Young guns look for gold in French Riviera

London 2012 Paralympians Kim Daybell (class 10) and Ross Wilson (class 8) are among a team of ten young players who will be representing GB in the Cote d’Azure 2014 International Para table tennis tournament in Hyères les Palmiers next week (October 23-26).

Kim Daybell 6 Daybell, 22, a Leeds University medical student from Sheffield, impressed at the World Championships in China last month and will be looking to build on that performance in France.

“I feel the World Championships was a big stepping stone for me,” said Daybell. “By making the quarter finals and only losing to the world number one and two I proved to myself that I can compete with the best players in the world and it has given me belief that I can go on and achieve in Rio in two years’ time. Since the Worlds I have been training hard to compete well in France and although it has been difficult as I have resumed my studies I think I have now reached a stage where I can manage study and training in a productive way.”

Ross Wilson action 5 2014Sheffield based Wilson, from Minster in Kent, will be competing internationally for the first time since winning a bronze medal in the team event at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the 19 year old is understandably happy to be back in action after two years on the side-lines due to a shoulder injury.

“Although I haven’t been able to train full time I’ve still been putting in a lot of work in the gym and on the technical aspects of my game,” said Wilson, “and that has improved me a lot as a player even though I wasn’t able to play. It’s been quite hard mentally getting back into full time training but I’ve put in a lot of hours in the training hall and I’ve played a couple of national able bodied competitions so I’m looking forward to getting out there. I’m ready for it and I’ll enjoy it.”

Also competing in France will be two more members of the GB Performance Squad – 19 year old Sheffield based Londoner Ashley Facey-Thompson (class 9) and Megan Shackleton, 15, from Todmorden (class 4) – together with GB Pathway squad members Daniel Bullen, 16, from St Neots (class 5), Tom Matthews, 22, from Aberdare (class 1), Martin Perry, 20, from Paisley (class 6) and Billy Shilton, 16, from Stonehouse in Gloucestershire (class 7). The team is completed by two self-funded players – Craig Allen from Birmingham (class 9) and Rajan Waterhouse from Bristol (class 10).

Posted in GB

World Championships Beijing Blog #13

Sunday, September 14: It’s our last day in China and as we have no more matches to play it’s another leisurely start before we make our way to the competition hall for Will and Paul’s medal ceremony which is scheduled for 12.30. Rather bizarrely the company that has sponsored the water at the championships has suddenly decided to set up a stand in the reception area of the sports hall. Did someone in the marketing department get the dates wrong?

Some of the team including Will and Paul are already there watching the men’s class 6-7 final between Spain and Ukraine. Morales has beaten Nikolenko and Valera has beaten Popov so despite the Ukraine pair winning the doubles they are 1-2 down and Nikolenko is 0-2 against Valera. But the class 7 world number one is determined to take gold in the team having had to settle for silver in the singles and comes back with some great play to win the match 3-2 and level the tie.

The final match between Morales and Popov also goes the distance and at 9-9 in the fifth Gorazd says to Will: “If you were Morales where would you serve to Popov now?”

“Short and to his forehand,” says Will and Gorazd nods approvingly. Morales does just that and forces an error from Popov and when Popov hits an attempted winner into the net it is all over and Spain have won. The Spanish team jump to their feet and Morales falls to the floor before leaping into the arms of his coach. It’s a great win for Spain and a tough loss for Ukraine who were definitely favourites to take the gold but that’s the wonderful uncertainty of sport.

20140914_133049We all head to the warm-up hall where the tables have now been cleared away for the medal ceremony and cheer Will and Paul as they receive their well-deserved medals. It’s a nice way to end our World Championships and we are heading back to the UK tonight. There is just time for one last trip to Starbucks before we have to pack and get everyone on the bus for the airport.

Farewell from Beijing – it’s been emotional.

World Championships Beijing Blog #12

Saturday, September 13: It’s day six of the World Championships and a leisurely start for most as we only have Will and Paul in action today and their semi-final against Ukraine does not start until 12.00. At 11.45 the warm-up hall is almost deserted as the players for the 12.00 matches are all in the call area. Will and Paul were due to be on table 5 but the 10.00 women’s match between Russia and the Ukraine is still in progress so they have been moved to table 7 and at 12.00 they enter the competition hall. All the team are here to support them and we know they have a mountain to climb against the class 7 number one and number three in the world.

20140913_120124Paul is first up against Nikolenko and the world number one looks as if he means business racing through the first set 11-5. But Paul starts to play well in the second set and a great forehand gives him the lead at 6-5. At 7-6 after a long rally Nikolenko cannot deal with another great forehand from Paul and he moves to 8-6 and goes on to take the set 11-9.

In front of us Mykhaylo Popov is doing some stretching exercises and Will is walking up and down – they will be playing the second singles. It’s noisy in the hall as the French are singing and the Polish are blowing their horns – it’s amazing that table tennis players can concentrate when there is so much noise and it’s hard to imagine Djokovic or Nadal playing a Grand Slam final in the same atmosphere.

Nikolenko clearly has a point to prove today and he takes the third set 11-5 and despite some brave play from Paul he loses the fourth set 8-11 and Ukraine take a 1-0 lead. The reaction of Nikolenko at the end of the match shows his relief at winning the first leg and Paul pushed him all the way.

Nikolenko and Popov have a score to settle with Will having both lost to him in the singles and Will skips around the table trying to convince the Ukrainians that he is not as tired as we all know he is. The first few points are shared but then Popov, who is twice the size of Will, starts unleashing some of his powerful shots and he takes the first set 11-5. After so many tough matches this week can Will summon any more reserves of energy?

20140913_122648-1He comes out fighting at the start of the second and a loud “Cho!” when he wins the first point tells everyone that he is still up for this. As Will moves to 6-0 Popov looks over at his bench in disbelief and Will goes on to finish off the set 11-5 with a great winner. A case of ‘anything you can do…’.

Into the third set and a forehand winner from Will flies past Popov and takes him to 2-0 but Popov comes back to take the next two points. He gives a shout of frustration when an attempted forehand hits the top of the net and flies long and Will comes back to level again but at 7-7 he finds the net and Gorazd calls a time out. Will loses the next point but then pressures Popov into a series of errors and he has the third set 11-9

At 1-1 in the fourth Rob starts up a chant of “Let’s Go GB, Let’s Go!” and Will responds with some brilliant play and clenches his fist as another winner takes him to 8-5. At 9-6 a great rally ends with an error from Popov and at match point down he serves into the net and Will takes the set 11-6 and the match 3-1 to level the tie. A great effort from Will and Popov returns to his bench with a look that says: “What could I do?”

We all know that the doubles is going to be crucial. Will and Paul have come so close to beating Nikolenko and Popov on a number of occasions but it will take a massive effort and a bit of luck on our side.

At 8-7 in the first set Lady Luck appears to be supporting Ukraine as a shot from Popov hits the top of the net and just drops over: 8-8. On the next point a shot from Nikolenko does exactly the same thing and suddenly we are 8-9 and a forehand winner from Nikolenko takes the first set for Ukraine.

