On Saturday 7 July, the first South African Para-badminton Championships took place in Bloemfontein.
Larry Keys, the president for Badminton South Africa, said that it is definitely a pleasure to welcome participants to the first SA Para-badminton Championships. “Para-badminton is one of our priorities and although the entry is small, it is a start for better things to come.”
Although there were only five participants, they all showed perseverance and thoroughly enjoyed the game. Four of the five participants are beginners, but really showed progress on the court.
Barend Bester, who has been playing badminton for somewhat 25 years, travelled from Gauteng to participate in the competition. Although being the oldest participant, he actually assisted the players with technique and guidance more than paying attention to winning all his games. “The sport among the paralympians is much more relaxed and players like to assist and support one another. It remains a competition, but I guess we have a lot of respect for one another,” he said.
The other participants, mostly from Martie du Plessis School, included Alfie Reid, Lesego Gadick, Karabo Sesing as well as Makhosi Matlalets. Reid started recently and only has 20 % eyesight left, but still pursues and attempts to make a success of the game since he can benefit from the sport as it has the advantage of improving his focus. Gadick has a genetic condition called dwarfism. Although having a short stature, she did not at any stage stand back in the competition. Karabo Sesing, who plays in a wheelchair, is doing exceptionally well in sport, as she attended the championships and won the tennis championships for paralympians just the day before.
Chris Dednam, general manager of Free State Badminton, said that it was only a pleasure to start para-badminton in South Africa and once the sport starts snow-balling, it will definitely produce success players and become a sport for paralympians to enjoy.
Francois Smit, the president of Badminton Free State, said that the tournament provides an opportunity for players to excel, to stretch themselves and become outstanding in the sport. Most of these players’ dream is to attend the Paralympics in their careers one day and now it seems possible since badminton will be included in the Paralympic Games for the first time in 2020 in Tokyo.
“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable and then when we summon the will, they become inevitable. Tokyo 2020, South Africa will be there. Watch the space,” Deidre Horn, chairperson of BSA Para-badminton said.