The first Para badminton tournament of 2022 begins today with 143 participants across 22 categories taking part, and the buzz and exhilaration at the Zabalgana Civic Center in Vitoria is palpable.
The Spanish Para Badminton International II 2022 also marks the start of a new tournament structure consisting of grades and levels.
Looking to kickstart their campaigns are a list of debutants, including Robert Donald (SU5), Anya Butterworth (SH6) and Isaac Maison (SH6), all from England.
“I’m nervous and excited,” said 19-year-old Donald during his practice session yesterday.
“I’ve not played many big matches. I’m here to gauge how far off the curve I am to international players, see where I’m weaker or stronger.
“The ultimate dream is to enjoy it (in Spain) and it would be great to get to the Paralympics one day.
“I have noticed a lot of players in SU5 are lefties, so we’ll see how that pans out,” he joked.
Outside of Para badminton, Donald is on a gap-year from the University of Nottingham and will study Computer Science upon his return, but is looking forward to “balancing both studies and training” when he combines the two.
Maison meanwhile, is looking to usher in a new era for English SH6 players after watching teammate Krysten Coombs claim bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“I’m excited to show what I can do. It will be interesting to see what I’m up against and what I can improve on,” said the player, who is only 14.
“Training has been intense, I’m hardworking and my coach makes me concentrate so I can pursue my dream. I’ve had some great advice from my teammates on how to hit the shuttle and manage myself on court.”
His mixed doubles partner Butterworth, also 14, expressed her excitement ahead of her first match.
“I’m a bit nervous given this is my first international tournament, but everyone is really friendly,” she said.
“It will be interesting, I haven’t played against anyone from another country. I’m mainly looking for points and progression with my skills. My teammate Jack Shephard has given me lots of tips that I have gone away with and practiced.”