Duke Trench-Thiedeman of Australia has not let defeats affect his spirit at the Yoyogi National Stadium this week.
At 69, Melbourne-based Trench-Thiedeman is the oldest player at this year’s BWF Para Badminton World Championships, 10 years senior to the next oldest player Thomas Wandschneider of Germany.
Trench-Thiedeman was in a tough group in the men’s singles WH1 category alongside Wandschneider but said age was just a number.
“I think what they’ll do is say you’re not allowed to be a hundred and on the court because insurance may not cover it,” he joked.
While Trench-Thiedeman began his badminton journey back in 2015 after a motorcycle accident, the tournament’s youngest competitor Anya Butterworth of England found badminton from a field of many sports only just last year.
“I started about a year ago in September and some people introduced me to this organisation called Dwarf Sports Association which had a lot of sports there,” Butterworth, 15 years and 28 days old, said.
“The person who runs it is Jack Shephard’s father and he encouraged me a bit more and introduced me to Para badminton. I then went to my first UK championships and kind of went on from there.”
Competing in the women’s singles and doubles SH6 events, she has had the additional challenge of juggling school and badminton.
Both Trench-Thiedeman and Butterworth may have had a sobering time on the court results-wise, but enthused over the amazing experience they’ve had to promote badminton to more people.
“It’s the spirit that really keeps it going. It’s not just badminton but a whole lifestyle of comradeship and being part of a bigger family,” Trench-Thiedeman said.
Butterworth, who met her doubles partner Yasmina Eissa of Egypt at a previous competition, has been humbled by the popularity of the sport at the elite level.
“This tournament is actually my second international,” she said. “I went to Spain earlier this year but this is on such a bigger level. I never thought there were these many players even in my category. It’s brilliant.”
A mentor for people with spinal cord injuries in Australia, Trench-Thiedeman wants more people with disabilities to pick up a badminton racket.
“I’m the President of the biggest Para badminton club in Victoria,” he said. “I want to help others through the sport by going around Australia and getting the numbers up and get them to experience the spirit of badminton.”
For Butterworth, success begins with awareness at home.
“Even most of my family knows about Para badminton now, and then it spread to other people who got really interested in it as well,” she said.
“My school is so small and they cannot believe that I’m here in Japan right now.”