Bayley heads Para athletes at English National Championships

Paralympic and World champion Will Bayley heads the list of athletes who will compete in the Para classes at the English National Championships in Nottingham tomorrow. The 29 year old men’s class 7 World number one will take on his British team mates Aaron McKibbin (class 8), Billy Shilton (class 8) and David Wetherill (class 6) in the men’s 6-8 event and has already been in winning form this season, completing a clean sweep in the class 7 singles, open standing singles and open standing doubles in the Draycott Para Open earlier this month.

will-bayley-with-medal-on-podium“It was really good to get some match practice in as I’ve been doing a lot of training but haven’t played many matches,” said Bayley. “I’ve been working on trying to change my game a little bit and I was pleased with the way I played. I’m working really hard on my weaknesses so it is going in the right direction.

“I’m really looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd at the Nationals and it will be good to play well and try and impress them so I’m looking to win if I can. It is hard to compete against my team mates – we all know each other’s styles of play inside out which makes the games closer so you have to play as well as you can but you know it can go either way – you just have to try and do what you can to win the match.”

This is the second year that Table Tennis England has included events for Para athletes in the National Championships, which will also feature classes 3-5 and 9-10 with some of England’s most promising young Pathway athletes taking on the more experienced Performance squad.

McKibbin, Shilton and Wetherill will fly back from the Italian Open to compete in Nottingham.

David Wetherill Vejle 2015 4“I’m really looking forward to the Nationals,” said Wetherill. “People in the UK hear what we are doing but they don’t get the opportunity to see us play too often. I really want to go there in good shape and try and play my best because I think that is important. I’m looking to try and win because I know on my day I can compete but it is going to be difficult so we’ll see what happens. First and foremost it will be nice to put on a good show for the public.”

The PG Mutual National Championships are taking place at the David Ross Sports Village in Nottingham from March 3-5. Further information is available here:

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Karabardak takes gold in Italy

Lignano Master Open medalistsWelshman Paul Karabardak won gold in the men’s class 6 singles at the Lignano Master Open in Italy today and there were further medals for the British Para Table Tennis Team as Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4-5), Martin Perry (men’s class 6) and David Wetherill (men’s class 6) all took bronze in their respective classes.

Karabardak won his opening match against the Australian Trevor Hirth 3-0 but progressed from his group as runner-up after losing his second to Vjekoslav Gregorovic from Croatia 3-1. A 3-0 quarter-final win against Georgios Mouchthis from Greece and a 3-1 semi-final win over his GB team mate Wetherill set up a second encounter with Gregorovic in the final. The 31 year old three-time Paralympian from Swansea avenged his earlier defeat by the Croatian former World number one in a 3-1 win and was delighted to start the season with his first singles gold since the Slovenia Open in 2015.

Paul Karabardak Vejle 2015 5“It’s a really good start to the season,” he said. “It was difficult in the group games – I was feeling a bit under the weather and I was nervous which I always am in the first competition of the season but I managed to fight and get out of the group and then I started playing my best table tennis. I knew the final was going to be tough because I’d already lost to him but I managed to play my best and win the game. I think I played with a bit more energy and kept the momentum when I was in a winning position because he is a great player and if I had let him back in it would have made life hard for me and thankfully I won in the end. I’ve played well here but I also think I can play better so hopefully there’ll be better things to come this year.”

WETHERILL DavidWetherill topped his group with 3-1 wins over the German Tim Laue and Michael Azulay from Sweden and came through a tough quarter-final match against Pavao Jozic from Croatia 3-2 before losing to Karabardak in the semi-final.

“I’m very satisfied with how it has gone,” said the 27 year old from Torpoint. “We’re all at different points in our training pre-season and in a way there wasn’t a lot of pressure this week and if I was going to lose to anyone it was a pleasure to lose to Paul because results between us don’t matter so much. It would have been great if Martin had won his semi and played Paul in the final but I’m really pleased for him because he’s played really well. For all three of us to medal was really good so it’s been a good tournament.”

