12 April 2019

New for Tokyo: Sports prepare for Paralympic debuts

500 Days to go

Badminton and Taekwondo will break new ground at Tokyo 2020 when they make their Paralympic Games debut – and the excitement in both sports is already palpable.

For GB athletes such as Para taekwondo star Amy Truesdale, the Games present an opportunity to make history by becoming the first Paralympic gold medallist in her sport.

As a former world and European champion, the 30-year-old K44 +58kg world number one has won everything there is to win in Para taekwondo since taking it up when she was just seven.

But following the International Paralympic Committee’s decision to include taekwondo, Truesdale cannot wait to showcase the sport on the biggest stage.

“When I got the call last year to say that Para taekwondo was going to be at Tokyo 2020, it was one of those sliding doors moments as it finally enabled me to a be a full-time athlete,” she said.

“I definitely want to be a history-maker and the face of para taekwondo because Tokyo will be a watershed moment for the sport and I want to be right there at the forefront, doing what I do best.

“I’ve always aspired to go to a Paralympics and compete at the very highest level so I’ve always been prepared for this, even if at times it didn’t look like it was going to happen.

“For me, getting that Paralympic gold remains the main objective of mine and I’m comfortable with the pressure and expectation that brings as number one in the world.”

GB's Para taekwondo athletes look ahead to Tokyo 2020

Truesdale is not alone in chasing the Paralympic dream, with Joe Lane also targeting a place at Tokyo 2020 after transitioning into Para taekwondo from his promising football career.

“I transitioned over because I saw it was a Paralympic sport for the Tokyo Games, which is a massive inspiration for me,” he said.

“It’s a great sport and I think it will shock the world with how exciting our sport is. The Paralympics are already exciting but this offers another exciting event.

“When you get to the Paralympics, anything can happen, and the goal is always to medal. Hopefully it’s a gold colour and, if not, I hope to represent the country in a good way.”

Para taekwondo is a relatively new sport having only been conceived in 2005, with the first World Championships held in 2009, and previously applied to be part of Rio 2016.

Men and women will each compete in three weight classes, from -61kg to +75kg for men and from -49kg to +58kg for women, with the events divided into four sport classes – K41 to K44.

Para badminton, on the other hand, has been contested internationally since the 1990s, with the first World Championships taking place in 1998 in the Netherlands.

Having also previously applied to be part of Rio 2016, the International Paralympic Committee announced programme of 14 events for Tokyo 2020 – seven men’s, six women’s and one mixed.

A total of 80 players (44 men and 36 women) will compete in singles, doubles and mixed doubles events, with Jack Shephard and Krysten Coombs among the GB stars bidding to make history.

Shephard enjoyed a near flawless 2018 season as he won five of his six international tournaments and the 21-year-old will attempt to defend his World Championship title later this year.

“To know that it’s the first time badminton is going to be in the Paralympics and have the chance to create history that way, and win it potentially, just keeps pushing you to work hard,” he said.

“I like to do anything I can to try and promote the sport so being at the Paralympics would be one of them and you get all that ParalympicsGB coverage to promote the sport.

“It is brilliant to think that badminton is now a Paralympic sport and anything I can do to help push it along I’ll try my best. There is only one way the sport is going and that’s forwards.

“It’s just going to keep growing and with the first one being in Tokyo where they love the sport I don’t think it could be in a better place – it’s going to be really special.

“I have dreamed winning the Paralympics, I’ve known people who have gone to Paralympics and become gold medallists like Ellie Simmonds and the table tennis players like Will Bayley.

“I’ve had chats with them and experienced their feelings and when you get to know what it’s like it just drives you on to be able to achieve as well – it would be another dream to get there and win.”

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