A place among the world’s elite para-badminton players is Sports scholar Isaak Dalglish’s big ambition.
The 20-year-old from Standish, Wigan, has World and European Championship medals to his name in para-badminton, having first taken up the sport 10 years ago.
“My sister got me involved at a local club,” Isaak revealed. “I have been a part of the Dwarf Sports Association since the age of seven and when I found out that they had a set-up for badminton, I was motivated to improve and become better.”
Formerly of St Peters RC High School and Runshaw College, Isaak believes the support received by Edge Hill University has been imperative in his training, which includes three days a week spent at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield. He said:
“The scholarship enables me to pay for tournaments, travel and accommodation, and has given me extra motivation. In terms of balancing commitments my lecturers are very supportive and help me as much as possible. I catch up when I’m not there if I am at tournaments, and make sure I keep on top of work. I like the balance of training and studying as it gives me different perspectives.”
So how does a usual week map out for the Sports Coaching and Development student?
“On a Sunday I travel back to university and study on Monday and Tuesday, then travel straight to Sheffield for an evening session at 6pm, and stay overnight. Wednesday training starts from 7am-10am then I’m back on court from 12pm-2pm.
“A Thursday session starts from 9am-12pm, then 2pm-4pm. From Sheffield, I go back to university to then prepare for studies on Friday.”
Career highlights include a silver in doubles at the 2015 World Championship and two silvers at the Europeans in 2018 – this coming after what Isaak considers a disappointing period the year before.
“Last year was massive for me. Fortunately, with hard work and a successful training schedule, I produced, medalling in singles and doubles tournaments in Dubai and Spain.
“There was a big training block before the Irish International where I also medalled in doubles and with the European Champs coming up in France it was important for me to deliver at a major competition. I achieved two silvers, making it a successful year.”
Ranked No.11 in the world in singles, Isaak is preparing for his third World Championships (having made his debut at the 2013 tournament in Dortmund, Germany), which takes place in Basel, Switzerland this August. A strong performance is key if Isaak wants to realise his main goal – selection for Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s squad for the Paralympics.
“The initial aim is to become top eight in the world in singles. I want to achieve two medals in Switzerland. With qualification for 2020 starting, competition is becoming stronger.”
Isaak admits the Tokyo Paralympics may come too soon, with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Paris Paralympics the key targets on the horizon although he does not expect qualification to be easy.
“The criteria are strict”, admitted Isaak, in relation to the latter. “Only one athlete [or doubles pairing] from each nation is allowed in each event. There’s one spot reserved for the host nation and a representative must be from each continent as well.
“As I am not UK Sport-funded, the aim is the 2022 Commonwealth Games and then, ultimately, Paris 2024.”