by Kabir Nagpal
Starting the list is young and talented Korea Republican Kim Hyeonuk, who was crowned the 2018 World champion in men’s singles class 1. The 24-year-old has also collected two consecutive silvers at the Asian Championships in 2017 and 2019 – which have brought him the ranking of world no. 4. Yet, a medal at the Paralympic Games remains his biggest target.
If there is someone who knows how to win medals at Para tournaments, it has to be the Egypt international, Sayed Youssef. A six-time African champion and bronze medallist at the World Championships in 2018, Youssef is as familiar with the podium as the material with which the steps are made. In fact, his most recent gold medal was at the 2019 African Championships in singles class 7. Can the world no. 7 repeat the feat in Tokyo?
Having recorded five bronze medals across team and singles class 3 category at the European Championships between 2014 and 2019, Sweden’s Carl Ohgren is well aware what it takes to make it at the grand event. However, the finals of either of those events have previously eluded the 31-year-old. Next year will see Ohgren go for the jugular at the singles class 3 event in Tokyo, making sure his world no.5 ranking helps him along the way.
Nicknamed ‘Bucchi’, the 25-year-old speedster from Japan has a strong history of finding his way to the business end of major tournaments. Having already won the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Para Games in team class 9-10, Iwabuchi has also five silver medals at the Asian Championships in team and singles class 9 in the past seven years. Will the home advantage allow Bucchi to make his way to the singles podium in 2021?
Finally, it is poignant to wrap this list up with the world no. 1 in singles class 7, Netherlands’ Jean-Paul Montanus. A true champion a Para tournaments, the 27-year-old is knows all about the reaching the top of the podium in the European Championships, having won gold in 2015 and most recently in 2019. In about twelve months’ time, the silver medallist at the 2018 World Championship will be competing again for a place on the Paralympic Games podium, and you would hard-pressed to begrudge him of the same.