The next set is all Ukraine and despite some great winners from both Will and Paul we lose it 5-11. We know our boys won’t give up and they make a good start to the third set moving quickly into a 6-2 lead. Although Ukraine reduce the deficit to one point Will and Paul hold on and take the set 11-8. Another good start to the fourth gives them a 4-0 lead and they keep the advantage all the way through with some great play to take the set 11-6 and level the match at 2-2.

A brave comeback but can they finish it off and finally beat the Ukraine pair? A glance to the next-door table tells us that in the other semi-final Keli Liao has match point against Jordi Morales to level the tie for China against Spain but to be honest at the moment if you are British who cares?

20140913_125851A winner from Nikolenko takes Ukraine to 3-1 and he attempts to show that he is full of energy by bouncing on his toes as he waits to receive serve. At 4-1 down Gorazd calls a time out and although Will and Paul lose the next point they come back to 4-5 and it is now time for the Ukraine coach to call a time out. At 4-6 a brilliant rally and an amazing winner from Will has us all on our feet and another cry of “Let’s Go GB!” goes out. Rob is leading the cheering for us and one of the watching Ukraine team calls out something which could have been “Let’s Go Ukraine, Let’s Go!” but unfortunately our grasp of Ukrainian is also sadly lacking.

Some confusion over who should be serving next halts the momentum and appears to distract Will and Paul and the end of the match is something of an anti-climax as Ukraine take the next five points to secure the win 3-2 and take a 2-1 lead in the semi-final.

It’s a disappointing end to what was a great match and we all know that the mountain has just become Everest. Will now has to beat Nikolenko to keep the tie alive – after the disappointment of the doubles does he have any reserves of energy left?

20140913_133144At 2-5 in the first set we fear that this is going to be one match too many for Will but some great defence and clever play gets him back level at 9-9. An error from Nikolenko gives Will a set point at 11-10 but Nikolenko saves it and goes on to take the set 14-12. The effort appears to have drained Will and Nikolenko takes the second 11-6 but Will is a fighter as well as a champion and at 10-6 he has four points to win the third. Nikolenko recovers the deficit and has match points at 12-11 and then 13-12 but Will is fighting for his life and a great rally gives him another set point at 15-14 which he converts when Nikolenko fires his shot into the net.

Somehow Will is still in the match and when he takes an 8-4 lead in the fourth we dare to hope that he can complete another remarkable comeback. But he is clearly running on pure adrenalin now and after a tired shot at 7-5 he bounces on his toes a few times trying to tell himself he can still do this. At 8-8 Gorazd calls a time out but it is the last throw of the dice and Nikolenko takes the next three points and the match.

Will has given everything but it was in the end one match too far. So our World Championships are over but the boys have done us proud and have a well-deserved bronze medal. We all troop out of the competition hall for the last time and head back to the accommodation block. Will and Paul will be back tomorrow for the medal ceremony and we will all be there to give them a cheer.

For now it is time to relax and take a trip to the famous Silk Street market in Beijing. Hopefully we can pick up some bargains but we will not find anything as valuable as the four medals our talented team have won this week.

Posted in GB

Bronze for Bayley and Karabardak in World team event

Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak have taken a bronze medal in the men’s class 6-7 team event at the 2014 ITT Para Table Tennis World Championships in Beijing after a battling performance against Ukraine which they eventually lost 1-3.

Karabardak was first to play singles against world number one Maksym Nikolenko and after losing the first set he came back to take the second and pushed the Ukrainian all the way in a 1-3 loss. Bayley then levelled the tie with a 3-1 win over the European champion Mykhaylo Popov, recovering from the loss of the first set to take the next three 5, 9 and 6.

20140913_131141The doubles was always going to be crucial and Ukraine made the better start – taking the first two sets and seeming to be in control. However, the GB pair came back fighting and took the next two to level the match but despite some great play in the fifth they could not quite sustain their effort and Ukraine took the match 3-2 and a 2-1 lead in the tie.

It was then up to Bayley to keep British hopes alive by beating Nikolenko in a repeat of the singles final earlier in the week. After so many tough matches Bayley was clearly exhausted but fought hard all the way saving match points in the third set and when he took an 8-4 lead in the fourth it looked as if he might stage another remarkable comeback. But it was not to be as the tall Ukrainian used all his power to hit some fierce winners and took the set 11-8 and the match 3-1.

“Popov is world number three and a real quality player,” said Bayley, “he medalled in the singles in 2012 and here so it was good to get that win. To take them to the fifth in the doubles was a great effort and a great comeback – in the fifth set it didn’t quite work out for us but I’m sure one day we will beat them in doubles. We’re not far away.

wbayleybio“It was nearly impossible to then come back and play Nikolenko. It was a real body blow to lose the doubles. Me and Paul both knew that the doubles was absolutely key – if we’ve any chance to win that match we’ve got to win the doubles and it’s very difficult to play another match when you’ve just lost the most crucial match of all. I tried to pick myself up. I didn’t start very well but it could have gone either way – it was very tight and at 8-4 up in the fourth I should finish that set off and then in the fifth I’d have fancied myself to win it but that’s table tennis and we’re proud of the effort we put in – we never gave up.

“I’m not going to complain – I’m world champion and I’m really proud to get a second medal in the team because I’m delighted for Paul. I’ve said all along that I really wanted to get a medal here with Paul in a World championship – it’s an amazing achievement and I still think we can improve as a doubles pair which I hope we’re going to work on in future.”

“I thought I played well against Nikolenko,” said Karabardak, “and I did myself better justice than when I played him in the singles as I didn’t really have a chance against him when I played him then. But to push him all the way and to make him work for the win was really good.

“I think it would have been hard to get silver or gold here – I think bronze was realistic although we could have done a bit better but I’m really pleased as this is my first World championship medal and it’s really special because I’ve won almost everything apart from a World medal and a Paralympic medal so just one more to go now and I’ve got the whole set.”

GB Performance Director was delighted with his team’s performance in Beijing. “I think these World Championships have been great for us – we were without Ross Wilson and Paul Davies here which would have made us stronger but the programme is not depending on one or two players – we have a lot of players in different classes who are medalling now. We have four medals – one gold, two silvers and a bronze. After London I said I wanted to change the colour of the medals in Rio and we have done it even quicker in the World championships and I will always say it is more difficult to take a medal in the World championships than the Paralympics because you have more players here. Also we have other players who didn’t medal but put up a great performance and have competed against the top players in the world who will be in Rio and I think with more training they could also be world class.”

 

World Championships Beijing Blog #11

Friday, September 12: We wake to the sound of the grass being mown outside. After more rain in the night the complex is shrouded in mist and it is very still and quiet as we head over to the sports hall for the start of the day’s competition.

Matt calls a time out in Aaron's singles

Matt calls a time out in Aaron’s singles

Our first match is Kim and Aaron against Japan. This is a must win match for the boys if they are to keep their hopes of going through from the group alive and Aaron starts well against the class 9 Koyo Iwabuchi to take a 2-0 lead. The Japanese number two comes back to take the next two sets and then goes 4-1 up in the third. Matt calls time out and it seems to work as Aaron starts to inch his way back into the set.

There is a great buzz in the hall – the Polish horns are blowing and Spain are taking on Indonesia on the table next to our match accompanied by cries of “Vamos!” from the Spanish.

At 6-9 Aaron is two points from defeat but he responds brilliantly and a good serves takes him to 8-9. Time out for Japan but it works in Aaron’s favour as he takes the next two points and has match point at 10-9. His attempted winner just misses the table and there is a shout and a fist pump from Iwabuchi but his joy is short-lived as he then mishits the ball high into the air and Aaron has another match point.

Aaron goes long: 11-11. Iwabuchi misses his return: 12-11 and match point number three which is saved by Iwabuchi when he catches the edge of the table: 12-12. Iwabuchi nets: 13-12 and match point number four which is saved by Iwabuchi but a great forehand from Aaron gives him 14-13 and match point number five. He goes long with his forehand but a missed return from Iwabuchi gives him match point number six: 15-14. Aaron goes long again but a great serve gives him 16-15 and match point number seven.

Aaron wins the first singles on his eighth match point

Aaron wins the first singles on his eighth match point

We can hardly bear to watch now – it is so true that the last point is always the hardest to win and as each match point goes by the tension builds.

Aaron goes long again – 16-16. Aaron wins a great rally when Iwabuchi nets and sets up match point number eight. Come on Aaron! YES! Aaron blocks his return and Iwabuchi goes long and Aaron has the set 18-16 and the match 3-2. A great win for him and the perfect start for GB.

Only the first match of the day and already our nerves are in tatters. Thankfully Kim always looks in control against Nariaki Kakita and beats the Japanese number one 3-0. In the doubles the boys take the first two sets 8 and 8 and although Japan briefly threaten at the start of the third a great shot by Kim gives them the lead at 5-4 and they pull away to take the set 11-7, the match 3-0 and the tie 3-0.

It’s a great result but on the table in the far corner of the hall Poland are playing Ukraine and to everyone’s surprise the class 8 world champion Didukh is 2-1 up against the class 10 world champion Patryk Chojnowski who has not lost a match since 2011. We watch as Didukh completes a famous victory and Ukraine go on to beat Poland 3-2. It is not a good result for Aaron and Kim who will play Ukraine this afternoon – even if they beat Ukraine progression from the group will depend on count-back now.

At 12.00 we have two matches to follow as Will and Paul take on Spain and Sara and Jane do battle with Croatia. Paul starts for GB against the class 6 world number one Alvaro Valera and makes a great start by taking the first set 11-8 but Jane is slower out of the blocks and is 1-0 down to world number four Andela Muzinic.

Valera is a great player and he comes back to take the second 11-7; meanwhile Jane is also fighting back and wins the second set against Muzinic 12-10. Paul leads 7-3 in the third but is pegged back by Valera who takes the set 11-9 when Paul’s shot finds the net and the Spaniard goes on to take the fourth set 11-3 and the match 3-1. First blood to Spain.

Meanwhile Jane has had a point to take the third at 10-9 but has lost the set 11-13 and she goes on to lose the fourth and the match 3-1 and Croatia take an early advantage.

Will looks sharp today and after taking a close first set against Morales 11-9 takes the next two 3 and 7 to level the tie for GB.

Sara loses the first set against Helena Dretar 8-11 but shouts in celebration when she takes the second 11-9. The third goes the way of the Croatian 11-7 but Sara is in determined mood and takes control of the fourth set to win it 11-6. All square and all to play for. The fifth is close and Sara has a match point at 10-9 but Dretar saves it with a great shot and goes on to take the set 12-10 and the match 3-2. The girls are 2-0 down and will need another great comeback to save this one.

Will and Paul are now involved in a tense battle with Valera and Morales. Paul fires a shot down the middle of the table to clinch the first set for GB 11-9 but a great shot from Morales wins the second set for Spain 12-10. Our boys combine really well in the third and win it 11-5 raising our hopes but luck deserts them in the fourth as at 9-9 Valera’s return hits the top of the net and just drops over giving Spain a set point which they take to level the match at 2-2.

So we have another fifth set decider and it is level-pegging all the way to 7-7 when the Spanish duo moves to 10-8 giving them two match points. Morales goes long on the first but on the second a shot from Valera once again clips the net and drops over and the Spanish take the match 3-2 and lead the tie 2-1.

Jane and Sara are one set down in their doubles but have a point to win the second and take it 11-9.

20140912_140040

Class 6 world champion against class 7 world champion

Will against Valera – class 7 world champion against class 6 world champion. Will starts well and takes the first 11-8 but the second is much closer and a shout from Will shows his relief at winning the second 12-10. There is a great rally in the third during which at one point Will has his back to the table but he recovers to win it and goes on to take the set 11-9 and the match 3-0.

The girls are fighting hard and having lost the third set 9-11 have come back to win the fourth 11-7 so we have yet another fifth set. This one is close and there is never more than a couple of points in it but Jane and Sara show their character by clinching it 11-9 and they are still in with a chance of winning the tie.

At this point one of the Japanese coaches takes up a position in the middle of our group on the seating to film the match between Japan and Hong Kong and we are treated to what we presume to be a running commentary of the match (our Japanese is not up to speed) which is only mildly irritating.

As so often in Will and Paul’s matches against Spain it is down to the final singles and Morales makes the best start taking the first set 11-3. Paul isn’t giving up and is unlucky at 9-9 when Morales gets an edge but anything on the table counts and Morales goes on to take the set 11-9. The third set starts well for Spain but Paul recovers to level at 6-6. At 6-8 at the end of a great rally another shot from Morales hits the side edge of the table and we can only feel sympathy for Paul as he goes on to lose the set 11-6 and the match.

It’s been a great battle and the boys now have to pick themselves up for this afternoon’s match against the Czech Republic which they must win now to progress from the group.

Sara is keeping our hopes alive by taking the first set against Muzinic but loses a close second 9-11. She takes a 6-2 lead in the third but Muzinic comes back and edges it 11-8 and the world number four then increases the pressure on Sara in the fourth to take the set 11-6 and the match 3-1 and win the tie for Croatia.

It is a massive disappointment for the girls who must come back this afternoon against France but their chance of a medal has gone.

An hour later we are back for the vital match in the men’s class 9-10 event between GB and Ukraine. Aaron starts against Yurty Shchepanskyy and after his heroics this morning he starts well taking a 7-3 lead but the Ukrainian comes back strongly to take the set 11-9. Aaron is up again in the second and fights hard but Shchepanskyy edges it 12-10 and then runs away with the third 11-1 to win the first match for Ukraine.

20140912_164510

Kim plays superbly to beat class 8 world champion Didukh

After beating Chojnowski this morning Didukh has a look of supreme confidence and takes the first set against Kim 11-4. At 2-5 down in the second Matt calls a time out but when Kim loses the next two points it is looking ominous. But Kim wins the next point and the next and suddenly he is playing well and putting Didukh under pressure and at 10-7 he has three set points. Didukh saves the first but Kim takes the set 11-8.

