Shephard ready for Tokyo 2020 qualification battle

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Friendship will be put to one side when para-badminton ace Jack Shephard goes up against double’s partner Krysten Coombs for a shot at creating Paralympic history at Tokyo 2020.

SS6 world champion Shephard enjoyed a near flawless 2018 as he won five of his six international tournaments, including beating Coombs to triumph at the European Para-Badminton Championships.

His incredible form saw him rise to the top of the men’s singles rankings and the 21-year-old finished the year with more silverware after being awarded the BWF Male Para-badminton Player of the Year.

Shephard also tasted doubles success alongside Coombs, ranked second in the world in the men’s singles, with the pair joining forces to clinch the European title in Rodez.

But with only one qualifying spot currently available in their class on the ParalympicsGB team for the sport’s debut at Tokyo next year, Shephard admits it will not be easy for whoever misses out.

“We think there will only be only place available in my class at the moment for ParalympicsGB so it’s tough as me and Krysten are really good friends,” said Shephard.

“It’s tough knowing one of us will go to compete and one of us won’t but that’s driving us both to push on and work hard – we both want to better than the rest of the world.”

Shephard beat Coombs to win European gold last year

And with Tokyo 2020 qualification at the forefront of his mind, Shephard is already taking inspiration from the experiences of ParalympicsGB athletes who have gone before him.

“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but I like being at the top of my sport and people chasing me because it gives me that drive to keep getting further away from them,” he said.

“The main goal this year is qualifying for the Paralympics and I just want to get that done as soon as I can – then once it’s done I can look ahead to the Games and get training hard.

“To know that it’s the first time para-badminton is going to be in the Paralympics and have the chance to create history that way, and win it potentially, just keeps pushing you to work hard.

“It does feel different this year as there is a little bit more pressure because there is something to work towards reaching, but I try not to think of it like that.