The first Para badminton tournament of the year began in Vitoria, Spain on Monday, with a plethora of shuttlers kickstarting their campaign to collect those important points along the Road to Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
The biggest talking point was the many new faces on the scene.
Among the fresh names at the Polidepotivo Arnadale was Dražen MikŠiĆ (WH1) from Croatia. A former wheelchair tennis player, he faced fifth seed Keita Nishimura from Japan in the opening Group E match. Defeated in straight games 21-5 21-3, it wasn’t all about winning for the smiley 59-year-old.
“I’ve been playing Para badminton for three months and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here,” he said. “It’s been a great experience. I had a tough match, Nishimura is really good and I need to keep playing others at this level to get better.
“I played Para tennis on the global tour for 25 years, so entering tournaments isn’t new for me, but Para badminton is. It’s wonderful, and I’m seeing friends from the Para tennis tour playing Para badminton. The big dream is, of course, to play at the Paralympics, but there’s still a long way to go.”
After playing Para badminton in the Czech Republic for two years as a hobby, Kamil Šnajdar (WH1) turned professional to compete on the international circuit, starting in Spain. Playing in Group C, he was up against experienced Yuri Ferrigno and lost 21-5 21-5.
“I’ve been playing in the biggest city back home, Brno, for two years,” he said post-match.
Working full time at KBC bank, he revealed what it’s like to juggle two careers.
“After working up to 10 hours a day, my colleagues may go biking or to the gym, but I play badminton. When I told them I was coming here, they were really surprised and happy for me. I’m playing against professionals, and when I train for four-five hours a week, it’s not enough to play against those at the highest level. But the momentum and the motivation are fully there. I’m enjoying this experience.”
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