After winning four medals in the singles events the ParalympicsGB table tennis team goes in search of more glory tomorrow when the team events start in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Unlike the singles which began with round-robin groups the team events are knockout rounds from the beginning.
In women’s class 4-5 World and European team medallists Sue Bailey and Megan Shackleton are bidding to win their first Paralympic medals – Bailey in her sixth Paralympics and Shackleton in her first. They start with a quarter-final match against Jordan, who are represented by the class 5 World number two Khetam Abuawad, who took bronze here in the women’s class 5 singles, and Faten Elelimat, the women’s class 4 former two-time World team medallist.
“Me and Sue have been doing some great stuff together over the last few years,” said Shackleton. “It will be a nice experience for Sue to play team event in the Paralympics again and we’ll see what we can do together.”
Men’s class 7 silver medallist Will Bayley and men’s class 6 bronze medallist Paul Karabardak won World and European team medals together before Karabardak moved from class 7 to class 6 in 2015. They are reunited for the first time since then in the men’s class 6-7 team event and their first opponents are Australia, represented by class 7 Jake Ballestrino and class 6 Oceania champion Trevor Hirth.
“Paul is a great player and a great friend of mine,” said Bayley. “We’ve been friends for such a long time and it would be a dream if we could get any kind of medal together. We’re going to give it everything.”
In men’s class 8 Aaron McKibbin, Billy Shilton and Ross Wilson, who all reached the quarter-finals in the singles event, start their bid for a team medal against 2014 World bronze medallists Hungary, represented by the Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist Andras Csonka and former World number two and European medallist Gyula Zborai. McKibbin and Wilson won team bronze in men’s class 6-8 in London and Rio with Bayley while 22-year-old Shilton is making his Paralympic debut.
“We’ve got a fantastic opportunity in the team event,” said McKibbin. “We can compete with the best as we’ve shown.”
Ashley Facey Thompson and Joshua Stacey both achieved good wins in the men’s class 9 singles and join forces in the men’s class 9-10 team event. They have a tough opening last 16 match against the Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallists Spain, represented by the class 9 World and European bronze medallist Juan Perez Gonzalez and the class 10 World number seven and former World champion Jose Manuel Ruiz Reyes.
“We definitely have a chance in team and we’ll be raring to go,” said Stacey.
Performance Director Gorazd Vecko is confident that his players are ready to perform in the team events after achieving the best results ever for the British Para table tennis team at a modern era Paralympic Games.
“We have never won four singles medals before,” he said, “and everyone is really together as a squad and as a family. They are looking forward to the team events starting tomorrow and they know they have all chances to perform very well on the bigger stage in Tokyo. We will see what happens but I think we will be there to compete for medals.”