Paul Karabardak

Date and place of birth: 03/10/1985, Swansea
Home town: Swansea
Lives: Swansea
Family: Mum Helen, brother Huseyin, nephew Mason
TT Class: 6
Current world ranking: 4
TT Style: All-round
International debut: 2001, Frankfurt
Major titles: European team champion 2017/2019

In brief:

Welshman Paul made his international debut in 2001 and won team medals with Will Bayley at World and European level as a class 7 athlete. Since being reclassified as a class 6 in 2015 he has won European singles bronze in 2015, European team gold in 2017 and 2019 and World team bronze in 2017. Tokyo was his fourth Paralympic Games and he won his first Paralympic medals, taking bronze in the men’s class 6 singles and silver with Will Bayley in the men’s class 6-7 team event.

Paul’s story:

Paul was a keen footballer until he suffered a massive stroke at the age of ten and was subsequently introduced to table tennis at a local disabled youth club. “As I could no longer play football I felt lost without sport and bored with nothing to do,” recalls Paul. "My mum found out about a club for disabled people called Friends of the Young Disabled. One day I started playing table tennis and just loved it. I went to a local sports shop and bought a table tennis bat, case and a few balls and started playing three times a week. I enjoy table tennis because it's great fun, really challenging mentally and physically and it is a sport anyone can enjoy.”

Not only did table tennis provide him with a new sport but it also proved to be an important part of his rehabilitation.

“A big thing for my recovery was weight-bearing exercise to get weight through my bad leg so to be on my feet playing table tennis - and to be stepping on to my left leg and putting a lot of weight through it - definitely got my legs better. I also think it was great exercise because I was playing three times a week so physically it played a big part in my recovery and in getting me as fit and ambulant as I could be after suffering a stroke.

Within two years Paul was playing for the local Swansea League and progressed through the leagues before being selected to play for the GB Para Table Tennis Team at the age of 16 in the European Championships, winning a team bronze medal.

Someone who influenced Karabardak in the early stages of his career was Paralympic gold medallist and fellow Welshman Neil Robinson, now a coach with the British team.

“Neil was fantastic for me as a player,” he said, “because he was also in the same league in Swansea. He was in a higher division but I watched him a lot; being such a fantastic player himself he has been great for me to look up to and made me want to be as good as I can, so I was lucky to have him around.”

Having just missed out on qualification for the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004, Karabardak achieved his ambition of competing in a Paralympics in Beijing four years later.

“I’d seen players going to Paralympics and it was definitely something I wanted to do so to finally qualify and get selected made me really happy. I think I played really well; it was a tough group in Beijing as only one player qualified for the knockout stages and I lost a very close match to Jordi Morales. It was really good to go to Beijing because there is no better experience than to go to a Paralympics when you are quite young.”

Although Paul enjoyed being part of ParalympicsGB at London 2012 he admits to being disappointed that he did not progress beyond the group stages of the competition. “London2012 was an amazing experience in terms of the crowds, Paralympic village, venues and competition,” he says, “but in terms of performance I didn't play anywhere near the standard I can or wanted to.”

In 2013 Paul picked up medals in Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia and represented GB in the European Championships in Italy, taking a bronze in the men’s class 7 team event with Will Bayley.  He then went to the US Open in San Diego in December and produced his best table tennis of the year to take the gold medal in the men’s class 7 singles, beating former Paralympic champion Mitchell Seidenfeld of the USA in the final, and then combined with Beijing and London Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert from Germany to win the men’s class 6-7 team event.

In 2014 Paul won team gold in Slovenia and team silver in Italy and Slovakia and then achieved one of his ambitions when he combined with Will Bayley to win a bronze medal in the men’s 6-7 team event at the World Championships in China.

At the start of the 2015 season Paul was reclassified as a class 6 athlete and he took gold in the singles in Hungary and Slovenia and silver in Italy.  He reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in Denmark, losing a very close match to the reigning European and former World and Paralympic champion Peter Rosenmeier, who was supported by an enthusiastic home crowd.

Paul then combined with new team partner David Wetherill to take silver in the team event after losing in the final to Denmark and went in to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio hoping to win his first Paralympic medal. However, on a hot and humid day in Riocentro3 he was unable to produce his best and was very disappointed to go out of the men’s class 6 singles at the group stages after losing both of his matches 3-2.

In 2017 Paul was part of the men’s class 6 team that won bronze in the World Team Championships and then came from 2-0 down to win the singles match that secured gold for GB in the men’s class 6 team event at the European Championships in Slovenia.

Paul’s preparations for the World Championships in 2018 were hampered by a wrist injury and he was very disappointed to go out in the group stages after losses to European bronze medallist Bobi Simion from Romania and Kazuki Shichino from Japan.

