Read below, an account from Black Arrows coach, Sharon Jones Barnes of her performance at the World Para Badminton Championships in Korea.
Now home and trying to get back in the swing of things.
I still can’t believe I was in South Korea competing in the World Championships. I personally thought I had an ‘ok’ championship despite not being able to train for approx. 60 days and not having much time to adjust adequately with my new sports wheelchair.
However, the arena was breathtaking, but the lighting was awful (the shuttle would get lost in the lighting looking up) and the air was different when hitting. You had to hit so hard at one end and at the other you could hit the shuttle out quite easily. It was also freezing! We had to keep warm in certain parts of the venue wearing blankets and snoods! The venue was circular in shape so I would, with other athletes, wheel around and do laps to stay warm.
Upon entering singles, doubles and mixed, the draws were challenging, but I was up for it and determined to face badminton battles of mind and sole.
On day one, were mixed games with my partner Owen Kilburn. Our first game was against the Swiss world seeds (5/8) Luca Olgiati/Karin Sute-Erath. We lost 21-10 21-10. I felt we played well enough against them although my service game was frustratingly erratic.
Our second game I felt we could have won, and it was my favourite mixed game played. We lost 21-14, 21-15 against Taipei China’s Ong Yu-Yu and Guang-Chiou Hu. Both Owen and I started communicating and talking tactics more so, and we accomplished rotating more and covering. Something we can work more on. We won our last game against Finland pair Riku Vihreasaari and Heidi Manninen 21-9 21-15. We came third in our group stage, but generally thought I could have played much better and get better scores.
Day two was the beginning of WH2 ladies singles. My first game was against Yang Fan, top Chinese player although I did not know anything about her. I played really well against her in the first game and just lost 21-16. The second game was a complete mess as facing the opposite way, I could not see the shuttle and her coach saw this. All her serves and shots were up in the light. I stopped the game and asked the ref if I could wear a baseball cap thinking that would probably help but it didn’t make any difference. I needed shades! Anyway, I lost the second game 21-5. At the end of the game her coach was not happy that I got 16 against her and he was having a go at her – I thought that was bad! Made me feel good though! I also felt good because after the finals Yang Fan and her doubles partner won the WH2 ladies doubles.
My second game against Turkey’s world seeded (2) Emine Seckin was a complete mess. It was a late game in the evening 7.30 waiting around from my last game which was at around 2.15 in the afternoon. No matter what I did, I tried to be confident like I was in my first game, I tried hitting the opponents left rear court but my shots kept going out – I just could not focus and became frustrated. I was not happy with my performance and had a bit of a meltdown. My sister was there to pick me up and encourage me for the next day’s battles. I lost that 21-5 21-5.
Day three of competition involved ladies doubles with my partner Heidi Manninen from Finland. I felt my performance was much more encouraging at least in 2 of our group games. Although we played well at times together and not so well at others. Our first game was against Canada/Peru and they won 21-12 21-2 (I say we had 2 points taken from our score – one of their serves were out but my partner gave them the shuttle so it was too late to dispute and they also ‘double’ hit a shot but the umpire did not see it). I was happy with my performance until they were relentless and targeting Heidi. I encouraged her as much as possible.
Second game was against the China, who became the World Champions! We lost 21-3 21-3. Again they were absolutely ruthless and playing Heidi all the time. There were times I tried to use a different tactic against them and rotate, but Heidi was not confident enough to rotate. Something we will have to seriously work on.
I really enjoyed our third and final game against Japan’s world seeds (5/6), although we lost 21-13 21-7, my performance was elated by playing on centre court and playing well. Again they tried to pick on Heidi as I was strong in clears and drops. A few times I rotated behind Heidi to take shots she was struggling with and then rushing back into position/recovery afterwards.
Overall, the World Championship was an amazing experience and am told I should be proud of what I’ve achieved to come so far. I know I have a lot of work to do ie. muscle memory and side turning for shots and am encouraged by what I have seen here at these championships. I have lots of video’s to look at (with Wayne) and learn from especially from the Chinese and the Koreans. The WH2 ladies World champion is a 14 year old girl from China – her name is Liu Yutong! The Chinese are kept hidden and I believe that they are in general, leaders over the Koreans!
I attach some photos which I hope demonstrates some of my experiences in this championship. http://www.paralympic.org/news/para-badminton-world-champs-underway-ulsan
I would like to thank Black Arrows Badminton Club and Karakal for their awesome support and for kit and equipment which were proudly donned at the championship. Many thanks to you and Wayne for your valid time, dedication and coaching. I’m ready for the real thing now I have my new wheelchair and ready to go for the next competition next year in the Spanish Championship!
Onward and upwards!