The third is neck and neck all the way and Kim is winning some great rallies. He reaches 10-9 and only needs one point to take the set and a 2-1 lead. Didukh was a good able bodied player before losing his leg to cancer and he uses all his skill to run away with the fourth set 11-2 and take a 4-2 lead in the fifth. But Kim levels and then takes the lead at 8-7 with a fantastic rally, turning superb defence into a blistering attack to which Didukh has no answer. Two points later Didukh goes long to give Kim two match points and he only needs one when the Ukrainian under pressure finds the net.

It’s a great win for Kim and he has really come of age in this tournament. The greater experience of the Ukraine pair wins the doubles but Kim plays another great match to beat Shchepanskyy 3-1 and level the tie again. Having lost to Kim Didukh is in no mood to lose again and he doesn’t give Aaron much chance in a 3-0 win. So the boys are out but they can be really proud of their performance this week.

Will and Paul have already started their crucial match against the Czech Republic and Paul is 1-0 down to Daniel Horut. He loses a close second 9-11 but comes back to win the third 11-7 and the fourth 12-10 before Horut takes the deciding fifth 11-4. Paul looks disappointed but he’s playing well and that will be important in the doubles.

Sara and Jane have also started their final match against France. They are playing for pride as they cannot progress to the semi-finals but we know they will try their hardest to finish with a win and Jane gives them a great start with a 3-0 win over Isabelle Lafaye.

Will is now playing the Czech number two Zbynek Lambert and looks comfortable in winning the first set 11-4. But Lambert is not to be taken lightly and wins the second 9-11. Surely this is not going to be another five set thriller? Thankfully not as Will asserts himself to win the next two sets 4 and 4 and we’re set for the doubles which we know will probably decide the tie.

The first set goes our way 11-7 but in the second it all goes horribly wrong and the Czech pair breeze through it for the loss of only one point. Time for our boys to bounce back but at 7-10 they face being 2-1 down. At 9-10 the Czech coach calls a time out but Will wins the next point for GB after a great rally and it’s 10-10 then 11-10 and we now have a set point which the boys win and there’s a loud “Cho!” from Will as he pumps his fist in celebration.

But the Czech pair are not giving up and they come back to win the fourth and we’re into a deciding fifth again. This is too close for comfort and although we have faith in the boys we know that anything can happen in table tennis. They make a good start and are quickly 6-1 up but at 7-3 Gorazd calls a time out to keep them on track. It works and at 10-5 they have five match points but they only need one as Paul hits a great forehand out of reach of the Czech pair and with a shout he hugs Will and we all realise how much it means to both of them.

The tie still needs to be won though and Horut is no pushover but Will is really on his game now and he wins in three sets 3, 8 and 9 to seal the tie for GB and ensure that he and Paul will take home a medal from the team event.

We’ve had one eye on the table next door as Spain are playing Egypt and there is drama when Rekik Eid takes a heavy fall and is on the ground for some time but he eventually gets to his feet and goes on to beat Alberto Seoane to give Egypt a 2-0 lead. Although Spain win the doubles Egypt win the tie 3-1 but it makes no difference to the group and Spain will go through as winners and Will and Paul will go through as runners up so will have to face Ukraine in the semi-final tomorrow.

Meanwhile Sara has beaten Florence Gossiaux-Sireau 3-1 and she and Jane now complete a 3-0 win over France with a 3-0 win in the doubles. It has been a disappointing team event for the girls who will not take a medal at a major championship for the first time since 2009 but they are pleased to finish with a win and will be back.

So we have another medal but will it be gold, silver or bronze? Will and Paul are prepared for a tough battle against the Ukraine combination of Nikolenko and Popov and as Will says as he heads back to the hotel for dinner and hopefully a good night’s sleep: “I’m not scared to play them and I know Paul’s not scared so we’re looking forward to it.”

Bayley and Karabardak assured of World team medal

World champion Will Bayley is assured of a second medal at the 2014 ITT Para Table Tennis World Championships after he and team partner Paul Karabardak reached the semi-final of the men’s class 6-7 team event with a determined 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in their final group match.

20140912_130355Earlier in the day Bayley and Karabardak were involved in a great battle with Spain. Men’s class 6 world champion Alvaro Valera gave the early advantage to the Spanish by beating Karabardak 3-1 but Bayley levelled the tie with a 3-0 win over the class 7 world number four Jordi Morales. The doubles went to a fifth set and the luck was with the Spanish as after some great rallies they clinched the match 11-9 with a shot that hit the net and just dropped over. Although Bayley beat Valera 3-0 to level the tie again Morales, silver medalist in the singles four years ago, was too strong for Karabardak and won the tie for Spain with a 3-0 victory.

This left the GB pair needing to beat the Czech Republic and with the tie level at 1-1 after the first two singles it was crucial to win the doubles. It went to a fifth set but Bayley and Karabardak combined superbly and with five match points in hand Karabardak sealed the win with a great forehand. Bayley then beat Daniel Horut 3-0 to secure the tie for the GB pair and take them into tomorrow’s semi-finals in which they will play the top seeds Ukraine.

pkarabardakbio“It was really difficult to pick ourselves up after losing to Spain in the morning,” said Swansea’s Karabardak, “because we had big chances and we didn’t do much wrong they just had the luck. We only had an hour and a half to rest before our next match so to play tired after a big loss and to come through that match and win that doubles in the fifth set was good. It was nice to win the doubles and then for Will to finish it off. To be guaranteed a medal now is really special for me because I’ve never won a World Championship medal before.”

“I knew the Czech pair would be good at doubles,” said Bayley, “and I knew it was going to be a tough match but I was really pleased with the way we played in the last set – we came together and held our nerve under pressure – because it would have been a pressure fifth match if we had lost the doubles. I fancied Paul to win it anyway but I wouldn’t like to play in that position.

“I’m delighted to get two medals – that’s what I always come to do in the major championships and I’ve done that again here. We’ve got a free match against Ukraine; I don’t really feel any pressure in that match – they are big favourites but we can just play free and enjoy it. They are the best team in the world but they are there to be beaten – I’m not scared to play them and I know Paul’s not scared so we’re looking forward to it.”

Kim Daybell and Aaron McKibbin began the day with their second group match in the men’s class 9-10 event against Japan and McKibbin, a class 8 player, made a great start in the first singles against the class 9 Koyo Iwabuchi to go 2-0 up. The Japanese player came back to level at 2-2 and the momentum seemed to have swung Japan’s way when McKibbin went 1-4 down in the fifth and deciding set. A timeout called by the GB coach Matt Kenny helped to halt the slide but at 6-9 down the Londoner was two points from defeat. He responded brilliantly to take the next four points and then showed great resolve to finally clinch the set and the match on his eighth match point 18-16.

Daybell then recorded a comfortable 3-0 win against the class 10 Nariaki Kakita before combining well with McKibbin to win the doubles 3-0 and secure the tie 3-0.

