There are grey skies over Riocentro this morning as we arrive for day two and with Will playing his vital second group match against Keli Liao from China at 09:40 hopefully this is not a bad omen.
A delighted and very relieved Will is interviewed by Channel 4 and afterwards reveals the secret behind his newly clean-shaven look: “My Mum is here today and she hates my beard! I couldn’t be bothered to have an argument about it with her when she saw me so I thought I’d better shave.”
Jack is now playing his first match at a Paralympic Games and it is a tough one against the World champion Valentin Baus. It is also being televised live and after a 3-0 loss a disappointed Jack is consoled by the fact that he has realised his childhood dream to be a Paralympian. After being interviewed by Martine Wright for Channel 4 he heads back to the Athletes’ Village to prepare for his match later this evening.
Next into the hall are David and Paul Karabardak. David looks to be struggling with his movement around the table today and is beaten by the German Thomas Rau while Paul starts well against Hong Kyu Park but is taken to a deciding set by the Korean who takes the match 11-8 in the fifth. David now has to wait for the result of this evening’s match between Rau and the Egyptian Ibrahim Hamadtou while Paul must rest and prepare for his second match this evening.
There is no time to relax for those watching as Rob, Paul Davies and Kim are all in action and it is hard to know where to look. Kim makes a great start against the World number two David Jacobs from Indonesia and takes the first set and Rob is 1-0 up against Andrea Borgato from Italy. Paul has lost the first set to World champion Chang-ho Lee but is fighting back against the Korean who he beat to take a memorable bronze medal in London 2012, and has levelled at 1-1.
Meanwhile, Rob has lost the second set and Kim is also now 1-1 with Jacobs. Rob wins the third set after a good time out call from coach Greg but then loses the fourth and will once again have to go the distance. Paul has lost 3-1 but is far from downhearted and is looking forward to the prospect of playing against the Brazilian Aloisio Lima Junior in front of the partisan crowd tomorrow. “Bring it on” he says and it is clear that he will enjoy the challenge.
Rob looks to be in control in the fifth set at 8-4 but Borgato is not giving in and to our great relief Rob finally clinches the match 11-8. It is hard to tell who looks more exhausted – Rob or Greg – but Rob is through to the knockout stages as group winner and can go back to the Village for a well-earned rest.
Kim has won a tight third set 14-12 but Jacobs has come back to take the fourth and they are also into a decider. Kim has taken a year off from his medical studies to focus on his preparation for Rio and has worked so hard – can he hold his nerve and get the victory he deserves?
At 10-11 he saves a match point and then has one of his own saved by Jacobs. At 13-12 he has another chance and with a triumphant shout he takes it and proves that all his hard work has been worth it. His parents are here to watch and hopefully Kim can follow up this win with another in his second match tomorrow and take his place in the quarter finals.
In her illustrious career Sue has never made it into the knockout stages in a Paralympic Games and if she is going to make if fifth time lucky she needs to beat Pi-chun Lu of Chinese Taipei in her final group match. At 2-1 and 6-4 in the fourth Sue looks to have the upper hand but a time out call by Lu’s coach halts her momentum and Lu takes the next seven points to force a decider.
At 0-2 in the fifth Sue’s coach Neil calls his own time out and whatever he says to Sue does the trick as she comes storming back to take the set 11-5 and win the match. A delighted Sue looks as if she can hardly believe that she has made it through and can continue to dream of adding a Paralympic medal to her World, Commonwealth and European collection.
In no time at all we are back for the evening session and Jack is playing the Brazilian Claudiomiro Segatto for a place in the knockout stages of men’s class 5. He seems to be in control at 2-0 up but table tennis matches can change in an instant and after taking a close third set Segatto, cheered on by the home crowd, goes on to take the match 3-2.
Jack is understandably disappointed but this is his first Games and he will be back.
Paul Karabardak is back for his second match of the day and he also looks to have the measure of Matias Pino Lorca at 2-0 and 5-2 up but the Chilean has a large group of supporters in the crowd and to their delight he stages a great comeback and takes the next three sets. Afterwards Paul is generous in his praise of his opponent but you can see the disappointment in his eyes.
As Paul leaves the hall Ross and Aaron have already started their vital second group matches and in the next half hour we witness the two sides of the sporting coin. Aaron has three match points saved in the third set by Marc Ledoux but clinches a victory over the Belgian in the fourth set that will see him through to the quarter finals.
On the other side of the hall Ross is fighting for every point against Marcin Skryznecki but today it is not enough to defeat his opponent and the London 2012 team gold medalist from Poland takes the match 13-11 in the fourth.
Ross is physically and emotionally drained but is still determined to give everything to try and win a medal with Aaron and Will in the team event. He wants to win it for his team mates, which says everything about him and the spirit that holds this team together.