by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Rising to the Paralympic Games challenge, there is surely no player better than Germany’s Jochen Wollmert.
A major difference
In Rio de Janeiro, the 51 year old from Wuppertal will be competing in no less than his seventh consecutive Paralympic Games.
Now in the table tennis events at the Olympic Games, the feat of seven appearances has been achieved by Sweden’s Jörgen Persson, Croatia’s Zoran Primorac, Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive and, following his appearance in Rio de Janeiro, by Nigeria’s Segun Toriola.
However, there is one major difference; in all previous six editions of the prestigious tournament, Jochen Wollmert has departed with a medal and on only one occasion the colour has not been gold!
On debut in 1992 in Barcelona he had to settle for bronze in Men’s Singles Class 7 and the same colour in Men’s Team Class 8.
Four years later in Atlanta, he clinched gold in Men’s Team Class 6-8; in 2000 in Sydney he won the Men’s Singles Class 7 event; a feat he repeated in Beijing and London.
Meanwhile in 2004 in Athens he won gold in Men’s Team Class 6-7. Additionally in Atlanta and Athens he was the Men’s Singles Class 7 silver medallist, in Sydney the Men’s Team Class 8 bronze medallist.
In Rio de Janeiro, he seeks a staggering fourth Men’s Singles Class 7 title but could it prove a task too far. He is the no.11 seed; the top seed is Great Britain’s Will Bayley, the player Jochen Wollmert beat in the London final.
Seeking third in succession
Success would mean three in succession; it is the same for China’s Feng Panfeng in Class 3; he won in Beijing and London. In Rio de Janeiro he is the no.2 seed. The top seed is Germany’s Thomas Schmidberger.
Notably in the Men’s Singles events, only three players who struck London gold, occupy the top seeded spot in Rio de Janeiro.
Korea’s Kim Younggun is the top seed in Class 4, China’s Ma Lin in Class 9 and Poland’s Patryk Chojnowski in Class 10.
Notably, Germany’s Holger Nikelis and Norway’s Tommy Urhaug are to a lesser extent in a similar situation to Jochen Wollmert; according to status they are comparative outsiders.
Holger Nikelis is the fourth highest name in Class 1 behind Great Britain’s Robert Davies, Frenchman Jean François Ducay and China’s Lee Changho.
In Class 5, Tommy Urhaug is one place lower; China’s Cao Ningning heads the list followed by Turkey’s Ali Ozturk, Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Ming-Chih and Germany’s Valentin Baus.
Somewhat similarly, the Slovak Republic’s Jan Riapos and Thailand’s Rungroj Thainiyom in addition to China’s Zhao Shuai and Hungary’s Peter Palos, will have to upset the odds if they are to repeat their London achievement.
Gold medallist in Athens, Jan Riapos is the no.3 seed in Class 2 behind Frenchman Fabien Lamirault and Poland’s Rafal Czuper; likewise Rungroj Thainiyom occupies the same position in Class 6, as does Peter Palos in Class 11.
Spain’s Alvaro Valera is the top seed in Class 6 followed by Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier; in Class 11, the top name is Belgium’s Florian Van Acker, the next on the list is Spain’s Eduardo Cuesta Martinez.
World and European champion heads list
Success in London, it was the same in Class 8 for China’s Zhao Shuai.
In Rio de Janeiro, he is the no.2 seed. The top seed is Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh, crowned the reigning World and European champion, he is making his Paralympic Games debut.
In all Men’s Singles events, play is in two stages; a group phase followed by knock-out.
Players finishing in first and second places in each group advance to the main draw; a play-off match is held to determine the bronze medal.