Niall McVeigh giving everything in 2019 (credit Badminton Photo)
McVeigh – ‘I’m still in the race!’
Date: 12/29/2020 3:59 PM
Published by : Bobby Griffin (BEC)

One Irishman is still fighting to keep a Paralympic dream alive, with a final qualifying tournament left in the Race to Tokyo. 

With only England’s World Champion Jack Shephard guaranteed a place in the Paralympics, the terms Wildcard and Bi-Partite Application are going to be regular phrases for the remaining European SH6 players hoping to make it to Japan next summer. 

We spoke with Niall McVeigh about his performances earlier this year and what 2020 has meant for him since the start of the pandemic.

- it’s hard to think that far back to Brazil and Peru now, those bing our last competitions seems a bit surreal. Going into those tournaments it was key for me to pick up good ranking points, but they ended a little disappointing for me. I was hoping for semi-final results at least, he said

- I lost out both times in the quarterfinals to the home favourite Vitor (Tavares (BRA) who went on to both finals and won title. The frustration was that a few seeded players didn’t enter those tournaments which should have given me a better chance to progress. Vitor peaked at that time and I drew him which was unlucky, McVeigh added

Read: Center of Excellence in 2020

So how has the rest of 2020 treated the Irish number one? We asked Niall about lockdown life, he said

- I had a programme in place to help keep my fitness up at home, whilst we were in lockdown, which was okay for a period of time. We weren’t able to get back in the hall to train until mid July. It was the longest time I can ever remember not playing bádminton, so that was quite a shock to the system.

- I had good people around to talk with, and help keep motivated but that was the hardest thing, not being able to put time in to the thing you love doing, and the thing you’re aspiring to do, added Niall

- fortunately me and my family have come through this thing. Health wise we’ve all been okay and that’s the most important thing.

Hoping for some Irish luck 

Where just a few years ago European players were dominant in the SH6 class, Shephard is the only candidate to take a Paralympic medal with only men’s singles for this category featured in the inaugural Paralympics for badminton. England’s Krysten Coombs is ranked fifth and in forth spot in the Race to Tokyo with McVeigh in eighth.

Furthermore, the SH6 men’s singles is the only category with a draw of six, and where qualifiers must be unique by nationality. This adds pressure to England and to Hong Kong who each have two players inside the top six, but means that Ireland and USA have a chance of making the IPC discretionary acceptance list. We wanted to know how Niall feels about this and whether it effects his efforts? 

- I’m still in the race! I’m sitting in sixth position for the application (bipartite) slot, but I hoped that tour would have allowed me to closet he gap on Didin (Taresoh, MAL) who is one place above me in the Race to Tokyo, he said

- I think the top 5 players in that race are automatic qualifyers, one per nation however for our SH6 category. My understanding is the sixth person down the list, it comes down an application. Essentially a Wildcard into the Paralympics, added the Irishman

- I’m only a very few ranking points ahead of Miles (Krajewski, USA) who reached the same two quarterfinals earlier this year, so the last tournament in Spain is going to be key to ensure I stay ahead of him. I don’t know if the second English and second Hong Kong players in the top five are allowed to apply for a bipartite slot too, or whether Miles will get a bipartite invitation base don being the only American Para badminton player with a top 10 ranking, said McVeigh

- It’s very much an unknown right now. I want to focus on my badminton as there is still possibility I could take another step up the ranking list if I won the Spanish International for instance, so I need to keep my focus on my performance. I’ve dedicated my life to the sport for well over 10 years now and all I can say is that I really hope to be there, said the Irish hopeful

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

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