They then had a tough match against Ukraine who had beaten the top seeds Poland in the morning. McKibbin made a bright start against Yurty Shchepanskyy and pushed the class 9 world number three all the way in the first two sets in a 0-3 loss. Daybell then faced the class 8 world champion Victor Didukh who had provided one of the shock results of the tournament earlier by beating the class 10 gold medalist and world number one Patryk Chojnowski. The Ukrainian was a very good able bodied player before losing a leg to cancer and at 0-1 and 2-7 Daybell looked out of it but he responded superbly to take the second set 11-8 and the third 11-9 and although Didukh levelled at 2-2 the Sheffield medical student held his nerve and took the match 11-8 in the fifth.

The greater experience of the Ukraine pair was decisive in the doubles and although Daybell then beat Shchepanskyy Didukh sealed the tie for Ukraine with a 3-0 win against McKibbin which meant that the GB pair finished third in their group and missed out on a place in the knockout stages.

Kim Daybell action 4 2014“It was really tough to play Didukh,” admitted Daybell, “he plays a very clever game and even though he is class 8 he makes life very difficult. There was one stage when I was really down and out but I was pleased I managed to find a way through and win the match. I’ve learnt a lot this week – we are still a developing team and we’re still young and I feel that we came here and really gave it our best shot. Aaron played really well because competing in class 10 is really difficult for a class 8 but he showed he is good enough to play so it was good. It’s definitely given me confidence for the future; there have been times this season when I’ve thought that mixing table tennis and studying might be quite difficult but having had a good block of training before this tournament I’ve proved to myself that I can compete at the highest level. I’ve only lost two singles matches here to the two best players in the world so I can’t really complain.”

“I played well this morning,” said McKibbin. “It was a difficult match and the Japanese player was a lot better than his ranking. I felt uncomfortable in all the sets even when I was 2-0 up so I knew it was tough and I was thankful to come through it. I’ve learnt a lot this week – I know I can compete with the best when I’m on top form. It was a disappointing way to finish – I can take positives but there is still a long way to go. My game definitely feels like it’s moving forward but at the same time I know there is a lot more improvement I need to make to get to the level I want to be at – which is taking medals and playing in finals.”

After losing their first group match yesterday Paralympic bronze medalists Jane Campbell and Sara Head needed to beat Croatia to keep their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages alive but they went into the doubles 0-2 down after Campbell lost 3-1 to Andela Muzinic and Head was edged out 12-10 in the fifth by Helena Dretar-Karic. The GB pair fought back bravely from 2-1 down to take the match 11-9 in the fifth and when Head took the first set against Muzinic the momentum seemed to be with the Welsh player but the world number four came back strongly to take the next three sets 9, 8 and 6 and secure the tie for Croatia.

Although the GB pair beat France 3-0 in their final group match it was not enough to take them through to the semi-finals.

“It was a really close game against Croatia,” said Head, “and we were obviously disappointed to lose. We then just really wanted to win the match against France more than anything so it was important to us but we wanted to enjoy it and relax. We didn’t have any pressure this afternoon. Every game we play, every match, every competition is all new experience and I think this is an experience we are going to learn from and hopefully it’s going to make us stronger in the future.”

“It was difficult having lost such a close first match,” said Campbell, “but you just have to get on and do it. It was nice to finish on a win.”

 

 

World Championships Beijing Blog #10

Thursday, September 11: It’s the morning after the night before and for some it’s been a very short night. The Chinese Centre for Disability Sport is designed for training and has few distractions but among the impressive sporting facilities is, rather incongruously, a karaoke bar and that was the destination last night for most of the team and some of the other nations as well. It’s not every day we win gold at the World Championships and everyone felt like celebrating. Given the Welsh talent for singing it was not surprising that Neil was the star of the show although if Paul McCartney had been there he might have been regretting writing such a long chorus for Hey Jude.

The team competition does not start until this afternoon so breakfast is a little later than usual. Will still looks slightly shocked at what he has achieved but has more mundane things on his mind at the moment – even world champions need to do their laundry.

It’s warm and humid and there is a threat of thunder in the air as we head over to the hall after lunch for the start of the team event. The morning has been so relaxed that we have to remind ourselves that this is the World Championships and it is time to get back into competition mode.

First up for GB are Kim and Aaron at 14.00 in the men’s class 9-10 team event. Their opening match is against Poland – the top seeds in their group – and Aaron has the unenviable task of playing the opening singles against the class 10 gold medallist and world number one Patryk Chojnowski. Aaron is not disgraced but cannot match the power and experience of the Paralympic champion who wins the match 3-0.

Kim levels the tie with a 3-1 win over the Polish number two Sebastian Powrozniak and the boys make a great start to the doubles, winning the first set 12-10. The Poles come back to take a 2-1 lead but our boys, playing together for only their second tournament, respond really well to take the fourth, a great serve from Aaron clinching the set. In the deciding set at 6-6 there is some confusion from the Polish pair over who Aaron should be serving to and it seems to halt our boys’ momentum as they lose the next five points and the match.

Coach Matt calls a time out in Kim's singles

Coach Matt calls a time out in Kim’s singles

It is now Kim’s turn to take on Chojnowski and he is clearly not overawed by the challenge as he saves four set points in the first before the Pole clinches it 11-9. In the second set Kim is 0-3 down and Matt calls a time out. It seems to work as Kim levels at 3-3 and some spectacular defence enables him to level again at 8-8 as Chojnowski misses his shot. The world number one is starting to have the look of the school bully whose playground dominance is being threatened by the new kid at school and a service error allows Kim to draw level again at 9-9 before Chojnowski takes the next two points and a 2-0 lead. In the third Kim surprises Chojnowski again with the quality of his play and from 3-7 he recovers to 7-9 but Chojnowski takes the set 11-8 and the match 3-0.

Although they’ve lost the match Kim and Aaron are deservedly upbeat and looking forward to their matches against Ukraine and Japan tomorrow.

It is now time for the second session of matches and we have to keep one eye on Jane and Sara taking on Korea and the other on Will and Paul against Egypt. Will’s first match as world champion is against the class 6 Rekik Eid, whose heavily strapped right knee and awkward movement cannot disguise his quick hands, and the Egyptian wins the first set 11-8 and the second 11-9. Will doesn’t appear to be too worried which is more than can be said for the rest of us but he calms our nerves by taking the next three sets comfortably to win the match 3-2.

Jane has been involved in a very close match against Mi Gyn Lee and having taken the first 12-10 she loses the next two but comes back well to take the fourth 11-3. She starts well in the deciding fifth and at 3-0 the Korean coach calls a time out. Slowly but surely Lee starts to edge her way back and after taking the lead at 8-7 she takes the next three points to win the first match 3-2.

20140911_170713Paul is now playing the talented Ahmed Sayed Mohamed and the Egyptian world number six is in fighting mood and wins in three close sets to level the tie. In the doubles Will and Paul, usually such a good team, are not at their best and the Egyptian pair dominate in a 3-0 win to take a 2-1 lead.

Sara has levelled the tie for the girls against Korea with a 3-1 win over Su Yeon Seo and we hope that she and Jane can produce their magic in the doubles. They make a good start winning the first 11-4 but the Koreans come back and take the second 11-3.

