Golden finish to Greek Para Open for Perry and McKibbin
Martin Perry and Aaron McKibbin combined to take gold in the men’s class 14 doubles on the final day of the Greek Para Open in Argostoli. Chris Ryan won his second medal of the tournament, taking bronze with Simon Heaps in the men’s class 8 doubles, and fellow Pathway athlete Jack Stockdale combined with Ioana-Monica Tepelea from Romania to take silver in the mixed class 20 doubles.
Men’s class 14
Playing together for only the second time Martin Perry and Aaron McKibbin started the round-robin event with a 3-0 win against Igor Khudyakov and Dastan Kuanyshev from Kazakhstan and were then 3-0 winners against Mario Bastardo and Eurico Silva from Portugal. They received a walkover when Georgios Mouchthis and Marios Chatzikyriakos from Greece withdrew and their final match against Nathan Pellissier and Trevor Hirth from Australia was to decide the gold. Perry and McKibbin took the first set 11-7 but the Australian pair levelled after taking the second 11-8. The British pair edged the third 12-10 and then clinched the match and the gold 11-8 in the fourth.
“It’s nice to be back playing with Martin,” said McKibbin, “and to win gold. As a team we’re all getting ready for the Europeans so it’s nice to try different combinations and keep the winning momentum going. It wasn’t the strongest of events, but I think we worked well together, and it is always a confidence booster going into Slovenia to finish with a gold medal.”
“We’ve played together once before and it’s good to test out a new partnership,” said Perry. “We’ve got the Europeans soon and Slovenia next week so good to finish on a high and get a gold. I think we played quite well together, and I think the partnership has a lot of potential for the future. It wasn’t the strongest of events, but we kept it very professional and did what we had to do to get over the finish line.”
Men’s class 8
Chris Ryan and Simon Heaps began with a 3-1 win against Vitalii Bairamshyn and Ihor Reizner from Ukraine and followed that with a 3-0 win against Ioan Dirlea and Dacian Makszin from Romania. They saved three match points in a tense deciding set against Yerlan Kaziyev and Meiirbek Otepov from Kazakhstan before clinching a 3-2 win on their third match point, 14-12 in the fifth.
That took them through to the semi-finals as group winners where they lost 3-0 to the class 3 world number nine and former European silver medallist Vasyl Petruniv and Pavlo Sahirov from Ukraine.
“Playing with Chris in only his second international Para Open has been a privilege,” said Heaps. “We went into the event not quite knowing what our partnership could bring and after a comfortable first win against a Ukrainian pair my eyes were certainly on a medal. Our last match against Kazakhstan was important because a big defeat would have seen us knocked out and winning the first set guaranteed us a medal, but we wanted the win. At 10-7 down in the fifth we dug deep and Chris pulled two fantastic backhands out of the bag to give us match point and we finally closed it out to top the group undefeated. Unfortunately, our semi-final was one match too far but Chris should be proud of his performance and a second bronze medal in only his second tournament.”
“On reflection I feel really positive,” said Ryan, who also took bronze in the men’s class 2 singles yesterday. “It was a big step for me to get my first international win and although it was disappointing to have lost in the semi-final the French player is really experienced and hopefully I can learn a lot from looking back at the video. The doubles was brilliant as well. Being able to play with someone with Simon’s experience has been so useful. All-in-all a successful tournament for me.” “Chris has had a fantastic competition here,” said British Para Table Tennis Pathway Manager Shaun Marples. “He has done really well embracing the experience and had a great win against the World ranked number 32 from Ukraine. He played great with Simon in the doubles and they worked well together. Winning two bronze medals is a nice way to finish a successful tournament for him.”
Mixed class 20
Jack Stockdale and Ioana-Monica Tepelea, the class 10 world number eight from Romania, beat Max Flint and Elena Elli from Italy, silver medallist in the women’s class 8 singles here, 3-1 and then played a great match to beat Lev Kats and Marharyta Saltanovska from Ukraine 3-1, fighting back after losing the first set 14-12.
That took them through to the semi-finals where they took on Talgat Erekeyev and Altynay Yerzhankyzy from Kazakhstan. Stockdale and Tepelea took the first 11-8, rallied from 6-4 down to take the second 11-6 and secured a 3-0 win 11-8 in the third. Their reward was a place in the final against the World champions Patryk Chojnowski and Natalya Partyka and the Polish pair were just too strong in a 3-0 win.
“I hadn’t played mixed doubles before,” said Stockdale, “and it was a good and different experience. I didn’t really have many expectations which meant I could play with a bit more freedom and I’m very happy to come away with a silver after a difficult singles tournament.”
Max Flint and Elena Elli did not progress after losing 3-0 to Kats and Saltanovska.
Men’s class 18
Ryan Henry and Jack Stockdale lost their opening match 3-0 to World champions Ivan Mai and Lev Kats from Ukraine but progressed to the quarterfinals with a 3-1 win against Merampi Tsanava from Greece and Yehonatan Levi from Israel. They went out after a 3-0 loss to the very strong Polish pair of Patryk Chojnowski and Piotr Grudzien.
Max Flint and Roberto Martinelli from Italy lost 3-0 against Christian Scheiber and Krisztian Gardos from Austria and then beat Alyn Nicolae from Romania and Artyom Vaiman from Kazakhstan 3-1. They did not progress after a 3-0 loss to Chojnowski and Grudzien.
Mixed class 14
Ryan Henry and Eirini Drakonaki from Greece did not progress after losing 3-1 to the Australian Trevor Hirth and Camelia Ciripan from Romania and 3-0 to the Belgian/Greek partnership of Ben Despineux and Maria Kaipi.