Tokyo still the goal for Para badminton player Corrie Robinson
Corrie Robinson has always enjoyed competing as the underdog… from the age of nine he started playing Badminton at the local community hall with his mother, having patiently waited on the sideline until he was old enough. He didn’t see being an amputee as a reason not to play or compete. And compete he did, right through the Waikato age groups, representing the province against able bodied athletes throughout the North Island.
Around 2015, two decisions changed Corrie’s sporting life: a Danish coach introduced him to Para badminton and it was announced that the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games would see badminton added to the Paralympics programme for the first time.
With new pathways open to him, Corrie set about competing, and winning, in Australia initially and then in 2017 he travelled to Japan to compete in his first major international competition. It was an eye opener. He was now competing with Para athletes from all over the world and quickly learning that the international game was very different from the game he had played in New Zealand.
“I noticed a huge difference from able bodied to Para athlete competition; it was more international, and their styles are a lot different from New Zealand. Strong nations like China, Japan, Thailand and India, each area has a slightly different playing style.”
Not only was the playing style different, these teams travelled with a support crew of coaches, physio’s and managers. Corrie was the only New Zealander on the international circuit, so he was grateful when the Australian team welcomed him into their team environment.
It wasn’t until mid-way through 2019 that Paralympics New Zealand and Corrie connected. Several benefits resulted from this meeting, including financial support for him and his coach Ken Yew and access to a sports psychologist, hydration, nutritionist and strength and conditioning specialists.
By this stage, Corrie was on the way to meeting the nomination and selection criteria for the NZ Paralympic Team. But as he was about to board a flight to Spain for the next tournament, COVID-19 put everything on hold. New Zealand went into lockdown and Corrie was stood down from work, as he was classified at risk, having had a kidney transplant when he was 23 years old.
So, lockdown was spent at his home in Hamilton, keeping himself busy. “Coming from a farm, you can always find something to do,” he says.
The break allowed him to take time out from his busy schedule of training, working, international travel and tournaments.
His plan remains to return to Japan for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which is now scheduled for August 2021. Splitting 2020 into sections of four months, is how Corrie is looking to cope with the current uncertainties.
As a nurse, his first priority is to his employer, Waikato Hospital, who last year supported him to pursue his international Para badminton goals. Corrie wants to get back to work so he can take some of the pressure off his work colleagues, who took on the extra responsibilities and workload associated COVID-19.
All the while he will be keeping up to date with news on the recommencement of the international tournaments; Spain is already proposing to reschedule a major tournament for early 2021.
With his representative programme in the Waikato effected due to the pandemic, Corrie is prepared to take a different path to get back to competition fitness.
In the last third of the year, he plans to undertake intensive training sessions in Auckland, using the best players in the country to help prepare.
Returning to Japan, its people, its food and its culture, are also in Corrie’s sights for 2021. It will be his third visit, though he has had strong connections with Japan since childhood; his family hosted students from Japan for a number of years.
Last year, while in Tokyo, for the Paralympic Badminton “test” tournament, he and Ken set time aside to explore more of the city.
A trip to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings (45 floors high) just in time to see the sun set behind Mt Fuji in the distance and witnessing the illumination of the vast city, was a standout experience.
Throughout their stay, what really struck Corrie and Ken was the genuine interest the locals had in them. “They are all so respectful, polite and happy to help, “ Corrie says.
If he heads to Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, as the only amputee in his class (everyone else has two legs), you can be sure Corrie will make the most of the experience.
Story created by Asia New Zealand Foundation