Martin Perry celebrates Slovakia 2015Perry was seeded only third in his group but came through in first place after 3-2 wins against the World number nine Pavao Jozic from Croatia, the Italian Matteo Parenzan and Valentin Kneuss from Switzerland. A 3-1 win against the former World number one from France, Bastien Grundeler, took him into the semi-finals where he lost to Gregorovic 3-0.

“It was a good test for the start of the season to see how everyone is playing,” said the 22 year old from Paisley. “I think I played well and got some good wins and I’m quite happy with my level. I wasn’t seeded to get out of my group so to win it and beat two really good players was great. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t meet Paul in the final and secure a 123 for GB but it’s been a very good experience and I’ve got the team event with Paul to look forward to now.”

Sue Gilroy Vejle 2015Gilroy began with a 3-0 win against the German Lisa Hentig and after a 3-1 loss to her old rival Borislava Peric-Rankovic, the World number two from Serbia, she progressed to the knockout stages with a 3-2 win against Aleksandra Vasileva from Russia. The schoolteacher from Barnsley had to settle for the bronze after losing her semi-final 3-1 to the talented young German Sandra Mikolaschek.

“For the first tournament of the season I was quite pleased because we haven’t been back in training long,” said Gilroy. “I can go away now and I know what I need to work on in training and sharpen up for the rest of the season. Today was disappointing because I was playing well and I felt that I could have beaten her (Mikolaschek) but the umpire kept calling me on my serves and it put me off my game. But that is how it goes.”

After a close opening game Matthews was a comfortable 3-0 winner against the Romanian Alexandru Imbuzan and secured first place in the group with another 3-0 win against the Russian Dmity Lavrov. The 24 year old from Aberdare came through his quarter-final against Daniel Lazov from Croatia 3-1 but found the experienced Endre Major on his best form in the semi-final, the Hungarian Rio semi-finalist recording a 3-0 win.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 5“I could have played better,” admitted Matthews, “but fair play to Major he bought his A game and played really well to win that match. After my win in Vegas last year I put a lot of expectation on myself and I did well to get to the semi-finals. Major is a great player and went on to win the gold so I have to congratulate him. We’re playing in the team event together and I’m looking forward to that.”

All three GB players in men’s class 8 reached the knockout stages but Aaron McKibbin, having beaten his team mate Billy Shilton in the last 16, was beaten by the Ukrainian World number one Viktor Didukh in the quarter-finals and Ross Wilson, after coming through his group unbeaten, lost his last 16 match to the 18 year old Frenchman Elias Debeyssac 3-1.

Ashley Facey Thompson was impressive in winning all three of his men’s class 9 group matches 3-0, defeating Ali Alsanea from Kuwait, Koyo Iwabuchi from Japan and the Russian Vladislav Balobanov, but the 22 year old Londoner had to withdraw from his quarter-final with a back injury.

Swansea teenager Lawrence John had a tough opening match in men’s class 10 against Mateo Boheas and lost 3-0 to the World number four from France. A 3-0 win against Takumi Tsujimura from Japan kept him in contention but a 3-0 loss in his final match to the Brazilian Claudio Massad left him in third place in the group and he did not progress to the knockout stages.

In women’s class 6 Felicity Pickard began with an impressive 3-0 win over the World number two Raisa Chebanika from Russia but 3-1 losses to Emelie Endre from Sweden and the Ukrainian Maryna Lytovchenko put her out of the competition.

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Newcomer Stockdale takes gold in Lignano Junior Open

Romford teenager Jack Stockdale made a winning start to his international career in Para table tennis by taking gold in the men’s class 10 singles at the Lignano Junior (U23) Open in Italy today.

STOCKDALE Jack Lignano Junior OpenThe 16 year old came through his group with three wins from three and after 3-1 wins over Alexandros Diakoymakos from Greece and Lorenzo Cordua from Italy he defeated his GB team mate Lawrence John in the final 3-2.

“I really enjoyed my first ever international tournament representing GB,” said Stockdale, “especially getting the chance to play in the final. I feel like I have learned a lot already. I played well throughout the tournament and got even better towards the end. It was very nice to come away with gold and I can’t wait to play another international tournament. I was nervous at the start but with the support of the team and the right attitude I was able to bring it together and keep the same high intensity throughout. Overall, it was a very good experience.”

