British women strike gold in Poland

British women strike gold in Poland

Megan Shackleton, Fliss Pickard and 13-year-old Bly Twomey led the way for the British Para table tennis team at the ITTF Polish Para Open in Wladyslawowo today, taking gold in the women’s class 4, class 6 and class 7 singles respectively. In the final tournament of the qualification period for the Paralympic Games in Paris Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5), Martin Perry (men’s class 6) and Ross Wilson (men’s class 9) all took bronze.

Women’s class 4

Megan Shackleton came through a tough battle against An Mi Hyeon from the Republic of Korea, twice levelling the match before taking the deciding set 13-11. Irem Oluk had won their last four meetings in five sets, but Shackleton gained her revenge with a 3-0 win against the 22-year-old World and European bronze medallist from Turkey. Despite a 3-2 loss to World number 11 Wassana Sringam from Thailand she progressed to the semi-finals as group winner and a 3-0 win against Flora Vautier from France took her through to the final and a rematch with Oluk.

She started well, taking the first set 11-5 and although Oluk levelled at 1-1 Shackleton regained the upper hand and took the next two sets 11-7 11-5 to secure her fourth singles title this year after winning in the USA, Brazil and Kazakhstan.

“I’m really proud of my efforts here,” said Shackleton. “I’ve been able to execute exactly how I envision I want my game to be and to beat the World number seven twice in one tournament feels great. I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked this season and the changes I’ve made to evolve my game and hopefully I can keep building on this good form in the doubles and we’ll see what happens.”

Women’s class 6

Fliss Pickard lost in four close sets to World number eight Camelia Ciripan, the World bronze medallist from Romania but showed typical determination to come from 2-1 down to beat World number four Katarzyna Marszal, the World and European silver medallist and former World champion from Poland 3-2 and secured her place in the semi-finals with a 3-1 win against Morgen Caillaud, the World number 10 from France.

She produced a superb performance to beat German World number two Stephanie Grebe 3-0 which earned her a rematch against Ciripan in the final. Twice Pickard took the lead only for Ciripan to level and in the deciding set it was Pickard who gained revenge for her earlier defeat by taking it 12-10 and the match 3-2.

“I’m so proud of how I’ve won gold today,” said Pickard. “The way I have conducted myself over these last three tournaments I feel has been very professional. The level of all the girls has been amazing at this tournament, especially Ciripan. Every match has been a huge battle but what has got me through is enjoying the game. I want to say a massive thank you for all the support I have had from everyone here – it’s been incredible – and also to my mum who’s spent two days watching my feet on the edge of the screen during the live stream and listening for me shouting! On to the doubles now to fight again with the warrior herself Bly.”

Women’s class 7 RR

Bly Twomey was a 3-0 winner against 18-year-old Jenny Slettum from Norway and Tiziana Oliv from Germany and recovered from dropping the first set to beat Raushan Orynbayeva from Kazakhstan 3-1. Her last match against this year’s Egypt Open gold medallist Nora Korneliussen was to decide the gold and Twomey was always in command against the European bronze medallist from Norway in a 3-0 win.

“It means a lot to take another gold,” said Twomey, “as it shows how much I am improving. It also shows what you can do at 13 years of age when you’ve only been playing for three years. I think at the start I needed a little boost to get me going but then I think I played really well. It gives me a lot of confidence now for the doubles with Fliss.”

Men’s class 5

Jack Hunter-Spivey lost a five-set battle to Sem Roelofs in Spain earlier this month and the 26-year-old from the Netherlands edged a tight fourth set 14-12 to record a second win against the Commonwealth champion 3-1. Hunter-Spivey then showed all his character and determination to come back from 2-0 down against Nicolas Savant-Aira and beat the World number nine and former European champion from France 3-2.

He progressed to the quarterfinals as group runner-up and came through another five-set battle against World number five Mitar Palikuca, edging the deciding set 14-12 after the former World and Paralympic medallist had levelled at 2-2 to record a first victory over the Serbian since 2014.

In the semi-final he faced his great friend and former World and Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug and the World number three from Norway was at his best in a 3-0 win.

“I’m pleased with the way I bounced back to get two good wins against Savant-Aira and Palikuca,” said Hunter-Spivey. “A lot was on the line with qualification, and I’m really pleased with the way I’ve come through this tournament after not the greatest of starts. To be fair to Tommy he played really well today, and I just struggled to be at the races after such a big win against Palikuca. Overall, I’m very happy with my performance and I live to fight another day.”

Men’s class 6

Martin Perry was beaten 3-0 by 21-year-old World number five Ignacio Torres Orostica, the Para PanAmerican Games silver medallist from Chile but progressed to the quarterfinals after a 3-0 win against Takuro Chihara, the Asian Para Games bronze medallist from Japan who had beaten Perry at the US Open earlier this year.

He led 2-0 against Matias Pino Lorca and took the deciding set 11-7 after the World number 11 from Chile had taken a tight third set 12-10 and fought back to level at 2-2. Perry produced another fighting performance against the World number one Peter Rosenmeier, leading 2-1 before the former World and Paralympic champion from Denmark levelled at 2-2 and went on to take the deciding set 11-7.

“Every match has been really difficult,” said Perry. “Beating Chihara 3-0 gave me a lot of momentum going into the quarterfinal against Pino Lorca. We’ve always had really tough matches in the past and to be leading 2-0 and then having it come back to 2-2, I was understandably very nervous, but I stuck to the way I wanted to play and tried to play as positively as possible, and I was really proud to get over the line.

“Against Rosenmeier I got off to a flyer and the fifth set was quite tight. He showed why he is the world number one but I feel that I showed I’m not far behind that standard, so I was really pleased with how I played. After the match he said to me ‘you’re a world class player and that was a tremendous match’, so to get a compliment like that from the best in the world was a very nice feeling.”

Paul Karabardak was a 3-0 winner against Trevor Hirth, the former Oceania champion from Australia and then lost a close five-set battle with Pino Lorca. He also went through to the quarterfinals where he was just edged out 11-9 in the fifth set by Torres Orostica.

Men’s class 9

In only his second tournament since being reclassified from class eight Ross Wilson started with a 3-1 win against David Pulpan from Czechia and was impressive in beating World number 10 Koyo Iwabuchi, the Asian Para Games silver medallist and former World medallist from Japan 3-0. A 3-1 win against Talgat Erekeyev from Kazakhstan secured top place in his group and a bye into the semi-finals where he lost 3-1 to Liu Chaodong from China, the Asian Para Games bronze medallist.

“Overall, the singles was OK,” said Wilson. “I had a good time in my group, and I was proud of myself and the way I played. I’ve had a big period in the last few months with university and training and I’ve worked really hard and given it everything. It wasn’t my day in the semi-final – I lost to a Chinese player who has played well here - but I tried my hardest and hopefully I can improve moving forward.”

Ashley Facey started well against World number seven Lucas Didier but a tight third set proved decisive with the 20-year-old World and European bronze medallist from France taking it 13-11 on his way to a 3-1 win. A 3-0 win against Hayuma Abe, the Asian Para Games doubles silver medallist from Japan kept Facey in contention but he did not progress after a 3-0 loss to World number 12 Juan Perez Gonzalez, the former World and European medallist from Spain.

At 2-0 Joshua Stacey looked to be in control of his opening match in Group 3 against Jan Reinig but the 25-year-old German came back to win 3-2. Stacey lost 3-1 to European bronze medallist and former World team gold medallist Daniel Gustafsson from Sweden and although he finished on a winning note when beating Liu Chaodong 3-2 the Welshman lost out on a place in the knockout stages on countback.