Road to Tokyo: The Journey to the Paralympics Begins

With Para-Badminton being included in the Paralympics for the first time in Tokyo, we will keep an eye on those Scottish players who are going on the road to try and qualify.

The period of qualification will go from March 2019 to May 2020 and will start with events in Turkey, Dubai, Uganda and Canada.

We asked the players what they felt about Para-Badminton being in the Paralympics and what their goals are for the coming 15 months.

Mary Wilson – Standing Lower (SL4) player – Current World Ranking No.5

“I think it is great that Para-Badminton is included in the Paralympics for Tokyo 2020. It is one of the most common sports played and can be very sociable and competitive depending at what level you want to play at.

“It is wonderful to be able to take part in the qualification tournaments and I am extremely proud to be able to wear my Scotland badminton top and represent my country.

“At my age I never thought there might be a slim possibility of not just playing in competitions abroad, but actually winning medals, being ranked in the top 10 in my classification category and the dream of possible selection for Tokyo 2020.

“My main challenge is my disability as it is different every day, which means my capabilities are also different every day.

“I am entering all BWF tournaments this year except Japan and also the three at the beginning of next year that count towards the Paralympic ranking selection. I will do everything possible to be as fit, technically skilled and ready for every tournament that I can possibly do so I can earn ranking points.

“I aim to beat people I have not beaten before. I will try my hardest in the first couple of tournaments to get good ranking points and see where I am placed.”

Colin Leslie – Standing lower (SL3) player – Current World Ranking No.20

“For Para-Badminton to be included in the Olympics in 2020 is huge, a massive plus and a massive opportunity to prove to the world that Para athletes are able to play at the highest levels.

“For myself I thought I would never play sport ever again, never mind playing badminton after I had my accident in 2002. By 2006 I ended up being a bi-lateral or double below knee amputee, when I was given the opportunity to go along to a local disability Badminton club in 2012 and from then I have been able to represent my country.

“I have also had the opportunity to travel the world which has been totally amazing and that I may be able to represent my country at the Olympics for Para-Badminton in 2020 is still a dream I am chasing.

“My goals are to train harder and reach new fitness levels in order to be able to compete and beat the best. I now eat healthier and actually look after my myself, which has always been an issue for me, but the sport now demands the goal is so big for everyone.

“I’m competing in Dubai and plan to travel to Canada, Ireland and the World championships in Basel Switzerland.  From there I shall assess what other events I will need to travel to in order to give myself the best chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020.”

Alan Oliver – Standing Lower (SL3) player – Current World Ranking N.40

“To have badminton included into the Paralympics is a magnificent achievement and its testament to all individuals, countries and players who have raised the profile of Para–badminton over the last 14 years, maybe longer regardless of it being a Paralympic sport.

“Prior to the inclusion, the environment of every international had a social element to the competitiveness. However now with the new identity there is a more professional aura around all nations and the standard of play is at an all-time high with a majority of players training full time.

“Having been involved in Para- Badminton from the age of 19, it’s magnificent to witness the progression and development of Para-Badminton and where it is to date is staggering.

“My goal this year is to qualify for the Paralympics, I’ve played Para-badminton for the last 12 years and this is the only opportunity that I’ve got to qualify. In reality I know it will be really difficult with competitive players training full time who have support structures in place locally but I’ll be giving everything I can into it.

“I hope that the first few events I’ll be able to see where I am in comparison to other players across the globe and hopefully cause a few upsets and reach the knockout stages and even quarters or semi-final stages. I’ve been focusing on my consistency and I hope that I can showcase this aspect and force errors from the opposition.”

Bobby Laing – Short Stature (SS6) player – Current World Ranking No.27

“When I was younger, I always felt excluded because of my disability. Para-Badminton finally gave me an opportunity to compete against people like me. To stand a fair chance and have an enjoyable experience with my friends is all I was looking for.

“The inclusion of Para-Badminton in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic programme has given our sport further validation and has shown the entire Para-Badminton community that our efforts to grow the sport have not been in vain.

“In this sport, I want to reach the stage where I am able to compete at a high enough level to be successful in first getting to the Paralympics, then, medalling in my category.

“For 2019, I am aiming to attend as many tournaments as I can. However, as I am currently studying at University, I will need to be wary of the conflicting schedules and make arrangements to ensure I can do both.”

We shall follow the player’s journeys throughout the qualification process and please look out for their tweets and facebook posts via, Badminton Scotland website, Scottish Disability Sport and Lothian Disability Badminton Club.

Images by Alan Spink