Today is D-Day. The draw for the table tennis events is being made at Riocentro and Gorazd and Greg head off early to attend the draw and the technical meeting. As we are not scheduled to train until the afternoon the rest of the team enjoys a late breakfast and then takes the opportunity to pose for a group photo in front of a large backdrop of a spectacular view of Rio de Janeiro. We are yet to catch even a glimpse of the iconic Christ the Redeemer but this – and the delights of Copacabana beach – will have to wait until competition is over.
The standing players are training in the competition hall again and they make the most of their final chance to familiarise themselves with the conditions. One table has already been set up with TV cameras and we hope that some of our matches will be filmed to enable Channel 4 to provide coverage for everyone back in the UK.
At 2:00pm the whole team gathers in the Athletes’ Lounge and Greg runs through the main points from the technical meeting before Gorazd tells each athlete who their first opponents will be and when they will play. Every athlete has been drawn in a group of three and the top two from each group will progress to the knockout stages – unlike London 2012 when only one player from each group went through.
With players and tactics to focus on the competition is now starting to become real and as Gorazd reads out the schedule for the first two days we are reminded that there are no easy matches at a Paralympic Games.
Will is drawn in a group with the Brazilian Israel Stroh and Keli Liao from China while Rob has to contend with old rivals Sylvio Keller from Switzerland and the Italian Andrea Borgato. Aaron will be our ‘pathfinder’ – he is scheduled to play world number three Thomas Bouvais from France at 09:00 on Thursday and also in his group is another familiar opponent, Marc Ledoux from Belgium. Jack and Ash will make their Paralympic debuts against World champion Valentin Baus from Germany and the Spanish World number three Juan Perez Gonzalez respectively.
Team meeting over it is time for the wheelchair players to have their final hour in the competition hall and most of the athletes also train in the additional hour we have been allocated in the warm-up hall. There is a palpable increase in intensity and a sense of renewed determination and focus.
Tomorrow the 2016 Paralympic Games will officially begin with the Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium but the athletes will remain in the Village and reserve their energy for the battles ahead.
One day to go before the Paralympic table tennis at Rio 2016 begins. Bring it on.
The schedule for the group matches can be viewed at: https://www.rio2016.com/en/paralympics/venues/riocentro-pavilion-3