Niall McVeigh at the World Championships in Basel (credit Badminton Photo)
McVeigh dreaming big for an SS6 place
Date: 12/21/2019 8:14 AM
Published by : Bobby Griffin (BEC)

While England’s Shephard and Coombs are fighting for the SS6 limelight, one Irishman still lurks in the shadows, hoping to steal a place at next year’s Paralympics.

Simple yet complicated. That might be the way to describe the Paralympic badminton qualification for most events next summer. For the SS6 class, which is limited to men’s singles, just six places will make up the draw at the Tokyo Games.

Many of the 2019 international tournament results are used to create the Race to Tokyo ranking list and provide a pathway to reach the tournament that is considered to be everyone’s priority.

For one Irishman, international gold medals have been elusive of late. Niall McVeigh has not won an SS6 men’s singles title in 2019, yet he sits on the border of Tokyo 2020 qualification. Currently ranked number eight in the world, McVeigh is acutely aware that only one player from each nation can automatically qualify.

For England, Jack Shephard currently sits at world number one with Krysten Coombs at number four on the Road to Tokyo. Similarly, for Hong Kong China, Chu Man Kai is number three with Wong Chun Yim at number five. Also, bipartite slots awarded by the IOC/BWF may help grant McVeigh a place and maybe at the expense of one of his continental rivals.

We spoke with Niall McVeigh after his quarterfinal defeat to Jack Shephard in China, who had this to say.

- I always have a great time against the top players. The game has changed massively over the years. When I first started, there were maybe seven of us and now there are more than 30 of us here in our category. 

- Back home, I have to train full time because everyone is so good and there is so much competition. We don’t know what might happen over the next six to nine months and so I just have to keep fighting and hope I find a way to make it to Tokyo.

‘The titles can be mine’

England can boast of an impressive line-up of SS6 stars, including current and former World Champions Rachel Choong, Rebecca Bedford and Andrew Martin. While only men’s singles features in the Paralympic programme, Shephard and Coombs are the focus of Team GB.

Shephard, world number one and the two time defending World Champion is odds on to take the place for GB at next summer’s main event. We spoke with him in training recently.

- I think my rivals are looking at me now and thinking, ‘Yep, he’s on form, and we have to do a lot to come out and beat him’, Shephard said, ‘I just have to keep playing my game, keep focused, keep confident and the titles can be mine.’

The recent Japan international doubled as the Paralympic test-event in Tokyo where Krysten Coombs beat teammate Shephard in the semifinal in a third game decider. Coombs lost out in a close final against Indian Nagar Krishna who is right behind Shephard in the rankings and still perhaps favourite to go into the Paralympic Games as favourite.

We spoke with Coombs after that silver medal; she had this to say.

- The tournament was brilliant, and it was a great opportunity to play in the venue that will host our Paralympics next year. Tokyo is fantastic. We came out a week early to train and have had the chance to see more of it this year, he said.

On what the focus is for Coombs at the moment, and his chances of making it through the Paralympic qualifying period:

- Points, points, points! That’s what is needed. Three more tournaments to go, and the more I can pick up the better. We’ll just have to see what unfolds at the end, he said.

Look out for more Para badminton reviews of the different sport classes this week across our platforms.

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