The first Tokyo 2020 Qualification event on the Para-Badminton International circuit was always going to be a high level event. Regardless of current rankings we knew that we would see an increase in level as well as numbers, especially from the dominant nations such as China, Indonesia and India. And so it proved to be as each of the Scottish players faced incredibly tough draws from the outset.
Alan Oliver faced Rodriguez from Cuba in his first match, losing 22-20, 21-16, then Bob Biesmans from Belgium, going down 21-16, 21-16 before an even tougher match against the World No.11, Kumar, which he eventually lost 21-14, 21-16.
Mary Wilson could not have had a tougher start in her group losing to the current World No.1 Oktila (21-7, 21-6) (Indonesia) and World No.11, Huihui (21-7, 21-4) (China). Lesley Johnstone, in her first International tournament also had to cope with defeats to some high level opponents, including World No.4 Sagoy from Norway.
For Mary and Lesley the doubles proved to be just as tough as they lost both group games to Indonesian and French opponents. For Alan, and his Swedish partner Rickard Nilsson, it was a more positive story. A walkover in their first group match was followed by a superb win against joint third seeds from China and then a second victory against a Portuguese / Indonesian pairing saw them into the Quarter-finals. It was there that their journey ended, however it was a positive event for Alan.
Lesley also played mixed with a partner from Poland and again the draw wasn’t kind. European Champions first match, before a much closer game against a Polish pair, losing 21-17, 21-15.
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Views from the players:
Mary Wilson – Standing Lower (SL4) player – Current World Ranking No.5
“It was great to be back after a 4 month break since the last tournament. It was a really tough competition and felt almost like a “mock Paralympic” tournament with the top elite players taking part as well as new ones.
“I had an extremely hard group of 3 in my SL4 singles which included the world number 1. Unfortunately, I did not manage to fight my way out of the group, but fought my hardest with excellent support from our coach and other players.
“Played Women’s Doubles with my new Scottish team partner Lesley Johnstone for the first time and again the opposition was really tough. We tried our best and learned a lot from not just playing such quality skilled players, but also our coach Sarah Li-Naylor who supported the whole team all the way at every event.
“Looking forward to Uganda in 3 weeks’ time and I hope to do better than I did this time around.”
Alan Oliver – Standing Lower (SL3) player – Current World Ranking N.40
“I wasn’t feeling my strongest and positive in the singles group stages especially after tweaking my hamstring in the first match. However, I was happy with a few aspects of my game which I’ve been working on over the winter months. Doubles was superb; I finally found the high tempo performances that I’ve been searching for.
“Wining against the 3/4 seeds was a massive highlight which I’ll definitely be taking the confidence and transferring it to my singles.
“Happy overall but going to be focusing on a few new aspects and getting my hamstring strong and ready prior to Canada at the start of May.”
Lesley Johnstone – Standing Lower (SL4) player – first event
“This was my first international Para-Badminton event. The standard of play was extremely high and as a newbie it was initially quite daunting.
“However, it was fantastic to watch and learn and I am returning home intent on focusing on improving my movement around the court. As a relatively new amputee it was a great help meeting other amputee players with more experience.
“First job when back home is to have my prosthetic leg recast and reduced in size which will hopefully help with my training. I am determined to train as hard as possible for future international events. Overall it was a wonderful experience.”
Sarah Naylor – Coach
“As a team we have a lot to reflect on following the first tournament in the qualification period for Tokyo 2020. The standard is the highest it has ever been and we must work harder to keep up.
“We took plenty of video footage and will be spending a lot of time analysing this. Best of luck to those in Dubai for the second event this week. Following that we have players competing in Uganda and Canada.
“Thank you to everyone for your messages of support, I know it gives the team a real boost.”
The qualification events now roll on to Dubai this week, then Uganda (22 – 28 April) and Canada (6 – 12 May), before a break and then returning to Europe and the Irish International (17-23 June).
The National Disability Badminton Squad is looking for sparrers to help our Paralympic hopefuls in their training. Men and women of all ages who play at club or county level would be welcome. If interested, contact Sarah Bok on email@example.com