World Championships Beijing Blog #10

Thursday, September 11: It’s the morning after the night before and for some it’s been a very short night. The Chinese Centre for Disability Sport is designed for training and has few distractions but among the impressive sporting facilities is, rather incongruously, a karaoke bar and that was the destination last night for most of the team and some of the other nations as well. It’s not every day we win gold at the World Championships and everyone felt like celebrating. Given the Welsh talent for singing it was not surprising that Neil was the star of the show although if Paul McCartney had been there he might have been regretting writing such a long chorus for Hey Jude.

The team competition does not start until this afternoon so breakfast is a little later than usual. Will still looks slightly shocked at what he has achieved but has more mundane things on his mind at the moment – even world champions need to do their laundry.

It’s warm and humid and there is a threat of thunder in the air as we head over to the hall after lunch for the start of the team event. The morning has been so relaxed that we have to remind ourselves that this is the World Championships and it is time to get back into competition mode.

First up for GB are Kim and Aaron at 14.00 in the men’s class 9-10 team event. Their opening match is against Poland – the top seeds in their group – and Aaron has the unenviable task of playing the opening singles against the class 10 gold medallist and world number one Patryk Chojnowski. Aaron is not disgraced but cannot match the power and experience of the Paralympic champion who wins the match 3-0.

Kim levels the tie with a 3-1 win over the Polish number two Sebastian Powrozniak and the boys make a great start to the doubles, winning the first set 12-10. The Poles come back to take a 2-1 lead but our boys, playing together for only their second tournament, respond really well to take the fourth, a great serve from Aaron clinching the set. In the deciding set at 6-6 there is some confusion from the Polish pair over who Aaron should be serving to and it seems to halt our boys’ momentum as they lose the next five points and the match.

Coach Matt calls a time out in Kim's singles

Coach Matt calls a time out in Kim’s singles

It is now Kim’s turn to take on Chojnowski and he is clearly not overawed by the challenge as he saves four set points in the first before the Pole clinches it 11-9. In the second set Kim is 0-3 down and Matt calls a time out. It seems to work as Kim levels at 3-3 and some spectacular defence enables him to level again at 8-8 as Chojnowski misses his shot. The world number one is starting to have the look of the school bully whose playground dominance is being threatened by the new kid at school and a service error allows Kim to draw level again at 9-9 before Chojnowski takes the next two points and a 2-0 lead. In the third Kim surprises Chojnowski again with the quality of his play and from 3-7 he recovers to 7-9 but Chojnowski takes the set 11-8 and the match 3-0.

Although they’ve lost the match Kim and Aaron are deservedly upbeat and looking forward to their matches against Ukraine and Japan tomorrow.

It is now time for the second session of matches and we have to keep one eye on Jane and Sara taking on Korea and the other on Will and Paul against Egypt. Will’s first match as world champion is against the class 6 Rekik Eid, whose heavily strapped right knee and awkward movement cannot disguise his quick hands, and the Egyptian wins the first set 11-8 and the second 11-9. Will doesn’t appear to be too worried which is more than can be said for the rest of us but he calms our nerves by taking the next three sets comfortably to win the match 3-2.

Jane has been involved in a very close match against Mi Gyn Lee and having taken the first 12-10 she loses the next two but comes back well to take the fourth 11-3. She starts well in the deciding fifth and at 3-0 the Korean coach calls a time out. Slowly but surely Lee starts to edge her way back and after taking the lead at 8-7 she takes the next three points to win the first match 3-2.

20140911_170713Paul is now playing the talented Ahmed Sayed Mohamed and the Egyptian world number six is in fighting mood and wins in three close sets to level the tie. In the doubles Will and Paul, usually such a good team, are not at their best and the Egyptian pair dominate in a 3-0 win to take a 2-1 lead.

Sara has levelled the tie for the girls against Korea with a 3-1 win over Su Yeon Seo and we hope that she and Jane can produce their magic in the doubles. They make a good start winning the first 11-4 but the Koreans come back and take the second 11-3.

Will must now beat Sayed to keep us in the tie against Egypt and he wins the first set 11-5. In the second it starts to look as if his heroics yesterday have caught up with him as he wins only three points. Sayed is clearly fired up and seems to greet every winning point as if he has just taken a Test wicket at Lord’s and the Egyptian team are equally vocal in their support. It is certainly noisy but adds to the atmosphere and the tension and Will responds like the champion he is by taking the third 11-3.

Meanwhile Sara and Jane have lost the third set 6-11 as Will makes a good start to the fourth set but Sayed is finding the table with some great shots and takes the set 11-9. So it’s down to a fifth set again and once again Will rises to the challenge and wins the set 11-8 and the match 3-2.

Will can do no more and now it is up to Paul to win the vital deciding match. Thankfully for our nerves he never really looks like losing and he wins in three sets to clinch the tie 3-2. There are sighs of relief all round as a loss in their first match would have been hard for the boys to come back from with the sterner challenge of Spain to come tomorrow.

Jane and Sara have a post-match debrief with coach Greg

Jane and Sara have a post-match debrief with coach Greg

We then focus our attention on Jane and Sara who have lost the doubles match 3-1 and now trail 1-2 in the tie. Sara wins the first set against Lee which gives us hope but the Korean fights back and edges the second 14-12 and with the momentum now with her she goes on to take the next two 7 and 3 to win the tie for Korea 3-1.

It is a disappointing start for the girls but they will come back fighting tomorrow when they play France and Croatia. As we troop back to the hotel it has been raining and darkness has fallen. Tomorrow will be a tough but for now it is time to eat and get a good night’s sleep. As Scarlett O’Hara so memorably said, “Tomorrow is another day.”