Will must now beat Sayed to keep us in the tie against Egypt and he wins the first set 11-5. In the second it starts to look as if his heroics yesterday have caught up with him as he wins only three points. Sayed is clearly fired up and seems to greet every winning point as if he has just taken a Test wicket at Lord’s and the Egyptian team are equally vocal in their support. It is certainly noisy but adds to the atmosphere and the tension and Will responds like the champion he is by taking the third 11-3.

Meanwhile Sara and Jane have lost the third set 6-11 as Will makes a good start to the fourth set but Sayed is finding the table with some great shots and takes the set 11-9. So it’s down to a fifth set again and once again Will rises to the challenge and wins the set 11-8 and the match 3-2.

Will can do no more and now it is up to Paul to win the vital deciding match. Thankfully for our nerves he never really looks like losing and he wins in three sets to clinch the tie 3-2. There are sighs of relief all round as a loss in their first match would have been hard for the boys to come back from with the sterner challenge of Spain to come tomorrow.

Jane and Sara have a post-match debrief with coach Greg

Jane and Sara have a post-match debrief with coach Greg

We then focus our attention on Jane and Sara who have lost the doubles match 3-1 and now trail 1-2 in the tie. Sara wins the first set against Lee which gives us hope but the Korean fights back and edges the second 14-12 and with the momentum now with her she goes on to take the next two 7 and 3 to win the tie for Korea 3-1.

It is a disappointing start for the girls but they will come back fighting tomorrow when they play France and Croatia. As we troop back to the hotel it has been raining and darkness has fallen. Tomorrow will be a tough but for now it is time to eat and get a good night’s sleep. As Scarlett O’Hara so memorably said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Posted in GB

Bayley and Karabardak make a winning start to World team event

After the elation of winning the world title Will Bayley was back in the real world today as he and Paul Karabardak began their bid for a medal in the men’s class 6-7 team event at the 2014 ITT Para Table Tennis World Championships in Beijing with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Egypt.

Bayley made a slow start in his first singles against Rekik Eid and when the class 6 player took a 2-0 lead it looked for a moment as if Bayley’s first match as world champion could be a shock defeat. But the 26 year old from Tunbridge Wells is a born competitor and he raised his game to win the next three sets for the loss of just nine points.

Paul Karabardak action 3 2014

Paul Karabardak won the vital fifth match for GB v Egypt

The Egyptian number one and world number six Ahmed Sayed Mohamed beat Karabardak 3-0 to level the tie and the Egyptian pair then took the doubles 3-0 to lead 2-1. Sayed is a talented player and was clearly determined to beat the new world champion and when he levelled the match at 2-2 Bayley had to dig deep again to come back and take the match 11-8 in the fifth. It was then down to Karabardak to ensure that the GB pair started their campaign with a win and he responded superbly to beat Eid 3-0 and clinch the tie 3-2.

“It was very hard to play today,” admitted Bayley. “Yesterday was a hard day – I didn’t have a lot of energy and didn’t prepare well enough for this match and it showed. Sayed is world number six and Eid is awkward to play against. I think I’m a good match player – even if I’m not playing well I can still make it difficult for people and that’s what I wanted to do against Sayed. I don’t tend to lose many matches in the fifth and so I had a lot of belief going into the last set that I was going to win. I knew Paul could win that last match so I was really determined to give him the chance to win the tie for us.”

Bayley and Karabardak play their remaining two group matches against Spain and the Czech Republic tomorrow and will hope to win both matches to ensure they top their group.

“It would have been hard to come back from losing against Egypt,” said Karabardak, “so to win it was really good. Spain are a good team but I think we’ve got a good chance and we can win it if we play our best so I’m looking forward to playing them tomorrow.”

Jane Campbell and Sara Head have medalled in every major championship in the women’s class 1-3 team event since 2009, including a memorable bronze in London 2012, but they had a disappointing start to their team campaign with a 3-1 loss to Korea. Campbell lost a tight first singles match to Mi Gyn Lee 7-11 in the fifth and although Head levelled the tie with a 3-1 win over Su Yeon Seo the GB pair lost the doubles 3-1 and the tie when Head lost her singles to Lee 3-1. They can still progress from their group if they beat France and Croatia tomorrow.

Aaron McKibbin & Kim Daybell medals Slovenia Open

Aaron McKibbin and Kim Daybell put up a good performance against Poland

In the men’s class 9-10 event Kim Daybell and Aaron McKibbin acquitted themselves well against the top seeds in their group Poland. Londoner McKibbin is a class eight player and his first match was against the world number one and gold medallist in the class 10 singles Patryk Chojnowski. The tall Pole is an imposing figure and not surprisingly he had too much power and experience for McKibbin in a 3-0 win. Daybell levelled the tie at 1-1 with a 3-1 win over the Polish number two Sebastian Powrozniak and the GB pair played a great match in the doubles, taking the first set 12-10 and then the fourth 11-9 to take the match into a deciding fifth.

The final set was close to 6-6 before the more experienced Polish duo pulled away to take the set 11-6 and the match 3-2. It was then down to Daybell to take on Chojnowski and the 22 year old medical student from Sheffield played really well, defying the world champion with some spectacular defence and stunning forehands and although he lost the match 3-0 the score did not reflect the quality of his performance.

Posted in GB

World Championships Beijing Blog #9

Wednesday, September 10: There is an air of anticipation in the air this morning and not a little nervous excitement. Today is the day we will find out whether the long hours in the training hall will bring success at the World Championships. We are assured of two medals but will they be gold and will Rob and Jane add to our total?

It feels a bit cooler outside as we head over to the hall after breakfast. Physio Jill was up early this morning to help Jane and Rob prepare for their quarter finals. The first matches start at 09.30 and the atmosphere is already building as teams and supporters noisily cheer on their players. The German team in their bright green are out in force to support two of their players but there is no sign yet of the bright yellow Aussie kangaroo – perhaps he has taken the day off to go sightseeing in Beijing.

The Aussie kangaroo has taken up residence in 'our' part of the stands

The Aussie kangaroo has taken up residence in ‘our’ part of the stands

Our first match is at 10.10. Jane is taking on the world number two and reigning world champion from China, Qian Li – a formidable challenge but Jane has been so focused and determined since she arrived here and we know she will give it everything.

The Aussie kangaroo has arrived and is sitting in front of one of our flags – it would be nice to think he is supporting GB now but he is actually just looking for the best position from which to watch the Aussie player Melissa Tapper taking on Yang from China.

Jane’s match is underway; Li clearly means business and races through the first set 11-3. Jane rallies and takes the lead in the second but it is short-lived and Li asserts herself and takes the second 11-6 and the third 11-2. So Jane’s singles challenge is over but she can be very proud of the way she’s played and will be back with Sara tomorrow in the team competition.

It is now time for Will’s semi-final and Rob’s quarter-final. It is hard to know where to look – both matches mean so much. Will makes a great start against Popov, the giant Ukrainian who beat him in the European final last year, and takes the first set 11-7. Rob also takes the first set against Lima – so far so good.

