Paralympics selection 'a dream come true' for Choong

Badminton player Rachel Choong says it is a "dream come true" to have the chance to make her Paralympics debut in Paris later this summer.

The 30-year-old will be the first female to represent Great Britain at the Games in the sport after being named in a four-strong team on Monday.

She almost gave up after her category for short-stature athletes was not included when the sport made its Games debut in Tokyo three years ago. Her Paris team-mates Jack Shephard, Krysten Coombs and Dan Bethell all competed.

"Missing out on Tokyo was devastating. I had half expected it, but when the news came I was in tears," the Liverpool athlete, who has won 10 world titles, told BBC Sport.

"It took a while for me to get that drive back. I took myself away from the sport and then Covid happened, and I couldn't even train."

However, in late 2021 came a life-changing moment when Choong found out that her SH6 category would have both singles and mixed doubles events in France, and she became a full-time athlete.

"When the chance came, I knew I had to grab it with both hands because I had waited so long and had almost given up on my dream," she added.

"I was fully committed to it and having the chance to make it to Paris has pushed me and kept me motivated.

"I knew the team already and I knew they worked hard but it wasn't until I joined the programme that I realised how hard they worked.

"It has been tough both physically and mentally. but the team have been so supportive and my friends and family have been amazing.

"To be selected is a dream come true and it feels really nice to be the first female player."

In Tokyo, Bethell came away with silver in the SL3 singles and will be hoping to go one better in France, while Coombs took bronze in the SH6 singles.

Now the quartet are all aiming to win Britain's first badminton Paralympics gold medal when the sport is staged from 29 August to 2 September at the Porte de La Chapelle Arena, with Choong already guaranteed her own place in the history books.

She is ranked fourth in the world in singles and with Shephard is world number one in the mixed doubles, which she says is her preferred event.

This year has already seen the pair earn victories in Spain, Bahrain and Egypt, and they also won gold at last year’s European Para Games in the Netherlands as they build their partnership.

"I've known Jack for a long time and we have always been mates and although it has been a steep learning curve, we are playing cleaner and smoother and constantly refining what we are doing," Choong said.

"Even though we have won tournaments and have that momentum which we can hopefully carry on into the summer, we believe there is more to come.

"Our ceiling is still high and we have room for more growth, development and improvement."