“From that day it stuck”: Colin Leslie’s journey to international para-badminton and inspirational coaching

Top-level sporting competitions are challenging enough but for Scotland’s Colin Leslie, the 4 Nations Para-Badminton International presented unprecedented obstacles.


Personal tragedy struck Leslie with the loss of his mother the weekend prior to the event. At that moment, he was on the reserve list for the tournament but this changed just hours before the event.


“I went from not even being the first reserve to then finding out I’d be playing at five o’clock on Tuesday evening,” Leslie said after his quarter-final defeat to Nehal Gupta.


“I’m really pleased with how I did though. I’m the oldest standing competitor here and I’m a double amputee so I’m going through hoops to prove to people what can be done.”


Leslie was the only Scottish player to reach the quarter-final stage after overcoming Dillaswar Rao Gadela in Thursday’s group stage conclusion.


The 53-year-old left the court overcome with the emotions of the previous week, which were compiled on the morning of his victory when his father was rushed into hospital.


With his father safely out of hospital on Friday, Leslie was able to reflect on the unlikely journey he had taken to peaks of para-badminton.


“I’d been a player since I was five years old,” he said. “I had my accident when I was thirty. So there were 25 years of playing to a high standard.


“When I had my accident, I thought my life was over. I thought I’d never pick up a racket again or play another sport again.


“Eventually, my best man at my wedding gave me a letter to say there’s a club setting up just 10 minutes down the road from me. But by that time I was over 20 stone.”


Lacking confidence after his accident, it was the coaches of the Lothian Disability Badminton Club that would reignite Leslie’s love for the sport in 2012, 10 years after his accident.


“I went down to the club and said to the coaches, ‘I’ll give you an hour’ because I played pool and darts for a team on the same night.


“The coach was Lynden Williams and he immediately had me in two 4 Nations competitions in Glasgow. From that day it stuck.”


That day has led to Leslie playing the sport he loves against the very best, even picking up bronze medals in three consecutive European Championships in the process.


To enjoy a career such as this, despite suffering his accident at 31, speaks to the second chance that can be provided by sports to those with disabilities, something Leslie is grateful for.


He said: “If I was able-bodied, I would’ve retired more than 30 years ago. There’s no age discrimination with disability though so I’ve been able to travel the world.”


This unique opportunity is something that Leslie now carries with him into his coaching career, at the very same club that brought him back to badminton in 2012.


Speaking about the children he coaches at Lothian Disability Badminton Club, Leslie was keen to emphasise how his late career can be a guide for an aspiring player.


“They don’t have to be eight or nine and get the coaching drummed into them as you’d see in athletics or football.” Leslie explained: “You can be a slow learner and develop as you get older, you can keep playing and get better and better.



“All that matters is the smile at the end of the day. When they’ve had a good hit and played a few games and at the end of the night, they go away happy. As long as they go away happy that makes our day as coaches.”


Having welcoming, safe spaces like the Lothian Disability Badminton Club is crucial for the physical and mental wellbeing of those suffering with disabilities. Given his experience on both sides of the story, Leslie is fully aware of this.


He said: “We’ve got kids who come to us with learning difficulties as well as those who are physically disabled. The expanse of players is just, wow. You’d never realise they’re all out there until they come to a club.”


As Leslie did in 2012, these kids are coming to try out badminton for themselves, perhaps even dreaming of living out the experiences their coach has had in the sport.


For Leslie though, an eye must always be kept on the next generation of para-badminton students. He was able to offer his insight to a group of children before his quarter-final exit, as Badminton Scotland hosted a disability festival alongside the 4 Nations tournament.


Reflecting on that talk, Leslie said: “I just told them, if you put your mind to it then you can achieve what you want to achieve. It doesn’t have to be in badminton but if you put your mind to it, you can make it as an athlete.


“I think most of them wanted to play badminton though which is nice!”


By Nathan Hassett

(6) Nathan Hassett (@nathanhassett__) / X