participate in the women’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles events.
Indonesia’s Oktila holds the world title for all three categories – the women’s singles SL4, women’s doubles SL3-SU5 with Khalimatus Sadiyah and the mixed doubles SL3-SU5 with Hary Susanto.
After a year-long hiatus from competition, Oktila’s win at Dubai in April this year was proof that she was as sharp as ever. Since overcoming her toughest women’s singles opponent, Cheng He Fang of China in 2017, Oktila’s star has been shining bright and possibly as bright as the gold medal in Tokyo.
Cheng will not make it easy for Oktila and neither will Helle Sofie Sagøy, Norway’s sole flag bearer in Para badminton who is ranked No.3, followed by Japan’s Haruka Fujino and China’s Ma Hui Hui.
Two players will be the sole representatives of their respective NPCs – Cathrine Rosengren of Denmark and Megan Hollander of the Netherlands. For the hosts, all eyes will be on Ayako Suzuki, the current world No.1.
At 36, Suzuki is older than her opponents and leads this competitive class with world champion Yang Qiu Xia of China in second place and Rosengren in third.
It has always been a three-way battle with either Suzuki or Yang coming out on top but they will be up against a revived and confident Rosengren.
Both Suzuki and Rosengren have used the extra time during the lockdown to work on improving their skills, and Rosengren’s efforts came to fruition when she won the Spanish Para Badminton International earlier this year, making it through without dropping a game. She then participated in the VICTOR Denmark Masters alongside able-bodied players and won her first qualifying round.
Also in this highly-competitive group are Kaede Kameyama (Japan) and two teenagers, 15-year-old Beatriz Monteiro of Portugal and India’s Palak Kohli who is 19.
Expect an exciting battle of physical and mental strength when the best women’s doubles Indonesia’s Oktila and Sadiyah take to the court against Cheng He Fang and Ma Hui Hui of China.
While both pairs have always seemed head and shoulders above the rest in this event, Ayako Suzuki and Noriko Ito will have home advantage while fourth seeds Chanida Srinavakul and Nipada Saensupa of Thailand could spring a surprise. Also, not to be underestimated are Faustine Noel and Lenaigh Morin of France.