ASIAN PARA CHAMPS – New names and old take Beijing gold

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Chinese para-badminton players took seven golds overall at the Asian Para-Badminton Championships this past weekend in Beijing, and put forward both of the double gold medallists.

Story and archive photos by Don Hearn

Para-badminton legends like Lee Sam Seop and Cheah Liek Hou still won a title each but it was Chinese athletes taking in most of the gold, including all 3 women’s wheelchair titles, as well as two more in the short stature division as the best Asians in the wheelchair and standing events got together for the first time since the Asian Para Games two years ago.

China sent a strong team to Incheon in 2014 but only two wheelchair athletes made it all the way to England for the Worlds last year.  On their home turf, though, it was a very different story.

Already a force to be reckoned with after Wang Ping took the wheelchair 1 title last autumn, China produced some more talent for these continental championships this year.  Li Hongyan, who had managed a couple of runner-up finishes at the China Para-Badminton International last year, became one of only two double gold medallists, winning both the wheelchair 1 women’s singles and the 1-2 women’s doubles title with Yang Fan.

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Li was not entered in the mixed doubles, however, and Thailand’s Amnouy Wetwithan became the only non-Chinese woman to take a wheelchair title when she and Jakarin Homhaul (pictured right) beat Korea’s Lee Dong Seop and Lee Sun Ae.

Lee Dong Seop (pictured bottom), like Wetwithan, was able to pick up one gold and two silvers on the day.  There was some symmetry to the wheelchair results as Thailand’s mixed gold was balanced by China’s three women’s titles on one hand and Korea’s three men’s gold on the other.  Lee Dong Seop was beaten by team-mate Lee Sam Seop in the singles division 1 but he and partner Kim Kyung Hoon prevailed in doubles against the other Lee, who was playing with division 2 singles champion Kim Jung Jun.

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Standing division SU-5 ace Cheah Liek Hou, after ruling his division in the World and Asian Championships for a decade, was beaten by young Indonesian Suryo Nugroho (pictured left).  However, the Malaysian veteran still held on the doubles event, where he and Hairol Fozi Saaba won comfortably in the final against Nugroho and Oddie Kurnia Dwi Listiant Putra.

In the women’s standing events, China’s Cheng Hefang (pictured top) defended the Asian Para Games gold she and Ma Huihui won in Incheon.  In singles, she was relegated to bronze when she was beaten by her team-mate and eventual winner Yang Qiuxia.  Yang wasn’t entered in either doubles event, though, and Cheng was the one who hit for the cycle, winning gold in doubles, bronze in singles and silver in the mixed, when she and Ou Wei lost out to Japan’s Toshiaki Suenaga and Akiko Sugino.

The short stature divisions saw the other double gold medallist from China.  Li Fengmei won in both singles and mixed doubles, where she and Luo Guangliang  got the better of India’s Mark Joseph Dharmai and Randika Doling of Sri Lanka.

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