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Supporting para-sports: Exclusive interview with Egyptian Badminton star and Loughborough’s Head of para sport

As part of Kukri Sports’ ongoing commitment to celebrating the accomplishments and perseverance of para-athletes, we are proud to present an exclusive interview featuring Alasdair Donaldson, Head of Para Sport at Loughborough University, and Egyptian Badminton star, Yasmina Eissa.

Yasmina Eissa, an Egyptian badminton player and current Loughborough university student, shared her inspiring journey into the world of para sports. “I’ve always been passionate about badminton and was very active when I was younger, competing in a variety of sports.

“When my coach discovered para sports and encouraged me to participate in the World Championships in Korea, it opened up a whole new world for me. I realised the potential of para-badminton and how it allows athletes like me to excel. From there, I knew that was the sport I wanted to continue competing in moving forwards.”

Eissa, who was also the Vice Chair of the Para Sports Exec at Loughborough University this year, continues to play her part in striving towards inclusivity. “Throughout the year we have enjoyed a lot of events, whether that be the ‘Para Sports takeover week’, where we get a lot of people to learn more about para sports and try out para sports such as Wheelchair Tennis and Wheelchair Basketball.

“It allows students with disabilities to come out and play their sport, which they wouldn’t have been able to do in the past because it wasn’t as inclusive.”

Expressing her excitement about the future of para sports, Eissa said, “I believe that para sports can achieve even greater recognition and exposure, just like women’s sports. London 2012 was a turning point for the Olympics, and I hope to see more coverage and opportunities for para-athletes on a global stage.

“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions when you think of the Paralympics, so for me it’s about debunking any myths or stereotypes, and really showing people what it actually is and the talent within it.”

Alasdair Donaldson, who was appointed Loughborough University’s new Head of Para Sport last year following almost ten years at British Triathlon, has played a pivotal role in promoting para sports at Loughborough University.

Donaldson, who graduated from Loughborough University in 1998, shared his thoughts on the university’s long-standing history of supporting para-athletes. “Para sports is not a new thing at Loughborough University, but the focus on it is.

“We have witnessed some exceptional athletes over recent years like Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s greatest Paralympic athletes, Clare Griffiths, and Dan Greaves, who have all graduated from Loughborough and achieved incredible success in their respective para sports careers.

The university has been a nurturing ground for para-athletes, fostering an inclusive environment where they train alongside their non-disabled peers.”

Highlighting the university’s commitment to supporting para-athletes in balancing their athletic pursuits and studies, Donaldson said, “The focus goes on the person first; they are here to be students, and we work with them to find a balance between their athletic commitments and academic studies.

“Our cooperative and integrated coaching and support teams ensure that all student-athletes, regardless of their abilities, receive the necessary assistance to thrive and flourish in their sport.”

Donaldson emphasised Loughborough university’s commitment to creating an inclusive sporting landscape and their ambitious plans for the future. “We want to ensure para athletes get the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers.

“We are establishing a Universities/Higher Education working group, where para sports will take the front seat. Our aim is to make every one of our 62 Athletics clubs inclusive and welcoming to everyone who wants to participate.”

Donaldson also touched on Loughborough university’s dedication to increasing the provision for disabled students to engage in sports. “We want to make sure that those who were told at school that sports wasn’t for them have the opportunity to participate. We aim to expand para-coaching provisions with various sports and encourage disabled participants to become confident leaders in sports.

We go into the community and bring the community into us as effectively as we can. The work done by our students, like Abbie Breakwell, who runs participatory events for wheelchair tennis every week, is a testament to the positive impact of community engagement in developing sports for everyone.”

Kukri remains committed to championing para sports and promoting the stories of exceptional athletes like Yasmina Eissa.

Kukri are proud partners of Loughborough University – providing brand-new match apparel, training and leisurewear across the whole of Loughborough’s varied sporting offer. Click here to find out more about them.

Keep an eye out for more para sports content coming soon.