“Like every other Malaysian kid, I started playing badminton on the street in my neighbourhood. I didn’t think of my disability,” says Mohd Amin Burhanuddin, who hails from Labuan, an island federal territory in East Malaysia.
Now, at 31, he is fifth in the world and fourth in the Race to Paris rankings in the SL4 men’s singles category.
“I never thought I’d be in this position with the possibility of being at the Paralympic Games and maybe even winning a medal. It’s a strange feeling of happiness and awkwardness combined,” said the shuttler born with a right leg defect.
“I didn’t think I could join the Para team because I didn’t know there was a category for me. Then I met a doctor in my hometown who told me I could get checked and classified.”
After being classified in 2019, he joined the Malaysian team, winning his first gold in 2023 at the Bahrain Para Badminton International. It turned out to be a highly successful year as Burhanuddin took silver at the Hangzhou Asian Games, and followed up with another two international titles in Japan and Dubai.
About the two biggest events this year, the BWF Para Badminton World Championships this month (20-25 February in Pattaya, Thailand) and the Paralympic Games in August, Burhanuddin says: “Looking at my ranking, I should qualify for Paris but I’m constantly aware of my health and wellbeing. I’m working on finding the balance between my mental and physical strength on court.
“It’s also hard to maintain this level of self-discipline. It’s easy when I’m in training camp but sometimes I have cheat days, especially when I go back to home-cooked food.”
His competitors will no doubt be wondering if he’s up to the challenge.
“Lucas (Mazur) will be my biggest hurdle. We’ve played three times and I won the last match in Japan but he’s experienced, strong and very fit. He knows exactly what he’s doing no matter who he plays,” said Burhanuddin.
“Then there’s Suhas (Lalinakere Yathiraj), and even though I’ve defeated him several times, he’s good at controlling the game to his advantage. He tends to play a psychological game and moves easily around the court.”
After more than a year on the international scene, Burhanuddin claims to still be in awe of life on the circuit and the travelling.
“It’s a lot of fun but I’m a small-town boy and tend to keep to myself. Most of them have been playing together for a long time so it’s taking me a while to make friends, but my teammates and coaches are amazing. I rely on them a lot and they are happy to share their experience.”