Buckinghamshire teenager Shae Thakker has won class 10 singles gold in the Para table tennis events at the European Universities Games 2022 in Poland. Scotsman Ryan Henry took silver in class 8 and Cornwall’s Joe Crouse took bronze in class 9.
The three British Para Table Tennis Pathway athletes are part of the largest ever delegation of British universities (251) competing in the Games that are taking place in the Polish city of Lodz from July 17-30. They are the first British Para athletes to compete in the Games, which are the flagship event of EUSA (European University Sport Association) and take place every two years in different European cities. Over 6000 athletes from over 46 countries are competing in 20 sports, making the European Universities Games the biggest multisport academic event in Europe.
Thakker, 18, from High Wycombe, who is studying Psychology (BSc) at the University of Sheffield, was a comfortable 3-0 winner against Dominik Dendura from Poland and followed that with a 3-0 win against Gevorg Beglaryan from Armenia. He then produced a superb performance to defeat the World number seven and World and European team gold medallist from Poland Igor Misztal 3-2, coming back from 2-1 down to level at 2-2 before taking a tense deciding set 13-11. Thakker secured the gold with a 3-0 win in his final match against Wioletta Bator from Poland.
“Playing the European Universities Games has been a fantastic experience,” he said. “I am really proud to come away with a gold medal for my university. I’ve lost to Misztal quite a few times and to beat him 3-2 is definitely the best win of my career so far. I will take a lot of positives from this tournament and hopefully use the confidence I have in future events. I must also thank BPTT and Shaun (Marples, Pathway Manager) for taking us to this event. It’s been a really enjoyable experience.”
Henry, 22, from Ardrossan, who is studying Sports Coaching and Development at the University of the West of Scotland, was beaten 3-1 by Christian Pablo Pereira Jacobsen from Norway but secured the silver medal with a 3-1 win against another Norwegian Fredrik Johansen.
“I’m happy with how I played,” he said, “and to come home with a silver medal. I’m a bit disappointed that there weren’t as many matches as I’d hoped but it was great to experience a multi-sport Games like this and I’ve enjoyed the experience as a whole.”
Crouse, 19, from Falmouth, who is studying Earth and Planetary Sciences at Imperial College London, had to settle for bronze after losing 3-1 to Kerim Ozay from Turkey 3-1 and 3-0 to Baptiste Guillas from France.
“The EUG has been a really good learning experience for me,” he said, “and I’m very grateful to have been selected. I was disappointed with how I played, particularly as I had performed well in training prior to the matches. Both of my opponents were more skilful in match play and I found it difficult to keep up. Between now and my next tournament I need to play as many matches as I can to improve on the table and I’m looking forward to getting back to training to work on the weaknesses in my game.”