In 2019 Paul produced his best form at the Slovenia Open, beating the World and Paralympic champion Peter Rosenmeier from Denmark and World number four Hong Kyu Park from Korea on his way to taking silver in the men’s class 6 singles and although disappointed to lose in the quarter-finals at the European Championships he went on to win gold again in the team event.

In 2021 Paul won his first Paralympic medals at his fourth Paralympic Games, taking bronze in the men’s class 6 singles and then combining with old team partner Will Bayley to take silver in the men’s class 6-7 team event. They reached the final with a dramatic and emotional win against Spain in the semi-finals when Paul beat the class 6 World number one Alvaro Valera for the first time.

“I don’t think I could have dreamt of two medals,” he said. “Coming into it I just wanted to play well in the singles and try my best and try to get out of the group which I’d never done before at a Paralympics. That would have been enough for me, so to push on and get the bronze medal - I couldn’t have imagined that in my wildest dreams. To do it having had the wins I’ve had makes it even more special. I didn’t know if I would ever get a Paralympic medal because you just don’t know if time is running out so to win two medals is really special and I never thought I could have done that before the Games started.”

Paul is in no doubt what sport brings to his life. “It gives you a chance to see the world, make amazing friends and be the absolute best you can be. Our disability is the shackles and chains that imprison us; sport is what sets us free.”

Take 5 with Paul:

Most admired sportsman - Sir Chris Hoy

Sporting event you would most like a ticket for - Swansea v Cardiff

Three famous people you would most like to have a drink with - The Rock, Johnny Depp, David Beckham

Three words that describe you best- funny, laid-back, quiet

Hobbies - football (Swansea City), movies, walking my dog Teddi, music, TV and playing on my PS3

and finally - Paul’s superstition means he never shaves during a competition

2021 Results:

Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s singles (class 6); silver, men’s teams (class 6-7)

2019 Results:

Dutch Open – silver, men’s singles (class 6)

European Championships, Sweden – gold, men’s teams (class 6); QF, men’s singles (class 6)

Slovenia Open – silver, men’s singles (class 6); QF, men’s teams (class 6)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – QF, men’s singles (class 6); gold, men’s teams (class 6)

2018 Results

World Championships, Slovenia – group stages, men’s singles (class 6)

Slovenian Open – silver, men’s teams (class 6); QF, men’s singles (class 6)

British Championships – gold, men’s singles (class 6)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, men’s singles (class 6); bronze, men’s teams (class 6)

2017 Results:

Belgian Open – gold, men’s singles (class 6)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – gold, men’s teams (class 6); group stages, men’s singles (class 6)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – bronze, men’s teams (class 6); QF, men’s singles (class 6)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – bronze, men’s class 6

Lignano Master Open, Italy – gold, men’s singles (class 6)

2016 Results:

Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - group stages, men’s singles (class 6)

Slovenia Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 6); last 16, men’s singles (class 6)

British Championships – gold, men’s singles (class 6)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (class 6); silver, men’s teams (class 6)

2015 Results:

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - bronze, men’s singles (class 6); silver, men’s teams (class 6)

Slovakia Open - QF men’s singles (class 6); QF men’s teams (class 6)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s singles (class 6); QF men’s teams (class 6)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s singles (class 6); 4th men’s teams (class 6)

Hungarian Open - gold, men’s singles (class 6); gold, men’s teams (class 6-7)

2014 Results:

World Championships, Beijing, China - bronze medal, men’s teams (class 6-7); group stages, men’s singles (class 7)

Slovakia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 7); QF men’s singles (class 7)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s teams (class 7); last 16 men’s singles (class 7)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 6-7); group stages, men’s singles (class 7);

Career Highlights:

2021:    Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s singles (class 6); silver, men’s teams (class 6-7)

2019:    Dutch Open – silver, men’s singles (class 6)

European Championships, Sweden – gold, men’s teams (class 6); QF, men’s singles (class 6)

Slovenia Open – silver, men’s singles (class 6)

2018:    British Championships – gold, men’s singles (class 6)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, men’s singles (class 6)

2017:    Belgian Open – gold, men’s singles (class 6)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – gold, men’s teams (class 6)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – bronze, men’s class 6

2015:    European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - bronze, men’s singles (class 6); silver, men’s teams (class 6)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s singles (class 6)

Hungarian Open - gold, men’s singles (class 6); gold, men’s teams (class 6-7)

2014:    World Championships, Beijing, China - bronze medal, men’s teams (class 6-7)

Slovenia Open - gold, men’s teams (class 7)

2013:    US Open, San Diego - gold, men’s singles (class 7); gold, men’s teams (class 6-7)

European Championships, Lignano, Italy - bronze, men’s teams (class 7)

2011:    European Championships, Split, Croatia - silver, men’s teams (class 7)

2009:    European Championships, Genoa, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (class 7)

2001:    European Championships, Frankfurt, Germany - bronze, men’s teams (class 7)