Development

(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Valeska Knoblauch: Maybe I can
Date: 9/5/2020 10:36 AM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Germany’s WH1 women’s singles star has been one of world’s top players in her category in recent years, and one of Europe’s top hopes to win a first Para badminton medal at the Paralympics.

Speaking in 2019, Knoblauch said.

- It is a very big deal to me. I doubt I would have ever experienced this if I had been a person without a disability. 

Knoblauch, born in the historic city of Bonn, Germany, on 21 September 1990, was just 14 when while at school she jumped up to sit on the classroom windowsill with her friends. Not realising the window was open, she leaned back and fell out, landing on her spine. Her spine was broken, and she became paraplegic. 

Overcoming her disability with the support of her family and friends, Knoblauch bounced back into daily life. After several months in hospital and rehabilitation, she went back to school and when she was 18, she started playing badminton. This turned out to be a terrific decision, as she has subsequently become a high-profile Para badminton player vying for Paralympic gold and inspiring others to follow her sporting path. 

In the past, Knoblauch has spoken openly about how she loved to dance before the accident. After trying several sports, it was badminton she become hooked on, stating that it was also the people she started playing with who made her like it a lot. Having to control the wheelchair and the racket at the same time gives her category a unique challenge to overcome. 

Knoblauch is a psychology student at the University of Cologne with the dream of becoming a psychotherapist. Inspired by a psychologist who helped her overcome the fact that she would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life, she believes she too can help others in similar situations as her. 

European gold
In 2018, she faced Karen Suter-Erath of Switzerland in the final of the European Para Badminton Championships. Looking back at her emotions before this key moment, she said. 

- People were reminding me that I had beaten Karen in Ireland last year, so you will be the European champion. I did not know if I can handle the pressure, but in the end, I thought, yeah, maybe I can be the European champion.

Knoblauch, despite a nervy ending to the match, was crowned European Champion. Since then, she has risen through the ranks and has claimed her place among the top women wheelchair athletes. Knoblauch also plays women’s doubles with Elke Rongen and in the mixed doubles she partners Young-Chin Mi. Perhaps the next question Knoblauch will ask herself is ‘maybe I can be the Olympic Champion’! 

Knoblauch, who was women’s singles world number one in her category until August 2019, dropped to second spot after a quarterfinal loss to China’s Yin Menglu at the Para Badminton World Championships 2019 in Basel, Switzerland. 

According to Knoblauch, Japan’s Satomi, the WH1 world champion and current world number one is the toughest challenge in singles.

Knoblauch lost to Satomi in the finals of the Thailand Para Badminton International in September 2019, she defeated her a week later at the China Para Badminton International and went on to win that tournament in the final against Yin Menglu. 

In February, she took a step closer to that Paralympic gold medal, as she took another international title – the Peru Para Badminton International 2020 and knocks on the door to reclaiming the world number one spot from Satomi.

The WH1 women’s singles final was over in just 29 minutes as Germany’s world number two, Valeska Knoblauch defeated Japan’s Ikumi Fuke for the second time in six months.

The final Olympic qualification event in March, the Spanish Para Badminton International 2020, was cancelled due to COVID-19. We all wait for the return of the sport we love so much where all roads will lead to Tokyo for the Paralympic Games which will for sure be a special and historic occasion. Then we will find out if indeed looking at at the first Paralympic Olympic Champion? 

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