PETALING JAYA: Para shuttler Ikhwan Ramli is not throwing in the towel in his bid to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics just yet.
The 26-year-old will make a last-ditch attempt to secure his ticket to the Aug 24-Sept 5 showpiece through the Spanish Para-badminton International from May 10-16, which serves as the last qualifying event.
The door is not entirely shut yet for Ikhwan as he’s currently ranked 13th in the Race to Tokyo (Paralympics) standings in the men’s singles WH1 category (wheelchair).
The qualifying criteria is quite complicated but Ikhwan knows that as long as he edges close to the top 10, then there’s a good chance for him to make the cut as the sport makes its debut in the Games.
“Coach (Woon Sze Mei) told me to keep my chin up and that I still have a chance to realise my dream to compete at the Paralympics, ” said Ikhwan, a former customer service officer at KFC call centre.
“The top six pairs in the wheelchair event who qualify for the doubles, will also be eligible for the singles competition. The remaining few tickets will then be given to those in the singles.
“The good news is that most of the players ahead of me in the qualification rankings are most likely to make the cut in the doubles.
“So, what I need to do now is to try and improve my 13th position and see how it goes. Even if I don’t make it, the Spain tournament will be a good preparation for the Asean Para Games (in Hanoi, in December).”
Ikhwan is certainly not short of confidence after securing his breakthrough victory at the Dubai Para-badminton International last Sunday, which unfortunately was not a Paralympic qualifier.
“I’m so delighted to finally win a singles title after four years with the national team, ” said Ikhwan, who is a father of one child.
“I won a gold at the Asean Para Games, but that was in doubles (with Madzlan Saibon). In singles, I came in second.
Born with spina bifida, Ikhwan’s condition affects his mobility but it did not stop him from playing competitive badminton since 2016.
“I actually started with the wheelchair basketball junior team in 2015, but it was too competitive. I stopped and took up a job with KFC.
“I was later discovered by cikgu (teacher) Moe (Chin Kiat, national para badminton coach). He told me that I have the potential to go far in badminton.
“I was selected under the Asean Para Games squad, and that’s how my career started.”
Two other qualifiers are six-time world champion Cheah Liek Hou in the SU5 men’s singles (impairment in upper body) and Didin Taresoh in the SS6 men’s singles (short stature).