(Photo: Rickard Nilsson)
Rickard Nilsson: The creative way to train during the pandemic
Date: 3/2/2021 1:16 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
This year is a special year for Para badminton. The maiden appearance as a medal sport at the Paralympics Games is on the horizon, and one of the top players in Europe, Rickard Nilsson, our Para player of the month, shares his journey over the past year. 

Speaking to Badminton Europe in November 2019, the Swedish star spoke about his good chances of getting to Tokyo but mentioned the hard work still to do. Nilsson was focused on a good 2020. 

Then COVID-19 hit the sporting world. Around the beginning of March, Nilsson, together with his mother placed themselves in quarantine due to him being in one of the risk groups. This meant that he has not been able to practice with his regular sparring partners. However, through some determination and creativity, the Nilsson family found a way.

-We´ve created a small gym in the garage with some of the necessary equipment, so I´ve been able to train pretty well despite the circumstances. I´m lucky to have my mum as my trainer, especially during these times because we´ve been able to practice as usual and improved what I’ve needed to work on.

For high-level sparring, Nilsson has been playing matches against his older brother. Nilsson says he is a really good player and therefore hasn’t really lacked anything in the quality of training. Speaking about his main focus this past year, he states.

-It has been a lot of improving my mindset and the way I approach my training and competition.
-I´ve realized how much I love the game and how much I love to win. So, I feel like I appreciate training more and also just have more fun on the court, Nilsson adds. 

For all sports around the world, athletes have had to adapt the way they train. This process of adjustment has been a fulfilling and useful experience, with many stating that they have become stronger as a result.  

-I always try to find creative ways to train but what I did learn the most this year was how to keep challenging myself. 

-I´ve become better at challenging and pushing myself through tough days and workouts. That´s the hardest thing you can do, to push yourself when you don´t feel like training but still give 110 per cent effort. 

Nilsson, an accomplished player, has many memorable victories. However, when asked to choose just one, he answered. 

- I´d have to say the 2016 European championships semifinals in singles. That feeling when I secured a spot in the final for the first time was just incredible. Especially since I was only 17 years old at the time. I´m looking forward to more memorable wins soon!

The next opportunity for the Swede is the 3rd Fazza–Dubai Para badminton International 2021 at the end of March. 

-I can definitely say that I´m in the best shape that I´ve ever been. I always push myself to become better and I´ve had a full year without competing, so there has been a lot of time to practice.

-However, I´m also expecting everyone else to be in their best shape, so it will be fun to compete again in Dubai for sure, Nilsson said enthusiastically. 

Rickard Nilsson believes that the future for Para badminton is looking brighter and brighter but still has a long way to go. 

-I think it´s great with the added publicity and more tournaments each year but more steps have to be taken. I know that BWF is doing a lot to improve the situation for Para players, so I´m very confident that we will see big changes soon. They need to make sure that athletes can actually be full-time athletes.

-When that happens, I think Para badminton will grow at a very high speed, Nilsson adds. 

With the many eyes watching Para badminton this year as it gathers pace towards the Paralympics, the sport will be able to show what it has to offer to the world. But first, the players just want to get back playing! 

-I´m eager to get back on court and compete against the best. That´s what I love most about the game. 

Nilsson ends with a key phrase he tells himself and others when times get tough. 

-Stay focused and stay positive! 

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