Knoblauch in the fight in 2019 (credit Badminton Photo)
Knoblauch eyes Paralympic medal
Date: 12/27/2020 1:08 PM
Published by : Bobby Griffin (BEC)

Germany’s Valeska Knoblauch is heading into the final stages of Paralympic qualification as Europe’s highest ranked wheelchair singles player. 

We spoke with the WH1 superstar just before the Christmas break to find out how she has coped with 2020.

The tour of South America began in an unsettling fashion for Knoblauch back in February. Brazil started late due to severe weather disruptions and the German’s performance in week one was below her own high expectations, as she exited the women’s singles in the quarterfinal stages to European rival Man-Kei To of Belgium.

Knoblauch bounced back in Peru, defeating To on her way to claim gold and a decisive win on finals day over Japan’s Ikumi Fuke confirmed that the German does indeed deserve her place as world number two. Valeska had this to say

- Brazil and Peru feel so long ago now, it doesn’t even feel like we went to South America this year as so much, and so little, has happened since. Brazil wasn’t my best tournament to be honest, she added.

- I don’t like long breaks between tournaments. The previous competition was Japan in November and we had a few months off which doesn’t suit my game, I prefer to be in a rhythm of competing. I definitely performed with a lot more confidence the following week in Peru, and I’m very happy about it, Knoblauch went on to say.

With that performance being the last we have seen of any Para badminton player in 2020, the German was candid about what has happened since:

the first lockdown started in March in Germany, and we couldn’t continue training. After practising for 10 weeks we suddenly had no on-court training, no strength and conditioning, no endurance, nothing. It was a shock, but our Head Coach was then able to organise some training sessions online and we met 4 times a week via Skype and Zoom and managed to keep some physical condition.

a couple of months later we started practising again but we had to move to a different hall, a different city. It became a bit more difficult for me as I needed to travel a lot more than before. It still isn’t full-time, but we hope in the months to come things can improve. We are still improvising with weight-training equipment as we’re unable to use the University gym as before, so things are still difficult.

Read: BEC Gender Equity Ambassadors delivered!

So what do the conditions and effects of COVD-19 mean right now for Knoblauch and for Team Germany?

- I can say with some confidence that I am not ready right now for the next tournament. As a team we are doing the best we can with the situation and the sessions we have are focused and intense, but we haven’t been able to be very dynamic or able to try a lot of new things. It is improving slowly, but I am definitely not ready at the moment due to the training restrictions, said Knoblauch

- It would be great if the BWF are able to publish this year’s calendar, to give the athletes some dates to aim for and some motivation. I really do hope the Tokyo Games are not cancelled again, I and so many people are looking forward to them, she added

I miss all of you! I miss all of the Para badminton family. I miss the travelling, meeting people, friends and competitors. I miss battling on court, and laughing with everyone off the court and I really hope we can all see each again soon, Knoblauch went on to say.

Pushing forwards

Elsewhere in the WH1category, German teammates Thomas Wandschneider and Young-Chin Mi are each still vying for a Paralympic place in the men’s singles, holding top 10 places in the Race to Tokyo ranking list. 

Karin Suter-Erath (SUI) is also still in the hunt for a WH1 women’s singles place, ranked 4th in the Race to Tokyo and will be looking to add a crucial eighth result to her qualifying points in Spain in the Spring.

European WH2 achievement this year would come in the form of simply qualifying for the Games in Tokyo. With the priority in doubles, Martin Rooke (ENG) and Amir Levi (ISR) may be in a fight for the last remaining single’s placing and a potential match up in Spain could be career defining this coming March. Rooke currently leads the fight placed 5th.

Thomas Jakobs and David Toupe (FRA) still have a chance of qualifying for the WH1-WH2 men’s doubles, extra points they can achieve in the final ranking event in Spain will be critical for their campaign.

Look out for further updates from Para badminton this week on the usual platforms

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