Inspirational performances at the Asian Para-Games last week were a peek into what could be expected at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games when para-badminton makes its début.
The para-badminton venue in Incheon, Korea, had an air of expectation with everyone looking at the talent that could be heading to Japan in six years’ time to participate in badminton’s inaugural Paralympic Games experience. That these continental championships followed just two weeks after the landmark decision by the International Paralympic Committee’s Governing Board added to the festive feeling.
On the courts, 108 athletes from 15 countries competed in the 15 medal events (8 men’s; 5 women’s and 2 mixed-doubles events), with the largest contingents coming from Japan (20 athletes), Thailand (16), Korea (14) and Indonesia (12).
Indonesia and Korea dominated the gold-medal battles, taking home five gold medals each, with Malaysia and China taking two golds each while one gold medal went to Thailand. The depth in quality of some teams was clear. Korea dominated the wheelchair events and Indonesia took home 13 medals in the standing classes. Indonesia’s Ukun Rukaendi won two golds in SL3 Men’s Singles and SL3-4 combined Men’s Doubles with Hary Susanto. His team-mate Fredy Setiawan also took home two gold medals, capturing the SL4 Men’s Singles title and the SL3-SU5 Mixed Doubles crown with Leani Ratri Oktila (below).
Cheah Liek Hou of Malaysia was also doubly successful, winning SU5 Men’s Singles and SU5-SL3-SU5 combined Men’s Doubles with Suhaili Laiman. They beat India’s Raj Kumar and Rakesh Pandey, 11-21 21-11 21-13, for top honours. Kim Jung Jun of Korea won WH2 Men’s Singles, denying his compatriot, Kim Kyung Hoon, 12-21 21-14 13-21, in the final. Lee Sun-Ae (below) kept the Korean flag flying high with victory in WH1-2 Women’s Singles.
Badminton was again one of the 23 official sports at the Incheon 2014 Asian Para-Games which saw 2,500 athletes and more than 1,000 officials from 41 National Paralympic Committees in Korea for the Games.
The 23 sports contested included 19 Paralympic Games disciplines: archery, athletics, boccia, cycling, football 5-a-side, football 7-a-side, goalball, judo, powerlifting, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair fencing, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis, many of which have strong followings worldwide. Badminton was among four non-Paralympic sports, the others being lawn bowls, tenpin bowling and wheelchair dance sport.
A total of 6,196 people, including athletes, officials, media representatives and officials from 41 countries, flocked to Incheon for the Games which Korea last hosted in Busan in 2002 (then known as FESPIC Games).
The hosts had the biggest contingent with 328 athletes, followed by Japan (301), China (229), Thailand (201) and Iran (202).
High Flyer: Suryo Nugroho of Indonesia
India’s Raj Kumar and Rakesh Pandey
Korean Women’s Doubles pair
Featured image: Vietnam’s Tran Minh Nhuan and Pham Hong Tuan won bronze in the SU5-SL3-SU5 combined Men’s Doubles.