Valeska Knoblauch at the Para badminton World Championships in Basel (credit Badminton Photo)
Knoblauch claims 2019 for WH1
Date: 12/30/2019 8:46 AM
Published by : Bobby Griffin (BEC)

Valeska Knoblauch can keep her crown as the most accomplished European wheelchair player over the past year, and has her sights on the Paralympics.

Germany’s reigning European Champion has enjoyed a terrific year on court, globe-trotting across ten different international locations to collect enough ranking points to stay number two in the world rankings.

The WH1 star picked up gold medals in Uganda, Canada and China to stay one place behind World Champion Sarina Satomi, Japan, in an evenly matched field where pressure from China and Thailand mounts in the form of Turkish International Champion Yin Menglu and Denmark International title winner Sujirat Pookkham.

We spoke with Knoblauch to find out how she felt about her success and the journey towards badminton’s inaugural Paralympic event.

- Becoming the world number one and now having the opportunity to play in the very first Paralympics is a very big deal for me. I doubt I would have ever experienced this if I had been a person without a disability, said Knoblauch, who is also second in the Race To Tokyo rankings.

- We all go to compete, and win, but we’re also friends. We look forward to meeting at each tournament and to catch up on each other’s lives because we’ve all known each other for a long time. It’s very special atmosphere and I’m honoured to be a part of it, she added

‘I want to go for the Paralympics, one more time!’

The top five in the world would not be complete without European rival Karin Suter-Erath who sits at world number three, after an impressive show at her home World Championships in Switzerland in August, collecting a bronze medal.

Karin Suter-Erath is targeting a third Paralympic Games appearance in Tokyo next summer. For almost ten years from the age of 17, the sport that Suter-Erath was hooked on was handball. She played for top-level clubs in Basel and Lucerne in Switzerland, and in Madrid, Spain. 

But then came the accident in 1997 which left her paralysed from the waist down and in need of a new outlet for her obvious sporting talents. We spoke with the experienced Swiss phenomenon recently.

- I tried out different wheelchair sports in rehabilitation, she said. I love basketball, tennis, anything with balls. I liked badminton even then, but the structure was not that good. It wasn’t in the Paralympics and there were not many tournaments. 

After retiring from wheelchair tennis shortly after the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, and a successful career which included a bronze medal in the women’s doubles in Athens four years earlier, Suter-Erath moved back to badminton.

- The sport had become bigger, better and more organised, she said, and then in 2014 there was the decision that it would be included in the Paralympics programme. I decided that I wanted to go for that one, one more time.

The Swiss star is now focusing her efforts on making the grade for Tokyo 2020. Both players have a very good chance of featuring in the Games, as a Race to Tokyo women’s doubles ranking will assist them taking a berth and ensure they will feature in the women’s singles event as well.

Suter-Erath is currently ranked six in the WH1-2 women’s doubles with partner Cynthia Mathez, with Knoblauch and teammate Elke Rongen ranked number seven

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

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