Spotlight On... Badminton

Isaak Dalglish and Krysten Coombs

It’s a Paralympic summer, but don’t just watch the sports, try them! 

Parasport's Spotlight On… series offers a quick glimpse into the world of a Paralympic sport - the thoughts, feelings, emotions and behind the scenes details that may be hidden to the outside world.  

In the next part of the series we spoke to badminton’s Isaak Dalglish, who beat two players ranked in the world top ten at his first international competition, and counts European silver among his glittering medal collection. 

Badminton is making its Games debut in Tokyo this summer and is one of the fastest-growing Paralympic sports, demanding huge levels of agility, stamina, skill and fitness at the top level.

Isaak told us all about his journey into the sport and why he thinks it’s so special. 

Tell us about how you got into badminton and your progression to where you are today 

“When I was about eight, I joined a charity called the Dwarf Sports Association and my mum did some more research into me starting a sport. There was a national games competition every year, and it was really about participating, not just the winning, but getting to know other people with dwarfism and meeting up. 

“Badminton came into play as a sport that was accessible for all. My sister used to play in Wigan, then when I was 11 I went down and tried it out. I enjoyed it straight away. It was a club that was actually a feeder as well for disability sports, and led to Para Badminton tournaments. So it was a nice club to get into. 

“One of my coaches had experience with Para Badminton as well. It came from them, but also the Dwarf Sports Association, where I made good friends with Jack Shephard and Dan Bethell, who are heading to Tokyo to represent ParalympicsGB this summer.” 

Why badminton over other sports? 

“For me the interesting thing about our sport was that I knew I could compete against my non-disabled average height friends. With sports like football or athletics I wouldn’t have had a chance of competing against my non-disabled friends, but with badminton, even before I knew about Para Badminton, I knew I was there or thereabouts and could compete. 

“I just think the adrenaline you can get from it beats any sport - it does for me anyway! Then if you are able to compete at an international level, the people you meet are pretty extraordinary and to learn what they have been through is pretty incredible. I have enjoyed competing in the sport, but I’ve also enjoyed meeting other people around it.” 

What’s the one thing you now know, that you wish you’d known before getting started in the sport? 

“I think just about how accessible it is. Back when I first started it wasn’t really well known just how easy it was to pick up and play. I often used to go to training from college, and I remember thinking ‘I don’t know if I can get to the top’, because I didn’t realise how big the sport was. 

“We didn’t know it was going to be a Paralympic sport or whether we would get funding. Now there is a bit more security, we have funding and we have great media coverage, getting interviewed by Channel 4 and that type of thing. So I just wish I’d known it would turn out like that when I first started. We knew the more we publicised the sport, the more attention it would get.” 

What’s been your favourite memory in the sport so far?  

“It was recently actually, when I claimed my first singles podium place at the Spanish International earlier this year. 

“I have always been there or thereabouts in doubles, but at the moment I am 15th in the singles ranking. I always knew I could pull out a win against the top eight players, and now I have. 

“The Spanish International tournament was the first after Covid-19. We almost ended up training for ten months for it, and to beat the world No.5 twice en route to the semi-finals was my favourite memory so far. 

“To see the rewards for my coaches and family was a really special memory.” 

What's the best thing about badminton? 

“The effort always gets rewarded. Also, the different types of disabilities there are and how people adapt on the court. I think you get a lot out of it as a spectator, if you take consideration of the effort the players have put in and the support staff. 

“Also, you see how much the sport means to everyone involved. If you just look at the faces of those who are playing while they are on court, you can see what an amazing sport we have.” 

What’s something only a badminton player would know or appreciate? 

“Sometimes the team environment we are in can lead to a lot of attention, when we are all out together or going for a coffee for example. 

“When I socialise with my friends, they will get annoyed by other people looking at us or bringing attention to us, but within the team we are all very used to it. We just laugh it off, when our average-height friends might get annoyed about it. 

“We’re just used to it, so it is interesting to see other people’s reactions away from the sport as well.” 

What would you say to someone considering trying badminton? 

“You’ll see during the Paralympics the rewards you can get in this sport if you work hard and want to reach the top - particularly in England where we have a class set-up. 

“I know a lot of people that are playing the sport, or picking it up while at college. To those people I would just say keep going, because you improve quickly and can easily end up being invited to a development camp. You can quickly see the rewards come, with a high-performance set-up.” 

Gain an insight into the world of other Paralympic sports by visiting our Spotlight On… series hub page here.

Want to give badminton a try? Check out our club finder!