Originally published by Paralympics New Zealand

Four-time Paralympic champion Wojtek Czyz will create New Zealand sporting history as the first Para badminton player to represent New Zealand when he competes at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. 

Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) today named 43-year-old Czyz to compete at his fourth Paralympic Games, but the first for his adopted country of New Zealand.   

Wojtek Czyz will represent New Zealand in the SL3 category at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games

A lower-leg amputee following a football accident when he was 21, Czyz represented Germany at three Paralympic Games (in 2004, 2008 and 2012), where he won seven medals in Para athletics as a sprinter and long jumper. He only took up Para badminton three years ago, after settling in New Zealand with his wife and son. 

Czyz says he is proud to represent New Zealand on the world stage and compete at the Paralympic Games for a fourth time, but in a completely new sport.  

“I simply want to show everyone in New Zealand and beyond what is possible. You need to want it, and the moment you really dedicate yourself to something and really fight for it, success will come to you,” he says.   

“That’s the main reason why I’m doing it. I’m really looking forward to inspiring the next generation and helping New Zealand to grow new athletes in Para sport.” 

Greg Warnecke, Paralympics New Zealand CEO, said: “We’re thrilled Wojtek will be our first Para Badminton player in the history of the New Zealand Paralympic Team. 

“To have an athlete of Wojtek’s incredible sporting calibre representing New Zealand is tremendous for the Paralympic Movement in our country. Wojtek has been so involved in helping shape the lives of amputees around the world, he will no doubt inspire many more in Paris, and we can’t wait to see him bring his wealth of Paralympic Games experience to the world stage again.” 

Czyz’s background in sport is immense. Growing up in Germany, he realised his dream to become a professional football player at 21, but in his last club game before taking up his professional contract, he broke his knee in a collision with a goalkeeper. The injury led to the amputation of his left lower leg. 

Six months later, with a prosthetic and his same passion to succeed, Czyz became the German champion in the 100m T42 and long jump F42/44. Two years later, he won three gold medals in long jump and sprints at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. In Beijing four years later, he won another gold, followed by a silver and two bronze medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. 

“I then retired from Para athletics, to sail around the world with my family and help amputees to receive prosthetics. Living on a boat for five years, we supported 90 people with prosthetic legs,” says Czyz, who now lives in the Hamilton settlement of Eureka. 

“Arriving in New Zealand, we fell in love with the country, and I was very interested to see how Para sport was set up in New Zealand. Badminton had always been a hobby of mine since I was a boy, but I’d never played it professionally. When I discovered it had been included in the competition schedule for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, I reached out to Badminton New Zealand and asked them to assess my skills.” 

After beating other Para badminton players in New Zealand, Czyz decided to pour everything into competing internationally, with the goal of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. He played his first Para badminton international for New Zealand in Dubai in 2022. 

“Everyone who knows me, knows I don’t do anything at 20 or 50 per cent. If I do something, I commit to it 100 per cent. So, I started to train twice a day, and this passion and commitment over such a short time brought me to the level where I was able to qualify for Paris,” he says. 

“It wasn’t easy. The qualification criteria is demanding, and I was competing against people who had been playing badminton day in and day out for 15, 20 to 25 years.  But I was lucky to share my vision and my passion with others and create a team around me, and with a big team effort we all made it happen.” 

Czyz is now ranked 14th in the world in the men’s singles SL3 classification; his best performance was a quarterfinal finish at the 2023 Japan Para Badminton International.  

A certified diving instructor, Czyz has also set five world records in free diving as an amputee, diving to 50 metres with a single breath.  

Stephen Nelson, Badminton New Zealand Chief Executive, said: “Badminton New Zealand is proud and absolutely delighted to have our first ever Para athlete competing in Paris. This is a huge achievement by Wojtek, and we are sure he will lead the way to inspire other Kiwis to give badminton a go.” 

Czyz joins 11 Para athletes already named in the NZ Paralympic Team, in the sports of Para athletics, Para equestrian, Para swimming and Para table tennis. 

The Badminton New Zealand Junior Team Championships’ proud legacy in Palmerston North will continue for another three years, thanks to the ongoing support of Sport Manawat­ū and the Palmerston North City Council.

