Welshman Paul Karabardak won gold in the men’s class 6 singles at the ITTF Polish Para Open in Wladyslawowo without dropping a set and on a good day for the British Para Table Tennis Team there were silver medals for Billy Shilton (men’s class 8), Ashley Facey (men’s class 9) and Grace Williams (women’s class 8), while 13-year-old Bly Twomey won bronze in women’s class 7 in only her second international tournament.
Men’s class 6
Paul Karabardak lost only five points in a 3-0 win against 14-year-old Valters Voicis from Latvia and then lost only three points in beating Wong Hiu Chun, the 19-year-old newcomer from Hong Kong China, 3-0.
As No 1 seed and group winner he received a bye into the semi-finals where he beat another player from Hong Kong China, the former Asian Para Games medallist Choy Hing Lam, 3-0.
In the final, Karabardak played 18-year-old Piotr Manturz from Poland and after taking a close first set 11-9 the Welshman was too strong and took the next two 11-4, 11-7 for another 3-0 win.
“I’m really pleased to win here,” he said. “I think I played well – I enjoyed it and I was relaxed, and I think that made the difference in the end. There were some good matches and I think I made them look easier than they were because they were difficult players, but I managed to come through at the right time and win the sets.
“Overall, I’m really pleased and just looking forward to the next competition and hopefully I can replicate the same level that I’ve been playing here.”
Men’s class 8
Billy Shilton began with a 3-0 win against 21-year-old Alejandro Diaz from Spain and followed that with a 3-0 win against Pablo Jacobsen from Norway, bronze medallist in Finland, Montenegro and France last year.
A 3-0 win against 19-year-old Kamil Kowalski from Poland secured his place in the quarter-finals as group winner and a 3-0 win against the 19-year-old Italian Leonardo Coletta took him through to the semi-finals where he beat Lam Ka Wai from Hong Kong China, silver medallist in the Finland Para Open last year, 3-0.
In the final he lost the first set to world No 3 Piotr Grudzien but took the second to level at 1-1. The 2016 Paralympic bronze medallist from Poland edged the third 13-11 and then took another close set 12-10 to secure the gold 3-1.
“I’m obviously disappointed to have lost in the final but it was a good match,” said Shilton. “There were a few things that I took from Slovenia, and I’ve been working hard in the training hall and in patches it really showed in this tournament so I’m proud of the way I’ve turned that around.
“I started a bit slowly in the final and he played tactically very well but the second set was really good – I came out after a chat with Dave (coach David McBeath) and our tactics worked well and I took that one quite comfortably. The third and fourth sets could have gone either way, but he played really well in the tight points. Overall, I’m happy with silver but still lots to learn and lots to work on in the training hall.”
On his international debut, Welsh teenager Daniel Mead started well against Leonardo Coletta, taking a close first set 12-10 but the Italian took the next three for a 3-1 win. He lost 3-0 to Steffen Salomonsen but pushed the former European Para Youth Games silver medallist from Norway, losing both the second and third sets 13-11. The 14-year-old from Cardiff went out after a 3-0 loss to top seed Piotr Grudzien.
Men’s class 9
Ashley Facey was a comfortable 3-0 winner against 52-year-old Mariusz Matejek from Poland, competing for the first time since 2009, and secured top place in his group with a 3-0 win against Chen Hsien Jue from Chinese Taipei.
He beat Dawid Sowa from Poland, bronze medallist in last year’s Montenegrin Para Championship, 3-1 in the quarter-finals and won his semi-final against Wong Chi Yin, the former Asian Championships and Asian Para Games medallist from Hong Kong China, 3-0.
In the final, Facey could not produce his best against 18-year-old Ander Cepas and the world No 10 from Spain, gold medallist in the Costa Brava Spanish Open in March, was a 3-0 winner.
“I’m happy to get silver but disappointed to lose in the final,” said Facey. “Cepas played really well tactically, and I didn’t really get into the groove of my game and didn’t play well but that’s sport so I’ve got to focus on my next tournament in Czech Republic now and see what I can do there.”
Pathway athlete Joe Crouse lost 3-0 to Ander Cepas and went out at the group stages after a 3-0 loss to Dawid Sowa.
Women’s class 8
Grace Williams started the round-robin event with a comfortable 3-0 win against world No 16 Magdalena Sutkowska Pawlasek from Poland. She was then beaten 3-0 by world No 11 and top seed Nina Reck from Germany and dropped the first set in her final match against Freja Larsen but came back strongly to beat the Danish teenager 3-1 and secure the silver medal.
“I’m really pleased with the silver,” said Williams, “with the wins and the way I recovered from being a set down against Larsen. This tournament has been quite tough for me mentally and I think there are a lot of positives to take from the fact that I wasn’t always playing my best table tennis and yet I still managed to get the results I needed.”
Women’s class 7
Competing for the first time in women’s class 7, Bly Twomey won 3-0 against Chiu Kan Shan from Hong Kong China and was then a 3-0 winner against Mungunzul Bayarbat from Mongolia. She made a great start against Nora Korneliussen, taking the first set before the world No 7 from Norway came back to take the match 3-1.
Twomey progressed to the semi-finals as group runner-up and put up another great performance against world No 2 Kubra Korkut, taking the third set before the world champion from Turkey took the match 11-7 in the fourth.
“My first experience of playing in women’s class 7 has been really memorable,” said Twomey, who trains at Brighton Table Tennis Club with men’s class 7 World champion Will Bayley. “The experience of playing two top 10 players has been great as I feel that I am like them and hope to get there some day.
“I am very happy that I won a medal in my first international as a class 7 because it makes me feel that I could get a gold in the Paralympics in a few years’ time.”
Men’s class 2
Andrew Guy was drawn in a tough group and went out after losing 3-0 to world No 2 Rafal Czuper, the world and Paralympic silver medallist from Poland and 3-0 to Miguel Angel Toledo, the world doubles silver medallist from Spain.
Men’s class 7
Theo Bishop fought back from 2-0 down against Michal Deigsler to level at 2-2 but the Polish world No 12 and former European team bronze medallist used all his experience to take the deciding set 11-4.
Bishop lost 3-0 to Tong Chi Yung, the former Asian Championships team silver medallist from Hong Kong China and did not progress despite a gutsy win in the final match in which he came back from 2-1 down to beat the higher ranked Norwegian Krizander Magnussen 3-2.