JOHN Lawrence Lignano Junior OpenWelshman John, 18, is hoping to take this experience into the Lignano Master Open that starts tomorrow.

“I enjoyed my first international tournament back this year,” he said. “I felt I played well throughout the tournament – keeping a good intensity from the first match to the last. My game felt stronger as I progressed and it was a good experience to play against a teammate in the final. I’m looking forward to now playing the senior event and I’m going in having learnt from the U23s event and taking on board how I played.”

The young GB Pathway squad picked up a further two medals with 18 year old Dan Bullen from St Neots taking bronze in the men’s class 4-5 singles after losing his semi-final to the Dutchman Sem Roelofs and Tamlan Eastwood picking up bronze in the round robin men’s class 9 event thanks to a 3-0 win over the Russian Vladislav Balobanov.

“I have enjoyed the first international of the year,” said Bullen. “I played well in parts and I have learnt a lot that I can work on going forward before the Romania Open in a few weeks. I’ll go back to training now feeling motivated to get better.”

“I have learnt a lot from my time in Italy and it has been a good experience,” said 15 year old Eastwood, from Swansea. “I feel that I played well throughout the tournament and have a lot of things to improve on.”

Photos courtesy of ITTF.

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Paralympic medalists head British squad for Italy

Paralympic medalists Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson, who took bronze in the men’s class 6-8 team event in Rio last September, head a squad of 12 athletes representing the British Para Table Tennis Team in the Lignano Master Open in Italy next week (March 1-4).

mc-kibbin-aaron-grb-3McKibbin won the deciding singles tie against World champions China that secured the bronze medal in Rio and is hoping to carry that form into the start of the new season.

“It was big for me to win that last match in the team event in Rio and prove that I deserved to be there,” he admits. “I definitely feel more relaxed going in to this season as although I still want to improve and perform well I feel more confident now – I’ve done it before so hopefully I can do it again. We are ready for some matches and it will be exciting to compete again. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off in Rio.”

Ross Wilson YESWilson has had to contend with a series of injuries since taking a bronze medal in London 2012 at the age of just 17 and won bronze in Rio despite a preparation hampered again by injury.

“Preparation has been going really well,” said the 21 year old from Minster. “Italy will be my first competition since Rio so I really can’t wait to get out there and see where I am compared to the other players in the world. The plan is to make sure that I get on top of my recovery work and hopefully have fewer injuries so I can train more. If I can get results like I did in Rio even when I am struggling with injuries then hopefully I can do even better if I can stay fit.”

Also competing in Italy will be five time Paralympian Sue Gilroy who came agonisingly close to winning her first Paralympic medal in Rio, losing a very close match for the bronze medal to the Serbian Nada Matic 3-2.

Sue Gilroy Day 1 v Zhang“Training has been going well,” said Gilroy. “I’ve been playing a lot of able bodied county tournaments and in two leagues so most of my preparation has been playing against able bodied players but I’ve been on a GB training camp in Sheffield this week and playing against wheelchair players and I’ve been playing really well. I played well in Rio – the last match was disappointing but it is a new season now so I’m really looking forward to Italy.”

The full squad for the Lignano Master Open is:

Ashley Facey Thompson (Class 9 – London)
Sue Gilroy MBE (Class 4 – Barnsley)
Lawrence John (Class 10 – Swansea)
Paul Karabardak (Class 6 – Swansea)
Aaron McKibbin (Class 8 – London/Sheffield)
Tom Matthews (Class 1 – Aberdare)
Martin Perry (Class 6 – Paisley)
Felicity Pickard (Class 6 – Burnley)
Megan Shackleton (Class 4 – Todmorden)
Billy Shilton (Class 8 – Stonehouse/Sheffield)
David Wetherill (Class 6 – Torpoint)
Ross Wilson (Class 8 – Minster/Sheffield)

The following members of the Pathway Squad will be competing in the Lignano Junior Open (February 27-28):