The renewed agreement will see the popular event celebrate its 41st, 42nd and 43rd anniversaries at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North, reflecting the depth of commitment between the parties to support tens of thousands of junior players through their development journey. Loved throughout the badminton community, the New Zealand Junior Team Championships is recognised as a foundational event that sparks a life-long passion for the sport, with the majority of participants continuing to play as adults, as well as progressing into coaching, technical and administrative roles.

Badminton New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Nelson highlights the importance of this event.

“It’s an absolute delight to witness hundreds of young players on court with smiles beaming across their faces as they battle against opponents from every corner of the country. The New Zealand Junior Team Championships are a critical step in our development pathway and it’s fantastic to witness each new generation being instilled with a love of badminton throughout the week.

“The support we receive from Sport Manawat­ū and the Palmerston North City Council is essential to ensure we can continue to meet the growing demand for badminton opportunities and deliver this exceptional event to the highest standard. We greatly appreciate their commitment to our sport and our players.”

Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith shares his pride that the city will continue hosting badminton for another three years.

“We’re thrilled to host the Badminton Junior Nationals once again, for what has been a strong partnership for the past 40 years. It’s a testament to our ability to be able to provide state of the art sporting facilities to over 600 competitors from across the country, while also bringing in an excess of half a million dollars to our local economy.

“Badminton is a sport that offers both inclusivity and accessibility to engage communities – something we’re all about in Palmy – so I encourage our own community to celebrate these young athletes and the energy they bring by heading down to watch a match and welcoming them into our city.”

Sport Manawat­ū has been a long-term partner of the event, and Chief Executive Kelly Shanks is thrilled to welcome junior badminton players once again.

“We are delighted that our partnership with Badminton New Zealand and the Palmerston North City Council to host the New Zealand Junior Team Championships is continuing for another three years. This event not only showcases the talent and dedication of our young athletes but also underscores our collective commitment to fostering a lifelong love for badminton and providing invaluable developmental opportunities.

“We are proud to continue our support of this tournament and look forward to welcoming players, coaches, and spectators from across the country to our vibrant community.”

The New Zealand Junior Team Championships take place at Central Energy Trust Arena from 7-10 July 2024, with over 80 teams competing throughout the week. Spectators are welcome – entry is free.

Life membership has been granted to Julie Carrel at the 93rd AGM of Badminton New Zealand, in recognition of her substantial contribution to the sport over 40 years.

Glenn Cox of Badminton North Harbour spoke to Julie's nomination, which was unanimously passed.

"Julie’s contribution to Badminton is spread over 40 years, during which she has undoubtedly left a lasting positive impression.

Firstly, as a player at the age of 18 she was selected to represent New Zealand in a tour to Australia and was part of one of the first NZ junior teams to have a series win there against Victoria. She was a member of the New Zealand National Squad with 26 international appearances for New Zealand from 1986 to 1996 including the 1990 Commonwealth Games and Uber Cup, Sudirman Cup and White Trophy competitions. She was a member of the North Harbour Wisden Cup teams who were successful winning the Inter-Association Division One team's event in 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1999. She is also the holder of 22 national championships titles ranging from juniors, seniors and masters events.

At the conclusion of her playing career, Julie began coaching in which she mentored and passed on her vast experience to future badminton players in New Zealand. She was then appointed the Chief Executive of Badminton North Harbour and over the next 13 years was responsible for not only lifting the sport in that region but also raising the bar for all of badminton in New Zealand.

In 2003 at the Badminton New Zealand inaugural awards Julie was awarded the Supreme award for “Outstanding Contribution to Badminton in New Zealand.” Concluding her time at North Harbour, Julie took up the role of Events Manager for Badminton New Zealand and so began a legacy of badminton events in New Zealand. In 2004 Julie was appointed Tournament director for the first ever One-Star tournament to be held in the Oceania region and tournament director for 2005 New Zealand Open, which was a World Grand Prix event, then again in 2006, 2007 and 2008. She continued running this from 2013 – 2018 utilising her own business and risk.  She was also the tournament Director for BWF World Junior Championships held in Auckland in 2007.

Julie was the convenor for the New Zealand Tournament and Events committee from 2004 – 2019. She completed her Referees course in 2007 and has been a BWF Referee since 2014. Julie is respected throughout the Badminton World Federation for her contribution, experience and expertise in whatever badminton role she engages in. Julie is still active in providing her time to New Zealand Badminton, volunteering her time as referee for the Badminton New Zealand U19 National Championships in Christchurch last year and the NZ Tour Manawatu Open last weekend.

