As anticipation builds for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, a new Para badminton star is emerging from the ranks of Team France, eager to make her mark on the international stage.
Meet Maud Lefort, a 17-year-old prodigy rapidly gaining recognition for her exceptional skills and spirit. Hailing from the Val d’Oise region near Paris, Lefort is the youngest member of the French team, and is poised to add to the nation’s medal hopes.
The SU5 world No.3 player’s journey to success hasn’t been without its challenges. At seven years old, an accident during a sporting activity displaced her left elbow, forever limiting the movement of her arm. It dramatically changed her life but badminton soon provided her with purpose. She quickly became good at it and even competed with able-bodied players at the French Youth Championships.
Her journey towards the Paralympics began with her first tournament in Peru in 2022, following a long-delayed classification process. There, she won the Peru Para Badminton International. Lefort’s rise since has been exemplified by titles in Canada and at the European Para Games.
Despite her young age, Lefort has already displayed remarkable resilience. She recalls a recent match at the 4 Nations Para Badminton International 2023 in Sheffield, where she faced off against the formidable Manisha Ramadass in the semifinals and secured a 21-18 21-14 victory with a stunning performance. Lefort was defeated 21-15 21-19 in the final by Denmark’s Cathrine Rosengren.
“Before I entered the court, I had a knee injury and wasn’t sure about my movement on the court, so I just wanted to play as best as I could,” Lefort, whose Canada Para Badminton International 2023 title in June was her first this season, revealed.
“Winning in Canada allowed me to secure a place at the Paralympics, so I’m a little more confident to play in front of my family in Paris.”
While Lefort’s talent is undeniable, it’s her camaraderie with her colleagues that truly sets her apart. She emphasises the close-knit bond within the French team, stating: “If a teammate has a competitive match, we will support them to fill them with confidence. We are all close, that’s why I’m proud to be part of the team.”
Leforts’s approach to the game reflects her positive attitude and determination to succeed. She maintains a lighthearted outlook, even in the face of challenges.
“I try not to be focused on mistakes. So I try to switch off; that’s why I smile. Sometimes I make stupid shots, and that’s why I’m making fun of myself. Laughing at myself relaxes me,” shares Maud about her smiling nature on court.
When it comes to training, Lefort’s dedication is truly remarkable. She trains rigorously in Creps, putting in five sessions a week with two each day – morning and afternoon. Her commitment to honing her skills is a testament to her unwavering passion for the sport.
As the countdown to Paris 2024 continues, all eyes will be on Lefort. But with her youthful energy, indomitable spirit, and remarkable talent, the teenager is prepared to inspire and captivate audiences while chasing her dream of Paralympic gold in her home country.
After securing a resounding 21-15 21-14 victory in the SU5 singles final at the European Para Games in Rotterdam against Cathrine Rosengren, Lefort sent a clear message that the dream of chasing Paralympic gold on home soil is very much alive. With a triumphant smile, she expressed: “I should have secured my place for the Paris 2024 Paralympics, because it looks like I have enough points. I’m happy I made it, and of course, I want to win there next.”