Craig Allen (Class 9 – Birmingham)
Daniel Bullen (Class 5 – St Neotts)
Tamlan Eastwood (Class 9 – Swansea)
Ryan Henry (Class 8 – Ardrossan)
Lawrence John (Class 10 – Swansea)
Conor McAdam (Class 6 – Troon)
Jack Stockdale (TBC – Romford)
Shae Thakker (Class 10 – Slough)

Follow the British Para Table Tennis Team on Twitter @gbparatt

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Bayley dominates Draycott Para Open

Will Bayley & Dave Cochrane Draycott Para OpenParalympic champion Will Bayley dominated the Draycott Para Open today – taking the class 7 singles, combining with Martin Perry to win the open standing doubles and completing a clean sweep in his three events by defeating Perry 3-0 to win the open standing singles.

Men’s class 1 Paralympic champion Rob Davies also started his season in style by winning all his three matches in the round robin class 1-2 singles. The Welshman had to settle for runners-up spot in the open wheelchair doubles after he and Noel Thomas lost the decisive match to Dan Bullen and Lucie Bouron and after a great fight back from 0-2 to beat Bouron in the semi-finals of the open wheelchair singles Davies was defeated 3-1 by class 5 player Bullen in the final.

Perry secured victory in the round robin class 6 singles with a 3-1 win against fellow GB Pathway squad member Fliss Pickard and Bullen won the class 3-5 singles with a 3-1 win against Bouron in the final. Ryan Henry took the round robin class 8 event after winning all three of his matches and Adam Thompson took the round robin class 11 singles.

Craig Allen’s 3-2 victory over Shae Thakker proved to be the decisive result in the round robin class 9-10 singles but Thakker won the Junior standing singles, beating Alex Bland 3-0 in the final.

Players at Draycott Para OpenFinal Results
Class 1-2 Singles RR
Winner: Rob Davies
Runner-up: Oye Jemiyo

Class 3-5 Singles
Final: Daniel Bullen beat Lucie Bouron 3-1

Class 6 Singles RR
Winner: Martin Perry
Runner-up: Fliss Pickard

Class 7 Singles
Final: Will Bayley beat Alex Bland 3-0

Class 8 Singles RR
Winner: Ryan Henry
Runner-up: Nick Dibben

Class 9-10 Singles RR
Winner: Craig Allen
Runner-up: Shae Thakker

Class 11 Singles RR
Winner: Adam Thompson
Runner-up: Peter Millar

Junior Standing Singles
Final: Shae Thakker beat Alex Bland 3-0

Open Standing Doubles
Final: Will Bayley/Martin Perry beat Craig Allen/Tam Eastwood 3-0

Open Wheelchair Doubles RR
Winners: Lucie Bouron/Dan Bullen
Runners-up: Rob Davies/Noel Thomas

Open Standing Singles A
Final: Will Bayley beat Martin Perry 3-0

Open Standing Singles B
Final: Tamar Packford beat Nick Dibben 3-1

Open Standing Singles C
Final: Peter Millar beat Jaiden Caldeira 3-0

Open Wheelchair Singles A
Final: Dan Bullen beat Rob Davies 3-1

Open Wheelchair Singles B/C RR
Winner: Raul Popat
Runner-up: Paul Ledward

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Matthews and Shilton selected for Performance Squad

European medalists Tom Matthews and Billy Shilton have been named in the British Para Table Tennis Performance squad for 2017.

Tom Matthews Slovenia medalMatthews, 24, joined the British Pathway squad in 2013 and partnered Paralympic champion and fellow Welshman Rob Davies to win the men’s class 1 European team title in 2015, having also taken bronze in the singles event. After narrowly missing out on qualification for Rio 2016 he missed most of last year after breaking his leg in the spring but returned in December to take gold in the US Open, beating the Korean World number five and Rio bronze medalist KiWon Nam in the final.

Shilton, 18, also joined the Pathway squad in 2013 and made rapid progress to take bronze in the men’s class 7 singles and silver in the men’s class 7 teams at the European Championships in 2015. The Gloucestershire teenager missed out on Paralympic qualification after being reclassified as a class 8 athlete but went to Rio as part of ParalympicsGB’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme.

