University of Bristol Paralympic hopeful shines on international stage



Ben McCall-Myers reports on the University of Bristol Badminton club's inspiring summer successes, giving great hope to all involved for the upcoming season of university sport.

Usually, the summer break marks a lull in the action of university sport as teams disperse and competitive fixtures dwindle. However, for the University of Bristol Badminton Club there was still plenty to get excited about.

Earlier this month, Dan Bethell, a law graduate returning to the university to study a postgraduate degree in International Commercial Law, travelled all the way to Tokyo to compete in the HULIC・DAIHATSU Japan para-badminton international between Thursday September 7th and Sunday September 10th. This Badminton World Federation approved tournament reflects a growth in the popularity of para-badminton which will become an official Paralympic sport for the first time at the 2020 games.

Dan suffers with cerebral palsy on the right side of his body, a lifelong brain condition that affects movement and co-ordination. Symptoms include muscle spasms, tremors and random or uncontrolled movements.

His chances for the tournament were jeopardised when he suffered a broken metatarsal just ten weeks before he was set to compete. After taking time out to focus on his final exams, he went on a full training camp consisting of 37 hours of sport in just ten days. His body struggled to adjust to the sudden change and the injury struck. This kept him out for eight weeks, so having only had a fortnight to prepare for the tournament his confidence was severely knocked going into the competition.

Against all odds, Dan returns home a hero having achieved a silver medal in the singles and a gold medal, alongside his partner Bobby Griffin, in the doubles. The pair beat the current world number ones from France 21-16 21-16 in the final. This is certainly a great cause for optimism and if Dan can continue such scintillating form, one of our University’s very own could well fulfill his dream and return to Tokyo to represent England at the 2020 Paralympics.

Dan took up the sport in 2010 where he competed at his first para-badminton national tournament, having originally started out as a tennis player. Ever since watching his first Paralympics in 2008 he’s aspired to compete at the games, and the switch of sport came due to the fact there was no tennis structure for people with cerebral palsy.

I got hooked on the competitive nature of the sport and the dream I had, became an obsession.
When asked about his participation, he reflected ‘I got hooked on the competitive nature of the sport and the dream I had, became an obsession’. Obsession or not, after overcoming his initial barrier to competitive sport all Dan’s hard work paid off in 2014, when he won the para-badminton European championship. After this year’s success he says the Paralympic dream ‘feels closer than ever’.

He is a truly inspirational figure whose diligence, drive and determination gives the impression he will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

Another exceptional performance from within the club came from Xiao Xuan Teh. In her first year at Bristol alone she has risen from an unranked, recreational player to the 34th senior women’s singles player in the UK. This is a remarkable achievement and she has managed to consolidate this ranking over the summer. She’s certainly another one to watch in the coming year from a stellar crop of Bristol Badminton players.

If you’re interested in emulating these guys’ successes, or just fancy trying badminton for the first time, the Badminton club is running taster sessions on Saturday 23rd September and Sunday the 24th September. These can be found in the University sports hall located on Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TP and will run from 9am-11am on the Saturday and 9am-12pm on the Sunday.

Why not send Dan and Xiao Xuan your congratulations in the comments?

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