Milena Surreau will make her long awaited international debut at the Spanish Para Badminton International II and the young Frenchwoman cannot contain her excitement as the 2022 calendar kicks off in Vitoria next week.
As the 24-year-old makes the step-up from the national level, Surreau, who competes in SL4 women’s singles, said: “I’m very excited! It’s like a dream coming true.
“When I was younger, I worked so hard to become a professional tennis player. But with my disabilities, I couldn’t go that far. I’ve always thought it was unfair because I wanted it so much. But now I can do it with Para badminton!”
Having made waves in her category at the French Para Badminton Championships 2021, Surreau, who is also autistic, battled through an impressive four-match winning streak until the last round and those around her made note of this impressive player.
“I’ve been waiting for this (debut) for months. Also, I love the country and speak Spanish, so I hope I’m not going to be too lost there!,” she joked.
Originally a keen tennis player, she made the switch to badminton after discovering a documentary on Para badminton and sought out a club in Saint-Molf where she lives.
“I felt it was the place I needed to be. I love this sport because of its intensity and speed, and the fact that there is a category for everybody whatever your motor disability is.
“Para badminton means I can compete on equal terms with people having the same types of limitations as me. It means I can hope to play at the top world level even though I’m disabled.”
Surreau is eager to find out how she compares against experienced players on the circuit.
“I want to see what a typical international Para badminton competition looks like, gauge the level and see how much work I need to achieve to perform well in these competitions.”
In her daily life, Surreau is accompanied by her best friend, Eugene, a Swiss white shepherd. The duo participate in the training of service dogs within an autistic association in France.
With training partners like Tokyo 2020 Paralympic medallist Faustine Noel to look up to, Surreau has received plenty of guidance and knowledge from her compatriots.
“It’s a source of inspiration to be ‘in the shadow’ of great champions like Lucas Mazur and Noel. Their gold and silver medals at the Paralympics pushed me to believe in my dreams and to work hard to achieve them!
“And everybody, especially Mazur, fell in love with Eugene last year at the French Championships! I feel very welcome in the team.”