Paralympic Hero To Star In Irish International
Date: 6/16/2015 3:50 PM
Published by : Manuel Røsler

A Paralympic hero will add some star quality to the home team when the inaugural Carlton Irish Para-Badminton International gets under way in Dublin later this month.

Ireland's Michael Smith, who finished fourth in the discus at the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000, is one of the many athletic talents who have transferred into badminton in recent years - and he'll provide some big-name recognition for the home crowd to rally around.

Mike is among half a dozen Irish players who will join 140 paralympic athletes from 24 nations at the event, which will take place from June 24 – 28 in the Baldoyle Badminton Centre.

Mike, who's 38 and from Belfast, has cerebral palsy.  He first came to national attention in 1996, as part of Ireland's track and field team at the Atlanta Paralympics, and hit the headlines again four years later when missing out, by the narrowest of margins, on that discus medal in Sydney.  He switched to badminton in 2009 and now plays out of the famous Alpha club in Lisburn.

"My background in para sport goes back to school, where I was seen to be good at track and field athletics," says Mike.  "I have been to two Paralympics, the highest level in para sport - and now I am trying to get to that level again in para badminton."

The Belfast man's best achievement in badminton to date is getting to the last 16 in the world championships.  That was in doubles with partner Chris Stewart.  He also reached the doubles final at the Scottish four nations tournament. 

He credits coach Eugene McVeigh for bringing him into the game, and says he'd love to compete at one more Paralympics - perhaps when Para-badminton makes its debut at Tokyo 2020.  "Learning a new sport has been a challenge.  It has taken a lot of hours and pain.  But I hope to compete in the 2020 Paralympic Games."

Mike says his preparations for the Irish International are going well, and that all the Irish players are working hard on their game, particularly their fitness and movement.  Other Irish contenders include Emma Farnham, Andrew Moorcroft, Chris Stewart, Laura Lee Jenkins and Niall McVeigh, from Newry, the current European and World Champion, who is perhaps Ireland's best chance for gold.

Para-badminton players, both men and women, compete in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Players are classified into six different “classes” to ensure fairness in competition.

Players from Brazil, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Macau, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Surinam, Switzerland, Turkey and Wales are listed amongst the entries for this month's Carlton Irish Para-Badminton International.

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