I’ve written before about eight reasons why badminton is the best sport. Topping my list was the fact that it’s an inclusive sport. Badminton is a sport that’s accessible to people of all ages, demographics, and, most importantly, disabilities. If you need proof, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has been sparing no effort in promoting para badminton — what is para badminton?
Para badminton is an iteration of badminton tailored to suit the capabilities of disabled players. Para badminton shares many of the rules of badminton, particularly the rules for scoring, racket standards, and the change of ends. Differences exist in equipment, parts of the court that can be occupied, and service rules, to name a few. Para badminton has several classes where players with varying physical limitations can compete.
To make badminton truly a sport for everyone, the BWF aims to promote para badminton globally. The BWF also regulates para badminton tournaments with the recognition of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Care to learn more? I’ll gladly walk you through the ins and outs of para badminton.
Is Para Badminton the Same as Badminton?
Despite the differences between badminton and para badminton, the two sports share many commonalities in several areas.
Para badminton and badminton are the same in many ways. Besides the surface on which these games are played, the two sports share the same scoring rules, treatment of faults, and service rules. Para badminton and badminton are also similar in the equipment standards that players need to follow — more specifically, the dimensions of rackets outlined in 4.1 of the BWF’s Laws of Badminton.
Para badminton and badminton matches are both best-of-three matches, meaning that whoever wins two of three games wins the match. In both sports, each game is played to 21 points unless there’s a tie. Officials score games in para badminton and badminton using a rally scoring system, meaning that anyone in a game can score a point.
In para badminton and badminton, faults result in the opponent scoring a point. Besides giving away a point, erring players also give the opponent the right to serve in the next rally. Faults can be committed during service or when players fail to keep the rally going.
Service rules are similar in both sports, too. Aside from a couple of differences (which we’ll talk about later), service begins with the head of the racket pointed downward. Players in both sports should also strike the shuttlecock in a way that causes it to fly in an upward trajectory over the net.
The shuttle and the racket are the same for both para badminton and badminton. The shuttlecock — feathered or non-feathered — needs to be 62 mm to 70 mm in length and weigh 4.74 to 5.50 grams. The racket can have an isometric or oval head, as long as it’s an elongated shaft that’s 680 mm long and no more than 280 mm wide.
When Did Para Badminton Start?
You’ll be surprised to know that para badminton has been around much longer than most people would guess.
Para badminton has been around since the 1990s. While it’s tough to say when exactly para badminton was invented, we know that it was already a competitive sport during the 90s. In fact, the first Para Badminton World Championships took place in 1998 in Amersfoort, Netherlands. Since its inception as a paralympic sport, para badminton has had 13 World Championships. The most recent one was during the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games.
Because it was deemed a paralympic sport, the IPC remained the sport’s governing body for a long time. It wasn’t until 2011 that the IPC gave the sport’s governance to the BWF
What are the Rules of Para Badminton?
As mentioned earlier, para badminton and badminton are the same in more ways than one. However, there are still differences, particularly in the rules.
Para badminton has a different set of rules that cover additional equipment and legal playing and service areas. The rules of para badminton also cover additional service rules for wheelchair badminton and additional intervals or breaks.
Let’s talk about these rules in greater detail.
Additional Equipment (5.2)
We all know that badminton is played with a racket and shuttlecock. Para badminton is not any different in that regard, but two other pieces of equipment can be included — wheelchairs and crutches.
Depending on the classes in which they play, players need to use wheelchairs or crutches for para badminton. Not many rules or standards exist for crutches, but for wheelchairs, there is one condition for the wheels. According to 5.2.2 of the BWF’s Laws of Badminton, a wheelchair may have supporting wheels that go beyond the main set of wheels.
Legal Playing Areas (1.1.1 and 1.1.2)
Para badminton games take place on the same-sized court as badminton games. The difference lies in the legal areas for play.
Singles para badminton games are played on just one side-half of the court. These games are referred to as half-court games. Singles wheelchair para-badminton players occupy areas of the court marked by the center line and side alley lines.
These legal areas measure 3.96 meters from the short service each. Each of these areas is also 3.05 meters wide, starting from the center line to the badminton doubles sideline. Players can only serve within the area marked by the short and long service lines.
These legal areas are the same for standing para badminton, except for the service areas. These areas measure 3.05 meters from the center line and are 4.72 meters each from their short service lines.
Wheelchair doubles para badminton teams occupy areas marked by the back boundary lines and short service lines of the court. Hence, teams occupy areas that are 4.72 m x 6.1 m. During service, the back alley or the rear area marked by the long service line cannot be occupied.
Service Rules for Wheelchair Badminton (188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206)
According to the BWF’s service rules for wheelchair badminton, the player needs to serve the shuttlecock from a stationary position. During this time, the server’s and receiver’s wheelchairs should not move. The only motion officials will allow is a slight natural movement that follows the service.
The armpit is the basis for where the shuttlecock needs to be during service rather than the waist. During service, the server needs to strike the shuttlecock below the level of the armpit.
Additional Intervals (16.5.3)
Ordinarily, players may only leave the court during a cessation of play. In wheelchair badminton, a player may be allowed to leave the court for one additional interval during a match in order to catheterise. A BWF technical official accompanies the player during this time.
Who are the Famous Players of Para Badminton?
Para badminton has its share of superstars, too.
One famous player is Pramod Bhagat, the winner of the 2020 Paralympic Para Badminton competition in the SL3 class. Bhagat is the ranked number one in the world in the SL3 category, as per the BWF’s para badminton singles rankings. Another well-known para badminton player is Qu Zimo who’s the number one in the world in the WH1 category. World number four, Kumar Nitesh, is also one of the most popular and skilled SL3 players. He rose to popularity when he beat Bhagat by a narrow margin in the National Para Badminton Championships.
With more classes in para badminton, the list goes on. All in all, you can bet that the para badminton rankings are stacked with some of the most skilled shuttlers in the world!
Badminton is for Everyone!
And by that, I do mean everyone.
Because of para badminton, players of all skill levels and limitations can compete at the highest levels of the game. Para badminton is proof that all a person needs is a racket, a shuttlecock, and the desire to play in order to fulfill their dreams.
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