Earlier this year, a contingent of Australian Para badminton players travelled to compete in the 4th Fazza Dubai Para Badminton International 2022.
It was their first match back on the international stage since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with the exception of Grant Manzoney and Caitlin Dransfield who had qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and competed in the Bahrain Para Badminton International 2022.
Delighted to be making her return, Victorian-based player Celine Vinot celebrated some of her best results to date in Dubai. In her women’s singles SL3 campaign, Celine cemented a second place group finish to earn a spot in the knockout rounds. Before ousting Japan’s Noriko Ito in two comfortable games, she eventually bowed out in the semifinals against the world number one, Manasi Joshi, in three close games (21-13 22-24 21-19).
Manasi also won the Australian Para Badminton International 2018, at a time when Celine was relatively new to the sport.
Celine’s growth comes at an exciting time as the VICTOR Oceania Para Badminton Championships 2022 are lurking just around the corner, taking place in her stomping ground of Melbourne Sports and Aquatics Centre from 29-31 July 2022.
In her previous two women’s singles attempts at the Continental Championships, Celine placed third in the 2018 edition, before bowing out in the semifinals in 2020. Eager to see what lies ahead for Celine in this year’s competition, we caught up with Celine in a Q+A:
Can you reflect on the 2020 tournament? And how far do you think you’ve come since then?
The 2020 Oceania Championships were a good challenge for me as the SL3 singles was mixed in with the SL4/SU5 classes, so I ended up having to play full court singles. I came away with good experience of playing singles, mixed and women’s doubles, but I am looking forward to improving my results in the upcoming championships.
Since the last tournament, although COVID has been disruptive (especially in Melbourne with so many lockdowns), I believe I have come a long way since then despite the lack of tournaments and competition.
What kept you busy during the COVID-19 break or was it an opportunity to reflect and recharge?
During the COVID 19 break, I kept myself busy by shifting my focus towards finishing my university degree, while also keeping on top of my fitness. I was very lucky that the Victorian Institute of Sport gym was still open throughout the lockdowns because of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic games, so I still had access.
Otherwise, it was a special time to be with family, with social activities such as drinks on a Sunday night. The Zoom quiz was also a highlight in our week, along with binge watching series on Netflix of course.
You achieved some of your best results recently in Dubai? What will you be taking from this into the 2022 Continental Champs?
Dubai was a great opportunity to see how far I had progressed since the last tournament. The last tournament I competed in was in Japan in November 2019, where I was playing SL4 (full court) to try qualify for the Paralympic Games. However was not able to compete in the last qualifying event in Spain in early 2020 due to the pandemic. After that, I moved my focus onto SL3 singles which is my official classification.
Although I hadn’t played internationally in two and a half years, I knew I could progress through the rounds in Dubai as I know both my movement and racket skills have vastly improved since 2019. From my results in Dubai, I am coming into these continental championships with more confidence and belief that I can play well and win.
What does your long-term plan look like now?
Since starting playing Para badminton on the world stage, my ultimate goal has always been to get to a Paralympic Games. Although I missed out on Tokyo, I have a good chance and opportunity to qualify for the Paris 2024 Games. Tokyo didn’t have the women’s singles SL3 event, however Paris does, so I will be looking to qualify in my own right for a slot at the games. Later on this year I will be competing at my third World Championships where I will be looking to progress further than I did three years ago where I got to the quarterfinals in the women’s singles competition.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Continental Championships?
I’m very much looking forward it. It will be a good chance to see players I haven’t seen in a few years due to border closures and lockdowns, as well as meeting new players that are making their debut at the tournament. I’m coming into this tournament with more experience and confidence in my game and believe it will be a great experience.
All matches on courts one and two will be available to watch on the live stream, while news and results from the event will be available to view on our website and Facebook page. Join the conversation using #VOC22.