Rob Davies created history for ParalympicsGB table tennis today by taking gold in the men’s class 1 singles to add to the gold for Will Bayley yesterday in men’s class 7 – the first time that GB has won two gold medals in table tennis at a Paralympic Games.
“I think I’ll have a job to stop smiling – it’s unbelievable,” said Davies, who beat the Korean Young Dae Joo 3-1 in the final. “I just can’t believe it at the moment. I’m just glad I came through it to be honest; he is a really tough competitor. I’ve never beaten him before so it was really good to get that win over him. I’m really chuffed.”
The two players had met twice before – at the Slovenia Open last year – and Joo had won both matches in singles and team. The first set today was a tight affair and Davies edged it 14-12 but Joo came back strongly to win the second 11-4 and at 8-5 in the third appeared to have the upper hand with some stunning backhand shots. But the Welshman is nothing if not determined and took the next five points to lead 10-8 and then took the set 11-9.
As in Bayley’s final yesterday the third set was to prove pivotal. At 4-0 down Joo’s coach called time out and when the Korean recovered from 1-6 to 3-6 GB coach Greg Baker called his own time out to steady the ship. At 5-9 a service error by Joo handed Davies five match points but he only needed one as Joo netted and GB had a second gold.
“At end of the second set I just kept mentally strong,” said Davies. “Our team psychologist Tim Pitt has really helped me and I was mentally strong at the end there and bold. That is what we’ve been working on – be bold in these clinical situations and that is what I was. He’d beaten me twice and it is such a confidence boost to come here and beat him on the big stage. It was a really great match and I knew I was going to have to play my best today and thankfully that was what I did. Luckily I could get forward and I was moving well and again, our team physio Jason Beaumont has done a brilliant job here keeping me fit for this competition. I was feeling great today.”
“The support from the squad was unbelievable – the whole squad was here supporting me and it was so good to have them behind me and the guys back home who have helped me out – Tom (Matthews) who is coming through and is pushing me – it all helps. Nathan Thomas at Cardiff City Table Tennis Club has been amazing for me, kept me mentally strong and kept me fit and powerful and I can’t thank him enough.”
Davies is now focused on the team event with his fellow Welshman Paul Davies which starts tomorrow.
“We’ve got to go for it,” he said. “We are in class 1-2 so it is going to be difficult we know that but we’ve got nothing to lose. I want to win that medal for Paul Davies – he’s been with me throughout my time playing and really pushed me and I want to win a medal for him.”