Julie Carrel is a 'one in a million' badminton person. Her passion for the sport in New Zealand and as part of New Zealand has covered over 40 years and we can think of no one more deserving of a life membership than her."

Badminton New Zealand joins our associations in acknowledging Julie's incredible passion and dedication to our sport, and we congratulate her on being granted life membership of Badminton New Zealand.

NZ Map showing participating venues for #LoveBadminton day
Badminton centres around New Zealand are participating in #LoveBadminton day

Badminton centres around the country will be opening their doors and courts to the public as part of the nationwide #LoveBadminton day taking place on Saturday 10 February.

Participants who swing by their local badminton centre can expect a range of fun games and activities, free courts to have a go with friends and family, and helpful information about the various clubs, programmes and memberships available.

This new initiative builds off the successful Wellington region and Counties Manukau open days held in 2023 and is intended to grow into an annual event, inviting more people to experience the sport we all love.

Counties Manukau found great success with their open day in 2023, with plenty of people visiting and trying badminton on the day. This led to new senior players signing up, kids coming back for a follow-up Shuttle Time session and even a new board member!

If you've never tried badminton before, or if you play regularly and already love it, we invite you to bring your friends and family to a participating venue and enjoy all that is on offer.

For full details of participating venues, hours and activities, please see the #LoveBadminton page.

Badminton New Zealand is excited to welcome the Manawatu Open to the NZ Tour in 2024, joining Waikato, North Harbour and Canterbury. We gratefully acknowledge the exceptional work put in by Wellington North to host in the Central Region over the past two years and are confident that Manawatu will continue to build on their success.

With two years of the NZ Tour completed, the time was right to begin introducing new hosts and ensuring that the Tour remains fresh and exciting for players, while also providing opportunities for more associations to improve their capabilities and put on fantastic events. The addition of Manawatu, along with the return of North Harbour provides players with two different tournaments in the 2024 Tour.

Badminton New Zealand Events Manager Will Boyden is excited to see what the season will bring.

"We've seen the Tour bring out the best in badminton over the past couple of years, and its great to see associations striving towards joining the tour. Manawatu has a very skilled team and volunteers and I look forward to seeing them put on an excellent tournament."

Hosts of the New Zealand Junior Team Championships for the past 40 years, Badminton Manawatu are no strangers to hosting large events. General Manager James Veitch looks forward to the welcoming a strong contingent of players for the season's first Tour event.

"Badminton Manawatu are delighted that our Manawatu Open is joining the NZ Tour and we are excited to see all the usual faces and more testing their skills in Palmerston North. We're ready to build on the superb legacy started at Wellington North and we cannot wait to welcome all the players and officials who will make the event a huge success!"

2024 NZ Tour

Badminton New Zealand is pleased to announce the calendar of events for 2024. We gratefully acknowledge the associations and partners who have worked with us to confirm bookings for our events and programmes in 2024 and we look forward to another fantastic season.

The thrilling NZ Tour returns for a third year, featuring the exciting addition of Manawatu as a new host, and the welcome return of the North Harbour Open. Waikato and Canterbury continue as tour hosts, and the New Zealand National Championships round out the qualifying stage of the Tour.

For Junior players, there is a packed season ahead, with plenty of opportunities to compete throughout terms two and three. The New Zealand Junior Team Championships in Palmerston North will undoubtedly be a highlight, along with the Secondary School Championships and AIMS Games later in the season. World Junior Championships will take place in China, however the exact date and city is unknown at this stage.

In addition to the NZ Tour, Senior players can look forward to competing in the Oceania Championships in Australia, the Tertiary Championships in Christchurch and wrapping the season with a string of international events in Bendigo, Sydney and North Harbour.

We're excited to see growing opportunities for Masters players, with a total of seven tournaments available throughout the year, in addition to the regular Inter-Association competition. Additionally, Badminton Australia has kindly extended an invitation for New Zealand Para-Badminton players to compete in their National Championships, adding a valuable opportunity for these players to play against a wider range of opponents.

Lastly, Badminton New Zealand will be delivering the BWF Level 1 Coaching course across two weekends in 2024. Participants will be able to register online in early January.

Our best wishes to all players, volunteers, coaches, staff and supporters for a busy and enjoyable 2024 season.