Para Badminton tournament makes successful start

Participants at the inaugural Kent para badminton tournament

A new para badminton festival proved a hit in Kent last weekend, with an innovative format helping bring local and international players together on a level playing field.

Players and coaches from ParalympicsGB, including silver medallist Dan Bethell, were among the 40-strong field in Gillingham while the event also saw some players entering tournament badminton for the first time.

And in a change from the usual system, players were grouped by ability rather than disability, with a string of ladder games starting the morning off to ensure matches were played between participants of a similar standard.

“We had a rough idea of where the better players stood but we had a number of new players who had never played tournaments before so were uncategorised," said tournament director Jo Newson.

“We wanted to make sure that players, no matter their abilities, got the best games they could in a group of similar standard players and that went down well as it meant they got closer games.

“If they’d played in their category, you could have had a GB para player in with a tournament beginner. It wouldn’t have been good for either of them.

“This was much more about the ability of the player, rather than their categorisation under a physical disability."

In all, around 40 players took part and Newson was delighted by the impact it had on those locally, who successfully navigated early obstacles to throw themselves into the spirit of the competition.

"We have a para badminton club in Canterbury, so they sent around 10 players down, and the GB players were brilliant with them - as they were with all the players," she said.

“We had a few players who were new to tournament badminton and were a bit overwhelmed by it at the start of Saturday – the size of the hall, the number of people.

“One girl was almost in tears. She had only been playing badminton a few months – but by the end of the tournament, I asked if she’d do it again and she said ‘oh yes! And where else can I go?’. She absolutely loved it.

“All the players had strong supporters there and we had a really good number of people cheering everybody on, it was a great atmosphere.”

The tournament is now set to become an annual addition to the calendar, joining similar events in Nottingham and Sheffield.

Pic courtesy of Lee Funnell