Paralympics: Four-time gold medallist Wojtek Czyz named New Zealand's first para-badminton player at Paris

Wojtek Czyz took up badminton only two years ago.
Wojtek Czyz took up badminton only two years ago. Photo credit: Oceania Badminton

German-born Wojtek Czyz has been named as New Zealand's first-ever badminton representative for this year's Paris Paralympics.

Czyz, 43, is a four-time Paralympic gold medallist in athletics, where he achieved success as a long jumper and sprinter at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012, before retiring from the sport.

While playing football at 21, he broke his knee and had his left lower leg amputated, before becoming a champion para athlete.

After sailing around the world for five years, Czyz and his family settled in Hamilton, where he has taken up badminton.

"Badminton had always been a hobby of mine since I was a boy, but I'd never played it professionally," he said. "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."

Czyz began playing international in 2022 and now has a world ranking of 14th in the SL3 classification, reaching the quarter-finals of the 2023 Japan Para Badmintion International.

"Everyone who knows me, knows I don't do anything at 20-50 percent," he said. "If I do something, I commit to it 100 percent, 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.

"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, 20-25 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."

Eleven athletes have now been named in the NZ Paralympics team over badminton, athletes, equestrian, swimming and table tennis.