ASIAN PARA GAMES Day 1 – Doubles debuts

The badminton event at the 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games kicked off today with wheelchair doubles making its debut and Korea was undefeated apart from all-Korean matches.  The select crowd […]

The badminton event at the 2014 Incheon kicked off today with wheelchair doubles making its debut and Korea was undefeated apart from all-Korean matches.  The select crowd in attendance got a little bit of everything on Day 1 in Incheon, though.

Story and photos by Don Hearn (live in Incheon)

The Asian Para Games are only in their second edition but to some degree, things are getting back the way they used to be.  The Korean team, whose strength has lain for some years now in the wheelchair categories, has welcomed the inclusion of doubles and mixed events.  Doubles was present in the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled, the forerunner to the Asian Para Games, but was left out of Guangzhou four years ago.

Speaking of inclusion, the badminton event in Incheon this month has as a backdrop the recent decision by the International Paralympic Committee to include the sport as a full medal event for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

“We got that news when we were all at dinner together so we all let out a big cheer, we were so happy,” said Korea’s Kim Sung Hun.  “However, I’m already getting on in age so it won’t be me competing but even if it is the younger players whom I bring up behind my generation, it will make me so happy to feel the glory when they can compete and win in the Paralympics.

“It isn’t just a matter of wanting to.  Continuing to qualify as a national team player is really the hard part as it is very competitive.  In a way, to be honest, making the national team in Korea can be harder than winning gold at the Worlds.”

At the other end of the spectrum could be the hard-hitting, high-flying Fredy Setiawan (pictured) of Indonesia.  After winning his men’s singles and mixed doubles matches in the Standing L4 category, Fredy said, “I hope to play in the 2020 Paralympics.  I’ve been playing since I was 17 and I will keep training and training and hopefully I can play in Tokyo.

“I am very happy to be here at the Asian Para Games and I like it here in Korea.  We don’t get the chance to travel much to play badminton so this is my first time at the Para Games.”

Korea’s very experienced and very skilled men’s wheelchair athletes were nearly all on court together on Sunday afternoon.  The men’s doubles event consists of only five pairs and the two Korean duos opened their respective campaigns against each other.

Kim Sung Hun and Choi Jung Man (pictured) had to save 4 match points in the 2nd game but it was they who stayed consistent and took the match in 3 games.

“Well, I don’t want to sound over-confident but I have to say honestly that that match did feel like a final,” said Kim Sung Hun after the match.  “It was an all-Korean match and you can’t deny that Koreans are at the top of the world in the wheelchair game so it felt deep down like we were playing them for the title.

“That’s not to say that we can ignore the strength of any of our opponents.  We feel some nervousness going into every match and no match is easy to play.

“I’ve been playing for eight years but that’s short compared to the rest of my team-mates.  Most of them have been playing for more than ten.

“I’m always aiming for gold, of course, and I’m entered in men’s singles and doubles so I’ll try and I’d like to think I have a chance at succeeding in winning gold,” said Kim, who won one gold and two silvers at the Asian Championships in 2012 but did not compete at the Worlds last year.

Thailand, too, flexed its muscles in the wheelchair event.  Although both Sujirat Pookkham and Junthong Dumnern (pictured above) went down rather tamely in their singles matches against home athletes, they were very close to getting the better of Kim Jung Jun and Son Ok Cha in the mixed doubles before the Koreans won 21-19, 22-20.

In the standing events, Malaysia’s Cheah Liek Hou, the only double gold medallist from the 2010 games, won both of his matches but not before Imam Kunantoro (pictured) of Indonesia pushed him to three games.

Events such as the men’s doubles wheelchair will finish up their round robin today, while most events will go into a knockout round, leading to gold medal matches that will all be played on Thursday at Gyeyang Gymnasium.

Click here for complete results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @