On the first day of the table tennis at the Rio2016 Paralympic Games David Wetherill started his bid for a medal in the men’s class 6 singles with a 3-0 win against the remarkable Ibrahim Hamadtou. The Egyptian lost both his arms at the age of 10 and plays with the bat held between his teeth.
“It was an absolute honour for me to start off against the legend that is Ibrahim,” said Wetherill. “It was a strange one to prepare for because I’ve seen him on YouTube and he’s a legend in table tennis. In table tennis it is skill vs skill and I know I won today but I think he has demonstrated far more skill than I have just now and I’ve got so much respect for him. It is really nice to get the first win under my belt – I feel good and I can build from that.”
Wetherill plays his second match against Thomas Rau of Germany tomorrow.
Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 8) was the first GB player in action at 09:00 and he had a tough match against the World number three Thomas Bouvais. The Frenchman had won all three of their previous matches – most recently at the European Championships in 2015 – and although McKibbin fought back well to take the second set 12-10 Bouvais took the match 3-1.
“I kicked off GB in London 2012,” said McKibbin, “and in London I was very nervous but today I felt a lot more sure of myself. Obviously I played against a very good opponent who I find quite tricky. I don’t think I played bad – I made a few silly mistakes but my tactics were good and I felt there are a lot of positives I can take into the second game where I know I’ve got a really good chance to get the victory. I’ve got to treat the next match like a final as from here on for me it’s going to be like a knockout round so hopefully I can do the business and get through.”
Jane Campbell (women’s class 3) also had a tough first match against World champion Li Qian. The Chinese World number two had won all of their previous 11 matches and although Campbell fought hard and had chances to take the third set Li took it 13-11 and the match 3-0.
“I think I played reasonably well but I feel I could have done better,” said Campbell. “It felt at the time as if I could have made a match of it if I’d won that third set but I think I just put too much pressure on myself. I should have just carried on playing the way I was playing. I can see that I am playing well – that is probably the best I’ve played against Li so that is encouraging and gives me confidence for my next match.”
Campbell plays Hatice Duman of Turkey in her second group match on Saturday.
Ashley Facey Thompson was making his Paralympic debut and came up against the World number three Juan Bautista Perez Gonzalez in top form. He had chances to win the second set but the Spaniard used all his experience to take it 12-10 and the match 3-0.
“The atmosphere was incredible and I really enjoyed it,” said Facey Thompson. “He came out pretty well – when I played him in Slovenia earlier this season it was close and I don’t think he took any chances this time. I tried my best but to be fair he was on the top of his game today. If I had won the second set it could have been a different game but I got a bit nervous when I was 7-3 up. But it is my first Paralympics and I’ve never had to play in these situations before. I felt that I was going for my shots – some of them were missing but I felt that I was playing well I just need to tighten up my game for the next match.”
Facey Thompson plays the Austrian Stanislaw Fraczyk in his second group match on Saturday.