Will is playing really cleverly against Popov, playing the ball short and without much pace so that the world number three doesn’t have the opportunity to unleash the powerful shots that are such a major part of his game. At 10-6 it is looking good but when Popov pulls it back to 10-8 Gorazd calls a time out for Will. It proves to be well-timed and Will takes the next point and the set 11-8.

Meanwhile Rob is engaged in a great battle with Lima for the second set and the Brazilian takes it 14-12 to level the match.

In the third set Will recovers from 0-5 to reach 10-8 and has two match points. We hold our breath as Popov serves – it hits the net and trickles over but his next serve forces an error from Will. Popov saves the second match point but Will has another at 11-10. The tension mounts as the umpire gets up to wipe the table and Popov levels at 11-11 then saves another match point at 11-12 before taking the set 14-12. Will walks back to Gorazd and we hope that the loss of four match points will not prey on his mind.

Thankfully Rob takes the third set against Lima 11-8 to calm our nerves a little but when Will goes 3-7 down in the fourth set we worry that he may have missed his chance. But in typical Bayley fashion he comes storming back to level at 7-7 then take the lead for the first time at 8-7. However, Popov is also a determined competitor and he moves to 10-8 with two points to take it into a fifth. Will holds his nerve and at 11-10 he has a fifth match point. Can he do it this time? YES!!! He roars in triumph and races to embrace Gorazd as we jump to our feet to applaud him. He’s into the final and a glance at the next door table tells us that Nikolenko and Montanus are locked at 2-2 in the other semi-final.

We quickly turn our attention back to Rob who having been 3-4 down in the fourth has taken control and he shouts with celebration as he takes the set 11-7 and completes a 3-1 win. He’s assured of a medal now but that won’t be on his mind as he only wants gold.

Sue looks pensive as she talks to her coach Neil

Sue looks pensive as she talks to her coach Neil

Now it’s Sue’s turn and when she loses the first two sets against her old rival Peric-Rankovic we fear that this is not going to be the day that she finally beats the Serbian world number one. However, Sue takes the early lead in the third set and wins it 11-4 and then goes 3-0 up in the fourth. Peric levels at 3-3 and then has match point at 10-9. Sue saves it and goes on to win the set 12-10 and level the match.

Sue has been here so many times before against Peric but in the fifth set it is the Serbian who shows signs of nerves with a number of errors and with Sue at match point Peric nets and we all leap to our feet again to applaud an ecstatic Sue who can hardly believe that after nearly ten years she has finally beaten her nemesis.

Rob takes control against Borgato

Rob takes control against Borgato

There is hardly time to congratulate Sue before Rob is back for his semi-final against Borgato. A very tense first set is finally won by Rob 15-13 and he takes control of the second and third sets, forcing the Italian into a series of errors to take the match 3-0. Among the interested spectators is Jean-Francois Ducay, who lost his quarter final earlier in the day to Changho Lee of Korea.

They should classify watching table tennis as an extreme sport – the mixture of nerves and adrenalin is exhausting and we are all glad of a break before the finals begin.

Will is first up and his final is scheduled for 15.00 and it will be in the TV court and shown live on national Chinese television. It follows the women’s class 10 final between Yang of China and Partyka of Poland which has gone the full distance and so Will is forced to wait while they finish. He has his headphones on and is pacing around the area next to the court but finally, with a triumphant blast of Polish horns it is Partyka who wins the gold and Will can start his match.

Will's match is on the TV court and live on Chinese TV

Will’s match is on the TV court and live on Chinese TV

He is taking on the world number one Maksym Nikolenko and it is the Ukrainian who takes the first set 11-9. Will is playing well but Nikolenko is playing better and he takes a 7-1 lead in the second. Will somehow keeps his belief and slowly but surely he starts to reduce the deficit, trying not to give Nikolenko the chance to unleash his powerful shots. Six points in a row and Will is level at 7-7 and then has two set points at 10-8. Will nets and then goes long: 10-10. Just to add to the tension a bit more the umpire gets up to wipe the table but then Will takes the next two points and the set 12-10. Phew! It would have been a long way back from 0-2 but he’s back on level terms at 1-1.

As Will’s final started late it has clashed with Sue’s and word comes through to those of us watching Will that Sue has lost 3-0 to the Chinese world number two Zhang. A disappointing way to finish after her great win in the semi-final but she has a silver medal and has done us proud.

In the third set Will quickly moves to 7-2 and although Nikolenko pegs him back to 7-6 Will takes four points in a row to take the set and now leads 2-1. Can we dare to dream? Not yet. The momentum can change so quickly in table tennis and Nikolenko is a great player and will not give up without a fight.

In the fourth with Will 1-3 down a shot from Nikolenko hits the top of the net and drops short out of Will’s reach. Suddenly he is 2-8 down and the set runs away from him as Nikolenko starts to find the table again with his flying shots. Two sets all – it’s now become a sudden death showdown.

The fifth set is pure drama – nip and tuck all the way with first Nikolenko then Will taking the lead. At 9-9 Nikolenko goes long and Will has a match point. We hold our breath but a great shot from Nikolenko brings him back level. He then goes long again and Will has a second match point but Nikolenko forces him out wide and he nets: 11-11. Nikolenko then nets and Will has a third match point. We can hardly bear to watch as Will bounces the ball and serves – will it be third time lucky?

YES!!!!! For what seems like the first time in the match Will gets a lucky edge and the ball spins out of Nikolenko’s reach. Will is World Champion and he pulls his shirt off and throws it into the crowd before falling on the floor overcome with the emotion of the moment.

Will is WORLD CHAMPION!

Will is WORLD CHAMPION!

“It wasn’t a great celebration,” he admits later. “I tried to rip my shirt and I couldn’t rip it so I tried to take it off and it wouldn’t come off.”

With hardly time to put on his track suit top Will is whisked off for the medal ceremony which is sadly taking place at the same time as Rob’s final so some of us head to the competition hall to cheer on Rob while the rest go to the ceremony to see Will receive his gold medal.

Rob has lost the first set against Changho Lee but is fighting back in the second and takes it 14-12. However, the Korean is playing a great match and takes the third set 11-8. Rob is such a battler that we still hope he can turn it around but Lee is too strong today and although Rob saves a match point at 9-10 with a great return Lee clinches the set on his second match point to win the final 3-1 and the gold medal.

Rob is desperately disappointed but silver at the Worlds is something to be very proud of and knowing him he will come back stronger from this defeat.

There is some confusion about the timing of the medal ceremony for Sue and Rob but it eventually gets underway and hopefully they both feel a bit more cheerful with the medals round their necks. BBC Wales want to interview Rob and BBC South call to speak to Will as news of their success reaches the UK.

It’s been a great day and a very emotional one. While Rob and Sue can relax Will has the team competition to focus on now and he and Paul will start their bid for a medal tomorrow at 16.00 local time as will Jane and Sara, while Kim and Aaron start us off at 14.00.

One gold and two silvers – can we add to our medal tally over the next few days? With this team anything is possible.