“Both Tom and Billy have been selected for the Performance Squad because of the potential they have shown over the last two years,” said BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko.

“Tom just missed qualification for Rio and then lost eight months away from the table following an accident but before that he had beaten top 10 players in the world and was starting to beat top five players in the world. His performance in winning gold in Las Vegas in December showed that he will soon become a World top 10 athlete.  I believe that Tom will be a future medalist for GB in major championships and he is a great prospect for Tokyo 2020.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 3“Billy has been part of the programme now for the last four years and he has shown consistent improvement. He moved to Sheffield last year, which was the first big step for him towards joining the Performance squad, and now he has shown that he is a performance athlete and he understands what he needs to do to be a future medalist at the major competitions.  He also played really well in the US Open at the end of last year and it is looking strong for the programme that we can take players from the Pathway squad to the Performance squad and this is how it should work.”

The full BPTT Performance Squad for 2017 is:

Will Bayley MBE (class 7) – Tunbridge Wells/Sheffield
Paul Davies (class 1) – North Cornelly
Rob Davies MBE (class 1) – Brecon
Kim Daybell (class 10) – Leeds/Sheffield
Ashley Facey Thompson (class 9) – London
Sue Gilroy MBE (class 4) – Barnsley
Jack Hunter-Spivey (class 5) – Liverpool/Sheffield
Paul Karabardak (class 6) – Swansea
Tom Matthews (class 1) – Aberdare
Aaron McKibbin (class 8) – London/Sheffield
Megan Shackleton (class 4) – Todmorden
Billy Shilton (class 8) – Stonehouse/Sheffield
David Wetherill (class 6) – Torpoint
Ross Wilson (class 8) – Minster/Sheffield

Bayley and Davies receive MBE in New Year Honours List

Paralympic champions Will Bayley and Rob Davies have each been given an MBE for services to table tennis in the New Year Honours list published today.

World champion Bayley, who was born with arthrogryphosis and survived childhood cancer, took gold in the men’s class 7 singles in Rio, four years after losing in the final in London 2012.

will-bayley-with-medal-on-podium“I’m so delighted to be given an MBE,” said the 28 year old from Tunbridge Wells. “It is a huge honour and means so much to me. I’m proud every day to represent Great Britain and I feel privileged to have been able to represent my country in three Paralympic Games already. I’m still hungry for more medals and my long term goal is retaining my title in Tokyo 2020 where I will hopefully be at my peak.

“I would like to say thanks my coach Gorazd Vecko and to all my GB team mates and support staff; without them I would not be the player I am today. Thanks also to Gary Howes at Byng Hall – my first table tennis club – and to all my sponsors and supporters over the last 10 years who have believed in me and have made it possible for me to compete at this level. I hope to continue to repay your trust and belief in the years to come.

“I couldn’t have achieved anything without the support of my family – my mum, step-dad and my brother – the amazing team at Great Ormond Street Hospital and a dear family friend Linda Slade, who sadly passed away last year and did so much to help me.”

davies-robert-gbr-07Davies played semi-professional rugby until a spinal cord injury while playing left him wheelchair-bound at the age of 21. Disappointed not to win a medal in London 2012 he responded by taking European gold in 2013 and becoming World number one. European champion again in 2015 he took gold in the men’s class 1 singles in Rio.

“I feel absolutely ecstatic that I’ve been named in this year’s honours list to receive an MBE,” said the 32 year old Welshman. “My face just lit up when I read the letter – I was just so overwhelmed and happy. I just couldn’t believe it! I feel so privileged and proud and would just like to thank everybody who’s been part of this amazing journey I’ve been on.  I can’t wait to make 2017 special!”

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Pathway trio finish with four medals in US Open

The British Para Table Tennis Team took two team medals at the PTT US Open in Las Vegas with Martin Perry adding silver in men’s class 6-7 to the gold he won in the men’s class 6 singles and Billy Shilton winning silver in men’s class 8.

martin-perry-france-3“I feel that I’ve played positive table tennis throughout,” said Perry, who was partnered in the team event by the Chilean Matias Pino Lorca. “It could have been very easy to get distracted out here in Las Vegas but I feel that the mental strength of the whole team has really shown as we have kept each other grounded and focused throughout. I’m over the moon with my first senior title! I put a lot of hard work in back home and in Sheffield and it’s nice to see it paying dividends on the big day. I’m incredibly happy with some of my wins out here; to have beaten the world number 11 for the second time in a row really does fill me with confidence going forward into 2017.”

