Para-badminton duo Grant Manzoney and Caitlin Dransfield have been inducted into the Australian Paralympic Team and have become the country’s first representatives of the sport in the Paralympics.
Badminton will make its debut in the Paralympics at Tokyo 2020, and will have classes for athletes competing in wheelchairs, athletes with lower limb impairment and compete standing, athletes with upper limb impairments and compete standing and athletes with Short Stature.
Manzoney will compete in the wheelchair class, WH2, and Dransfield will compete in the lower limb impairment and compete standing, SL4.
It was an idea that Manzoney didn’t think would be completely possible, but he said National Para-badminton coach Ian Bridge saw potential in him to make it to Tokyo 2020.
“Ian said there was a chance of playing at the Paralympics and I thought, ‘that’d be nice’, but it was always just a pipe dream, really,” Manzoney said.
The online ceremony confirmed that it really was possible, with the pair now officially a part of Australia’s representative team.
Manzoney said that the moment is still ‘sinking in’.
“It’s great just getting to the Paralympics but, to be the first two athletes to represent Australia in badminton, the first time the sport’s been included, I’m still tingling,” he said.
“There’s been a lot of hard work go into it, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, lots of ups and downs and times when you think you’re stagnating, but then you turn a corner and get going again.
“Those experiences have allowed me to grow in the sport but also as a person. It’s allowed me to personally flourish, which I really appreciate.”
Despite the pair competing in different classes, Manzoney said that he has built a strong relationship with Dransfield, the pair beginning their badminton journeys around the same time.
The two began training together then decided to work together until one day making it to the Paralympics stage.
Which they can now say that they have been able to achieve.
Manzoney hopes that he can encourage others to pursue their dreams, no matter the sport or their circumstances.
“The way I see it, badminton’s in its infancy in Australia. But I do a bit of coaching as well and I really want to help others move forward,” he said.
“Also, being a bit older, I want to show people who may be in their 30s or 40s that it’s not too late.
“If you work really hard anything’s possible. I hope I can inspire people to see that if they work hard, they can achieve special things.”
Australian Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin and Paralympics Australia Chief Executive Lynne Anderson both extended their congratulations and well-wishes to the pair.
“Grant and Caitlin have done such an amazing job to earn the honour of being our first Para-badminton players at the Games [and] it’s something they can cherish for the rest of their lives,” McLoughlin said.
“Congratulations to Badminton Australia and to Caitlin and Grant. We know you’ll be great ambassadors for our country and for badminton. I can’t wait to see you in action at the Yoyogi National Stadium next month,” Anderson said.
The badminton events at the Paralympics will run from September 1 to 5.
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