2 August, 2023
Former world champion and Paralympic medallist Sujirat Pookkham shocked Man-Kei To in one of the biggest surprises on the opening day of action at the 4 Nations Para Badminton International.
Thai star Pookkham, competing in the WH1 women’s singles, won world singles gold 14 years ago and was a silver medallist at Tokyo 2020, though was less fancied against Belgian second seed To.
But the 37-year-old has rediscovered her best form and sealed a stunning 21-11 21-14 victory over her rival on a busy opening day of action.
Pookkham also defeated Nina Gorodetzky 21-11 21-8 on Wednesday, ensuring that she will progress from the round robin stage into the knockout phase.
Elsewhere, top seed, reigning world champion and title favourite Sarina Satomi – who defeated Pookkham in the Paralympic Games final – started her campaign with a comfortable victory.
The Japanese overcame Guang Chiou-Hu 21-11 21-8 and will continue her round robin campaign on Thursday.
In men’s WH1 singles action, top seed Choi Jungman overcame a strong test to get his campaign off to a victorious start.
In a hard-fought contest, the Korean fended off the challenge of Keita Nishimura in a 21-12 22-24 21-7 triumph to put him in a strong position to qualify for the round of 16.
It was a much more comfortable afternoon for second seed Hiroshi Murayama, with the Japanese easing past Konstantin Afinogenov 21-9 21-7.
The first home victory of the day came from Rachel Choong and Jack Shephard, who defeated Chu Man Kai and Choi Wing Kei 21-9 21-14 in the SH6 mixed doubles.
“It was a great way for us to start the tournament. It was our first match and it was a nice way to bed ourselves in,” said Choong.
“It’s great coming away with a win in two games as well, just getting a better feel for the hall. I’m really pleased with how we played.
“It’s our home tournament so we want to do well and put in a great performance here as we do everywhere, but particularly here at our home venue.”
There was also a successful opening performance from SH6 singles star Krysten Coombs, the Englishman defeating Hector Jesus Salva Tunque 21-11 21-5 in his opening group stage encounter.
He said: “It’s a great start for my tournament – a comfortable win. Fair play to him, he’s a great opponent, but it’s a good scoreline to start my tournament. I’m feeling comfortable and I’m ready to get into the latter stages.
“It’s important to just make myself comfortable. We’re on home turf here which is brilliant – we haven’t had to do much travelling to get here – but it’s just like every other tournament we go to, just relaxing and keeping on top of my game.”
Also joining Coombs recording an opening victory in his SH6 singles campaign was reigning Paralympic champion Krishna Nagar, the Indian seeing off Wong Chun Yim 21-16 21-16.
Rising star Miles Krajewski was also triumphant in his first singles match of the 4 Nations, recording a 21-12 21-6 victory over Nilton Quispe Ignacio.
WH2 women’s top seed Pilar Jauregui and second seed Yuma Yamazaki also picked up straight-games wins to begin their tournament, beating Amnouy Wetwithan and Mischa Ginns respectively.
Welsh star David Jack Wilson, who trains as part of the GB Para Badminton squad at the EIS, thrived in a familiar environment as he picked up a significant 21-15 21-18 win over Chirag Baretha.
He said: “It’s probably the best that I’ve played in a very long time, at least that’s how it feels.
“That’s the first time I’ve beaten him and I thought I did everything perfectly, everything I was asked to. I thought it was pretty brilliant.
“It’s definitely been a top three tournament in terms of how it’s been run, how it looks – it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s been brilliant!”