Nigeria’s Mariam Eniola Bolaji’s defeated India’s Mandeep Kaur 21-16 21-17 to move into the women’s singles Standing Lower SL3 quarterfinals at the 5th Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International 2023.
“This is a big deal. I’m always waiting to play all these top players and today my shots were all perfect,” said Bolaji, 18.
With support from the Nigerian Badminton Association, Bolaji has been training in Spain under coach Dina Mita for the last three weeks.
“I am confident of my abilities and I can now showcase all my skills, all my perfect shots.”
Teammate Chigozie Jeremiah Nnanna was equally please with his performance, even after losing 8-21 21-17 11-21 to SL4 men’s singles World No.3 Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj (India).
“It was so tough but I took one game off him. I avoided net play because I know he’s good at that and I pushed the shuttle to the back a lot. I like to play long rallies and limit smashing although I’m good at it.”
Nnanna, 23, credits the late coach Bello Rafiu Oyebanji for getting him started in this sport.
“I’m watching everyone, learning everything I can here. And I’m waiting to play Lucas Mazur (France) one day because I think he’s the best in SL4.”
Korea’s Indian Hurdle
Korea’s Shin Kyung Hwan and Joo Dongjae claim that the Indians are their obstacle in the men’s SL4 and SL3 singles and doubles categories.
“It’s been a struggle to move higher up the rankings. My plan is to reach the top eight but I’m getting older and my body is exhausted. I have to rely more on mind games against my opponents,” said Shin, 36, currently 13th in the world and Race to Paris rankings.
Shin, who lost 21-23 19-21 14-21 in the group round to Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan, said: “Suhas (Yathiraj) has this sense of timing that is different to others and it’s very difficult to read his game.”
In Joo’s case, it is Kumar Nitesh (India).
“I am not looking forward to playing him. He’s unpredictable and I just cannot seem to win. It’s some sort of mental block. Don’t know why but I can’t seem to get over it,” said Joo.
Shin and Kwan also play the men’s doubles SL3-SL4, which is not being featured in the Paris 2024 Paralympics but will be contested in the world championships in March next year.
“We now have to figure out how to beat India,” said Shin.
Joo, who defeated Oleksandr Chyrkov (Ukraine) 23-26 21-18 21-16 to top his group, has thought hard about the reason for India’s success in his category.
“They have a large pool of athletes to choose from and many seem to have been born with their disability. Maybe they’re more used to how to move their bodies from a young age,” said Joo, who sustained cerebral damage after a fall at the age of 14.