Shilton combined with the Italian Samuel De Chiara to take the silver in men’s class 8, the pair winning all their group matches and their semi-final against The Netherlands 2-0 and only losing in the final to the experienced Swedish combination of former world number one Emil Andersson and Linus Karlsson.

Billy Shilton Germany 2015Shilton won the deciding singles against Norway in the group and The Netherlands and was happy to bounce back from his disappointment in the singles.

“I didn’t play great in the singles event and struggled to maintain a good level of focus,” he said. “But I had a good chat with my coach Shaun about finding ways to re-focus and I brought it into my matches in the team event. I was really pleased with how I performed during the team event and it was great to win a silver medal in my last tournament of the year. Next year my aims are to break into the top 15 in the world and qualify for the World championships.”

Tom Matthews was thrilled to win his first singles gold medal on his return from injury.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 2“It was tough as it was my first international back since Italy in February,” said the European team champion. “I knew my training had gone well up to the event but it was just settling my nerves and playing with confidence and consistency that got me through. I admit I was very nervous in my semi-final coming up against a player I’ve never faced before and being back in that pressure situation, and to pull through that was a good stepping stone to my final match against Nam. Going 2-0 down was always going to be difficult to fight back against a top player but I just thought to myself ‘fight for every ball and just get it on the table’ and it paid off.

“I’m over the moon to win my first international gold especially against such a great opponent. I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone for getting me back up to match fitness after my injury and just thank you for all the support.”

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Matthews and Perry find gold in Vegas

Two of the British Para Table Tennis Team’s brightest young prospects have taken gold in their respective singles events at the PTT US Open in Las Vegas. Tom Matthews made a winning return from injury in men’s class 1 and Martin Perry also won his first singles gold in men’s class 6.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 5Matthews was playing in his first international competition since February after breaking his leg in the spring and after a walkover against the American Sebastian De Francesco he topped his group with wins against Matti Launonen from Finland (3-1) and the Korean Hakjin Kim (3-0).

A 3-1 win over the Argentinian Guillermo Bustamante Sierra took him into the final against World number five KiWon Nam and when the Korean took the first two sets he looked to be in control. But Matthews showed all his determination and fight to come back and win the next three and secure his first singles gold medal.

Martin Perry France 4Perry began with a great 3-0 win against the very experienced and top ranked Danny Bobrov from Israel and secured first place in his group with further wins against two Americans Ari Arratia (3-1) and Edward Schneider (3-0). He reached the final with a 3-1 win against the Chilean Matias Pino Lorca and also showed his fighting spirit to come from 2-1 down against the talented young American Ian Seidenfeld to take the gold.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 13Billy Shilton played well to win his three group matches in men’s class 8 against Gabriel Salazar Perez from Ecuador (3-1), Pablo Jacobsen from Norway (3-0) and the American Solomon Sesaye (3-0) but was disappointed to lose in the quarter-final to the Italian Samuel De Chiara.

The competition continues with the team event that concludes tomorrow.

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Bayley wins SJA Award

will-bayley-sja-awardsWorld champion Will Bayley’s achievement in winning Paralympic gold in Rio has been recognised today by the Sports Journalists Association which presented him with the Bill McGowran Award for outstanding achievement in Paralympic sport by a man. The award for a woman went to Kadeena Cox who won Paralympic gold in athletics and cycling.

Bayley received the award at a glittering ceremony at the Tower of London and said: “This is such a big award for me personally but also for table tennis and it is amazing to get some recognition for the sport.”

The 28 year old was born with arthrogryphosis and also overcame childhood cancer. After taking silver in London 2012 he became World champion in 2014 and his table-topping celebration after winning gold in Rio became one of the most iconic images of the 2016 Paralympic Games.