Posted in GB

Bayley rules the world in China

DSC_0860Will Bayley won gold in the men’s class 7 event at the 2014 ITT Para Table Tennis World Championships in Beijing on a great day for GB as Rob Davies and Sue Gilroy also took silver medals in the singles events.

Sheffield based Bayley, 26, from Tunbridge Wells did it the hard way – beating the Paralympic champion, the European champion and then the world number one in a performance that owed as much to his character and fighting qualities as to his brilliant play.

In the morning Bayley reached the final with a thrilling four set win over the European champion and former world number one Mykhaylo Popov. The Ukrainian had beaten Bayley in the European final in Italy last year and hits the ball with great power but the British world number two played brilliantly in the first two sets, keeping the ball short and not giving Popov the opportunity to really find his range. At 10-8 in the third he had two match points but Popov saved both and went on to take the set 12-10. At 1-4 and 8-10 down in the fourth it looked as if Bayley’s chance may have gone but he came back superbly, saving two set points and taking the set 12-10 and the match 3-1.

“When it was 2-1 I thought I needed that fourth set to win the match,” said Bayley, “because I knew if Popov carried on playing the way he was playing it was going to be very difficult if it went to the fifth set. I didn’t do too much wrong on the match points – he played some unbelievable shots and never missed. I just wanted to keep pressurising him as I knew if I could do that he would get nervous and that is what happened.”

Will Bayley action 7 2014That set up a final against another Ukrainian, world number one Maksym Nikolenko, in a match that was broadcast live on national Chinese television. It was the tall Ukrainian who made the better start, taking the first set 11-9 and racing into a 7-1 lead in the second with some stunning shots. But Bayley never gives up and slowly but surely he worked his way back into the game, taking the second set 12-10 and then the third 11-6. But Nikolenko was not giving up either and came back to win the fourth 11-6 and it was down to a fifth and final set.

There was never more than a couple of points in at as the momentum swung one way then another but when Nikolenko went long with one of his forehands it set up a first match point for Bayley, which Nikolenko saved with a great shot. Another match point came and went for Bayley but on his third with the score at 12-11 his forehand caught the edge of the table and spun out of Nikolenko’s reach to secure the match and the world title.

“I didn’t do too much wrong and I was 1-0 and 7-1 down,” said Bayley, “but all I could do was keep going and hope he stopped playing so well. I was just getting the ball on the table and although they were good rallies it suited him because he has more power than me so he was just smashing the ball past me. I knew I had to be a bit more clever and it worked. In the final set I just told myself he’s going to be nervous as well and I managed to battle it out – either of us could have won that game to be honest. He played some amazing points on my match points – I was wanting him to miss and he didn’t and I needed an edge to win – I don’t know whether he would have missed otherwise. I didn’t have much luck in the match – I just hit one edge and that was on the last ball so that was the nicest edge I’ve ever had.”

Having taken silver in London 2012 and again at the European Championships last year Bayley proved once again that he loves the big occasion.

“I really wanted to perform in the final because in the last couple I probably hadn’t played my best,” he said, “and today I had a good final. I’ve worked for all my life to get that moment when I can say I’m the best in the world and to come here and win the World Championships and say I’m world champion means a lot to me. I got tested big time out here – I played the best game of my life in the final and I still nearly lost. Nikolenko told me it was also the best game he’s ever played so that was good to hear from him.”

Davies started the day with a tricky quarter-final against the Brazilian Aloisio Lima and although he lost the second set 12-14 he took the next two 8 and 7 to assure himself of a medal. Less than two hours later he was back to play his semi-final against the Italian Andrea Borgato. Davies took a very tight first set 15-13 but then took the next comfortably 5 and 5 to book his place in the men’s class 1 final against the Korean Changho Lee.

Rob Davies action 4 2014Although the former rugby player from Brecon could not produce his best in the final Lee played a great match and was a deserving winner in the end. Having lost the first set 11-4 Davies battled back to take the second 14-12 but although he kept fighting the Korean proved just too strong on the day and took the third 11-8 and the fourth 12-10 to secure the gold.

“After I came back to win the second set I was feeling more positive,” said Davies. “It put me back in the game and I kept battling but it just didn’t come for me in this game unfortunately. I wanted the gold but I’m happy to get silver although I don’t feel it at the moment. It was good to get to the final – there are so many good players here and I had a tough draw with some players that are awkward for me to play against so I was quite glad to come through those. You’ve got to take one match at a time and I just wish I had played a bit better in the final and finished it off with a bang but that is sport and that is table tennis. I’ll come back from it and hopefully get the next title.”

In her women’s class 4 semi-final Gilroy faced the world number one Borislava Peric-Rankovic, the Serbian who has so often been her nemesis. At 0-2 down Gilroy looked to be heading for another defeat but she fought back magnificently to take the third 11-4 and then level the match after saving a match point at 9-10. The final set started well for Peric-Rankovic but when Gilroy levelled at 6-6 errors started to creep into the Serbian’s game and when she netted at 8-10 it was all over and Gilroy had taken a famous victory.

DSC_0732“I didn’t play at all the first two games,” said an understandably delighted Gilroy, “at 2-0 down I just thought this is my last chance really. I just started playing smooth and spinning the ball – that’s all I needed to do. It’s not very often you see Peric under pressure because she just dominates everything but to see her rattled spurred me on and I just tried to keep calm and spin the ball and do what I’d been doing . I’ve been to the fifth set with her so many times and lost every single time and I just didn’t want to replicate that. It’s been at least eight years since I beat Peric – I just wanted one win and where better to do it than in Beijing – in the land of table tennis.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly Gilroy could not produce a repeat performance in the final against Miao Zhang and the Chinese world number two was a comfortable 3-0 winner.

“I’m really disappointed in how I played,” said Gilroy, “but I’ve just got to be proud of how well I’ve played this week and of winning a silver medal at the World Championships. I think the semi-final was my final really – I think it has been so long coming that it was quite overwhelming. I really wanted to play the Chinese girl and I was so up for it but on the table I just didn’t play so I’m bitterly disappointed in that and quite deflated now. But I’ve got to take the positives – I’ve had a fantastic Worlds and a fantastic two years and I’m so proud of what I’ve done. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Arnie Chan, Mick Travis, Brian Barret and Neil Robinson my coaches who’ve stood by me for the last two years and I couldn’t have done it without them and the support of my family and friends.”

In the quarter-final of the women’s class 3 singles Jane Campbell had the misfortune to come up against the world number two Qian Lee in devastating form. The Chinese player is clearly in no mood to give up her world title and she ran out a comfortable 3-0 winner.

“She is very good,” acknowledged Campbell. “I could have played better – I think I expected a lot from myself and when it wasn’t happening for me I didn’t really know what else to try but I’ll take confidence from the way I played yesterday.”

Campbell will now focus on the team competition in which she and Sara Head won a bronze four years ago and in London 2012.

“I can’t wait for the team competition but I’m glad we don’t start today,” said Campbell. “I will get some rest and then back to training tomorrow morning. We don’t play until quite late tomorrow so we’ve got some time.”