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Australian Para-badminton will be represented at the 2024 Paralympic Games by two athletes who have travelled starkly different pathways but feel similar gratitude, determination and excitement about what lies ahead in Paris.  

Céline Vinot and Mischa Ginns were named as members of the Australian Paralympic Team by Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin at a ceremony in Melbourne on Thursday attended by Paralympics Australia President Alison Creagh and Badminton Australia CEO Tjitte (TJ) Weistra.  

Vinot is a 27-year-old twin who is fluent in French, works as a project officer and is an accomplished chorist and French horn player.   

She has been playing Para-badminton since shortly after finishing school in 2014, competed internationally for the first time in 2017 and has won medals at Oceania level, among encouraging results further afield. Vinot, who has cerebral palsy, is classified as an SL3.  

Ginns, 43, burst onto the scene with three gold medals at the 2022 Oceania Para-Badminton Championships, including in the WH2 women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. 

Ginns, who speaks Afrikaans, came to Australia from South Africa in 2008 to take up a job in accountancy. Four years later, she acquired her impairment and underwent a lengthy rehabilitation. She took up Para-badminton after attending a come-and-try day in 2022 and has made remarkable progress in the sport.  

“It doesn’t feel quite real,” Ginns said of her selection to the team.  

“Just over two years I’ve been playing. From the time I first had a hit, I fell in love with the sport.  

“I started taking it seriously, but I didn’t expect it to take me on this journey. It’s been a bit of a crazy two years but I’m super thrilled with what I’ve been able to achieve.” 

Ginns ruptured her neck while competing in a rowing competition in 2012. She underwent spinal surgery and spent four years in hospital re-learning many life skills. After the Covid pandemic, she said, she discovered Para-badminton and “it’s worked out well”. 

“Coming from another country, South Africa, and being able to represent Australia – I wouldn’t have these opportunities in South Africa,” Ginns said.  

“To be afforded these opportunities, to play sport at the level I am with a disability, and to be representing Australia is an incredible privilege.” 

Like Ginns, Vinot said her selection hadn’t sunk in yet. She said having the Games in Paris made it extra special. 

“I went to a primary school with a French immersion program, so we spoke one week of English and one week of French. We only speak French at home,” Vinot said. 

“I actually have a few cousins who are volunteering at the Games. More than half my family on my dad’s side lives in France. It’ll be great to see them all – but sport comes first. After the competition I’ll see what I can do to see them. But yes, it is extra special that it’s in France, with my family connection.” 

Vinot grew up in a sporty environment with three sisters who don’t have disabilities. However, she said, Para-badminton opened her up to a new community and a better understanding of her own impairment.  

“It’s surreal. I never thought that I’d get to compete at a Paralympics,” she said. “But I’ve found the pathway to get me there.  

“Growing up with a disability, it’s not something you think about very often. Finding your way into sport can be a challenge. Making it to the Paralympics shows what’s possible in sport and any other aspect of life.” 

McLoughlin, the Chef de Mission, welcomed Vinot and Ginns to the Australian Paralympic Team.  

“Tokyo 2020 was the first time Para-badminton was included on the Paralympic Games program and we were proudly represented by Caitlin Dransfield and Grant Manzoney,” McLoughlin said.  

“Since then there’s been a big influx of players taking up the sport and seeing what’s possible. Céline and Mischa are examples of what’s possible; players who’ve come along very different journeys but are drawn together by a love of their sport, a desire to be the best they can and now a shared opportunity to represent Australia on the biggest stage. 

“Congratulations to both players and their support networks. We can’t wait to see you in action at Porte de la Chapelle Arena at the Paralympics in three months’ time.” 

By David Sygall, Paralympics Australia.

Published 23 May, 2024.