USA Para-Badminton Secures First Gold Medal at ParaPan American Games
By: Mike Krajewski
After bringing home just a single medal from the 2019 ParaPan Am Games, a silver in SH6 Men’s Singles by Miles Krajewski, the 2023 USA Para-badminton Team has already exceeded that with still two days to go in the tournament. Krajewski and partner Jayci Simon completed the 5-pair SH6 Mixed Doubles event atop the table with a perfect 4-0 record and secured the Gold Medal.
Simon and Krajewski played their remaining two group matches on Friday against the two Peruvian pairs that came into the tournament ranked ahead of them in the BWF World Rankings. First up were the current World #3 and runners-up from the 2022 World Championships, Giuliana Poveda Flores and Nilton Quispe Ignacio. The USA pair had split the previous four matches with the Peruvian pair over the past year. This match was set up as the likely gold medal match with both pairs coming in 2-0 in group play.
The first set of the match was a back-and-forth affair with the Americans coming out on top 21-18, leaving them just one set away from positioning themselves well for the win. Carrying the momentum from the first set win, Krajewski and Simon came out in the second to take the lead early on and not look back, claiming a 21-12 win in the second.
With that first win of the day under their belt, Simon and Krajewski set themselves up to lock down the gold with their match against the world 7th-ranked pair of Hector Jesus Salva Tunque and Rubi Milagros Fernandez Vargas. Knowing history was on the line, the American pair came out determined and focused. They dispatched the second Peru pair of the day with a decisive score of 21-10 and 21-2, winning the last 17 points of the match. The historic win gives USA Para-badminton its first ever gold medal in the ParaPan American Games and gives Krajewski and Simon valuable ranking points in their pursuit of Paris 2024 qualification.
There are still two days remaining in the tournament, with an additional three medals possible for Team USA. First up on Saturday will be Krajewski in the SH6 Men’s Singles semifinals. He secured a bye to the semifinals by topping his group. He will play Nilton Quispe Ignacio in a rematch from the 2022 Pan Am Championships finals match. The winner will advance to the finals to meet the winner of the match between Vitor Tavares (Brazil) and Hector Jesus Salva Tunque (Peru). The two semifinal losers will battle for the bronze medal.
Also advancing to the semifinals is Simon in SH6 Women’s Singles. She advanced to the knockouts by topping her group with a 23-21, 21-16 upset over World #7 Rubi Milagros Fernandez Vargas from Peru. By virtue of the draw, the two will have a rematch in the semifinals on Saturday with a ticket to the finals on the line. The winner of the match will play the winner of the other semifinal between World #2 Giuliana Poveda Flores (Peru) and Rosa Luisa Velasquez Turin (Peru).
Finally, Team USA’s Amy Burnett secured a spot in the semifinal of the WH1 Women’s Singles event by finishing 1-1 in her group, giving her the second position in the table after defeating Joy Ann Clarke from Barbados and losing to #1 seed Danielle Torres Souza from Brazil. Like with Simon, the draw produced a rematch of Burnett’s group match in the semifinals. She will meet Souza again in attempt to qualify for the finals. Should she lose, she will still have the opportunity to play for bronze against the other semifinal loser.
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Photo Credit: Pan Am Sports, Badminton Pan Am