The GB Para Table Tennis ended the 2013 season on a high note with three gold medals in the Mike Dempsey Memorial Championships in San Diego (December 5-7).
Paul Karabardak 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, beating USA 3-0 in the final.
Jack Hunter-Spivey won the first gold medal of his career in the men’s class 5 team event with Tommy Urhaug of Norway, having earlier won a bronze in the singles, and GB Pathway Squad member Thomas Matthews, 20, achieved his first international medal with silver in the men’s class 1 singles. Matthews then added a bronze in the men’s class 1-2 team event with Oye Jamiyo, who is being funded to compete here by England and also won a bronze in the class 2 singles.
There was further success for GB as 15 year old Pathway Squad member Billy Shilton, from Stonehouse in Gloucestershire, won his first medal in only his second international event when he took bronze in the men’s class 10 team event with Josh Morgan, competing here under funding from Wales.
Karabardak, 28, from Swansea, is currently world ranked 16 in men’s class 7 and had earlier beaten world number nine Kevin Dourbecker from France 3-1 in the quarter-finals. He then defeated American Daryl Sterling 3-0 to set up a final against the very experienced world number five Seidenfeld, who defeated Wollmert 3-0 in his semi-final. In a very close final the Welshman twice took the lead and then held his nerve superbly to win 11-9 in the fifth.
“I’m really happy,” said Karabardak. “I’ve been training hard all year and getting some good results but I managed to put it all together here. After the disappointment of the European Championships I just wanted to play well and win a few matches and I just got on a roll. Seidenfeld is a good player so it is good to know that I can beat him and this will give me confidence for next year now.”
Hunter-Spivey progressed from his group to the knockout stages of the men’s class 5 singles and reached the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against Toshihiko Oka of Japan. He then came up against Urhaug and the Paralympic champion and world number one showed all his class and experience to defeat the Widnes teenager 3-0. In the team event the two combined to great effect, beating Korea 3-0 in the final.
“It’s my first gold medal so I’m very happy,” said Hunter-Spivey. “I played well and it’s nice to end the season with two medals. It’s great playing in the team event with Tommy and he’s always giving me good tips on how to improve – I only wish he was British so we could play together in the Paralympics.”
Matthews, a former mountain bike rider from Aberdare, reached the final of the men’s class 1 event with a 3-1 win over Hun Tae Seo of Korea in the semi-finals and lost nothing in defeat to the world number 7 from Korea, Hae Kon Lee, who took the gold 3-1.
“I’m very pleased,” said Matthews. “I played Lee in my first group match and only lost 3-2 but he showed his experience in the final and played much better. Hopefully I can learn from this experience and start to beat the top players next year.”
GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko was delighted with the results. “As a team it was a good final event of the season,” he said. “Paul Karabardak played really well to take two gold medals and will hopefully now qualify for the World Championships next year. Thomas Matthews is a future star in men’s class 1 and as a former professional cyclist he knows what he needs to do to win at this level. It was also great to see young Billy Shilton play well and pick up his first international medal.”