Dubai: Top stars are in action this week at the 2nd Dubai Para-Badminton International Championship that got underway at the Shabab Al-Ahli Club here on Tuesday.
The competition, the second event to serve as a Tokyo 2020 Paralympic qualifier, features 280 players from 39 countries, double the number from the inaugural edition last year.
Badminton powerhouses China, Indonesia and India have arrived here with full teams. In fact, this is for the first time that the Chinese are participating in big numbers, while India are fielding the largest contingent with around 40 players, all thanks to the Tokyo 2020 qualification points available here.
“As India being big populated country, we are trying to increase our data base, have more classified players to make Para badminton as an advanced and developed sport. As a coach, my vision is to find young players for 2024 to 2028 Paralympics. The way we are highest in numbers, our aim is to be highest in medal tallies too,” India coach Gaurav Khanna said.
Pramod Bhagat is one of India’s best bets for a gold at the Dubai Para-Badminton International Championship
The veteran Mohamed Ahmed Alzarooni will be carrying the hopes of local fans in the Men’s wheelchair WH2 event. He will be keen to garner some points in the race to the World Championships and Tokyo 2020 Games.
In the SL3 men’s event, India’s world no. 1 Pramod Bhagat has been given the top billing and is expected to fight it out with second seed Ukun Raekendi of Indonesia. Both played in the finals of the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games.
Also to watch out for is Japan’s Daisuke Fujihara, who is fresh from his runners-up show at the Turkish Para Badminton meet.
Similarly, the SL4 will have No.1 ranked Frenchman Lucas Mazur who will be aiming for the top prize and Tokyo 2020 qualification points after a shocking loss in the finals in ENESCUP 2019 in Turkey.
But the road might get difficult with Indonesia’s Fredy Setiawan on his way.
Reigning Asian Asian Para Games champion Tarun Tarun of India and compatriot Sukant Kadam will also look to gain some points to give wings to their Tokyo 2020 hopes.
“Definitely, I will be aiming for the gold after the bronze in Antalya,” Kadam said.
Moreover, surprise winner in Turkey, Suhas Lalinakere Yathiraj will be one to watch out for.
England will also have some presence in Men’s singles SS 6 event with the likes of World no. 1 and No. 2 Jack Shephard and Kyrsten Coombs looking strong.