The doubles events provided two medals for the six-strong British squad at the Montenegro Para Championships in Podgorica with Megan Shackleton combining with class 4 World number two Sandra Mikolaschek from Germany to take bronze in women’s class 10 and Romain Simon taking silver with Aino Tapola, the class 1 World number two from Finland in mixed class 4, his first international medal.
Women’s class 10
Megan Shackleton and Sandra Mikolaschek made a winning 3-0 start against class 4 World number 11 Zorica Popadic and Sanja Bogunovic from Serbia and were then beaten 3-0 by the class 4 Paralympic gold medallist Zhou Ying and class 5 Paralympic gold medallist Zhang Bian from China. They secured their place in the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against Samra Kojic and Slobodanka Guresic from Montenegro and led number one seeds Alexandra Saint Pierre, the class 5 World champion, and Flora Vautier 2-1 before the World bronze medallists from France came back to take the match 3-2.
“It was great playing doubles with Sandra,” said Shackleton. “We played some high-quality table tennis but in the fifth set of the semi-final I think we were just unfortunate to lose a little bit of momentum. Now I’m just excited to take all the things that have been highlighted from my matches here and try to turn it up a gear in Slovenia this week.”
Men’s class 8
Lee York and Romain Simon lost their first match to class 4 World number nine Francisco Lopez Sayago and World team bronze medallist Roberto Rodriguez from Spain 3-0. They started well against Sebastian Vegsund and Iker Gonzalez taking the first set but the Norwegian/Spanish partnership went on to take the match 3-1. The British pair did not progress after a 3-0 loss to Tokyo team bronze medallists Boris Travnicek and Peter Mihalik from Slovakia.
Men’s class 18
In group 3 Ryan Henry and 21-year old unranked Sean Geoghegan from Ireland lost 3-0 to the Asian Youth Para Games bronze medallist Brady Zi Rong Chin and last year’s Al-Watani Para Championships gold medallist Chaoming Chee from Malaysia. They combined well to beat Jose Andres Vargas Torres and Domingo Arguello Garcia from Costa Rica 3-0 and won the first set against the class 8 three-time Paralympic champion Zhao Shuai and three-time Paralympic team gold medallist Lian Hao but the Chinese pair came back to win 3-1.
In group 4 Theo Bishop and Shae Thakker received walkovers in their first two matches - against Tokyo class 8 bronze medallist Peng Weinan and class 10 Asian Championship bronze medallist Mao Shubo from China and Valentin Marinov and Yordan Mitev from Bulgaria. As a result they progressed to the knockout stages despite a 3-2 loss to Ali Makhulbekov and Talgat Erekeeyev from Kazakhstan who twice came back to level and took the deciding set 11-7. In the last 16 Bishop and Thakker faced class 10 World number seven Luka Bakic and Uros Gugolj from Montenegro and although they fought hard and took the third set 12-10 the young British pair lost 3-1.
Mixed class 4
In their first match in the round-robin event Romain Simon and Aino Tapola were just edged out 3-2 by Wang Zhenwen and Yang Zhonghui from China who came back from 2-1 down to win 11-9 in the fifth. They were comfortable 3-0 winners against Madi Imakov from Kazakhstan and Mao Lin from China and secured second place and the silver medal with a 3-0 win against Yerlan Kaziyev from Kazakhstan and Chen Hong from China.
“Lee (York) and I played against two strong pairs and it was our first time playing together so it was like a building block,” said Simon. “We felt we could have won our second game and played really well which set it up for the mixed doubles. Aino is a very experienced player and she really helped me in the first game which went to five sets; she guided me through the process, kept me calm and helped me to be free enough to go for my shots. In our next two matches with the confidence and the chemistry that we had built up we were able to win them 3-0 so that was really positive. It is good to win my first medal and I’m proud of myself for keeping on fighting and being positive. It is something I can build on and hopefully it is the first of many in the future. I’ve just got to practice really hard and keep going and eventually I’ll reap the rewards of the hard work.”
Mixed class 7
Lee York and Marija Martinovic from Croatia class 3 World number 24 lost 3-0 to the class 3 Paralympic gold medallist Feng Panfeng and class 4 Paralympic gold medallist Zhou Ying from China and did not progress after a 3-0 loss to class 4 World bronze medallist 2018 Boris Travnicek from Slovakia and Thais Fraga Severo from Brazil.
Mixed class 17
Theo Bishop and class 10 Tamano Yamazaki from Japan were beaten 3-0 by Tokyo Paralympic class 8 bronze medallist Peng Weinan and class 9 Asian champion Xiong Guiyan from China. They took the first set against Ali Makhulbekov and Altynay Yerzhankyzy from Kazakhstan and edged a tight fourth set 15-13 to level at 2-2 but lost the deciding set 11-8.
Mixed class 20
Following the withdrawal of Shae Thakker and Elena Elli from Italy, Ryan Henry and Gloria Wong Sze, the 18-year-old Asian Youth Para Games champion from Malaysia, took on three pairs from China. They lost 3-0 to Zhao Yi Qing, the class 9 Asian champion and Zhao Xiaojing, the class 10 Asian champion, and then lost in three close sets to Fan Yufei and Hou Chunxiao, the class 10 former Paralympic bronze medallist. They lost their final match against three-time Paralympic team gold medallist Lian Hao and Liu Meng, the class 9 2016 Paralympic champion, 3-0.