The path to Paris 2024 Paralympic Games takes shape Monday, with the first qualifying event in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
The Spanish Para Badminton International opens a bumper 17-event calendar for the sport, serving the players on the circuit an opportunity to secure early qualification points. The tournament will also see a staggering 318 Para shuttlers descend on the Basque capital.
From England, 15 players, including Jack Shephard (SH6), Krysten Coombs (SH6), Isaak Dalglish (SH6), Daniel Bethell (SL3) and Rachel Choong (SH6), will look to kick off the new season with a bang.
Para GB Head Coach Richard Morris feels his team is ready heading to Spain.
“It’s been nice to do training blocks leading up to Christmas. We worked on some new development areas, and knowing the tournament was the third week of February, we had some downtime over Christmas to recharge our batteries,” he told Badminton England.
“The athletes were chomping at the bit and raring to go in the first week of January. We are in the middle of another block of training, working on areas we feel are important. Now emotions are getting where they need to be, the nerves are coming out – which is good, because it makes people push themselves and access another level that isn’t normally there. It gives that buzz, that feeling about the environment I love. We are so up for it, everybody’s pumped. All the top 12 in our discipline are there so the standard is where it should be.”
From Tokyo 2020, where the sport made its long awaited Paralympic debut, English players brought back two medals. Bethell claimed silver after a fierce battle with archrival Pramod Bhagat while Coombs collected bronze.
While his players are under pressure from the start, Morris says they all have complete faith in their own abilities.
“Medals are minimum for all of them, and they’ve got their sights on the top – that’s no pressure from me, that’s from themselves,” he said. “I love them reaching for the stars, they’ve all put a shift in, they are playing good stuff.”
Follow the latest results and orders of play here.