by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Natalia Partyka beat Yang Qian in a full distance five games duel to arrest the title (11-5, 11-13, 11-9, 7-11, 11-4); two years later at the 2014 World Championships in Beijing the outcome was once again in favour of Natalia Partyka but even closer.
The Olympic champion won but only by the very narrowest of margins in the fifth game (7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 12-10).
Enjoyed success since London
Notably since the meeting in London; Yang Qian has enjoyed major success; at the Asian Para Championships, she won the Class 10 title in 2013, the Class 9-10 title in 2015. Additionally at the Asian Para Games in 2014, she secured the Class 9-10 crown.
Similarly, since her success in London, Natalia Partyka won the Class 10 event at the 2015 European Para Championships.
Three in a row
Seeking a quite unprecedented fourth successive Paralympic Games Women’s Singles title; three further players are in search of their third.
China’s Liu Jing, Zhou Ying and Lei Lina are the players in question; all won in Beijing and completed successful defences in London.
Zhou Ying and Lei Lina are very much the favourites to complete the hat-trick. Zhou Ying is the top seed in Women’s Singles Class 4; Lei Lina occupies pole position in Class 9. However, as with Natalia Partyka, life may be more testing for Liu Jing; in Class 1-2, she is the second seed, behind Korea’s Seo Suyeon.
Notably Liu Jing and Lei Lina are both reigning World champions.
Sandra Paovic top seed
Titles defended; in the Women’s events, it is only in Class 6 where the London title is not defended. The blanket ban on Russian athletes at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games means that Raisa Chebanika cannot defend her crown.
Top seed in the event is Croatia’s reigning World Para champion Sandra Paovic. She competed in the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games but is making her Paralympic Games debut.
In all other Women’s Singles events in Rio de Janeiro, the London title is being defended.
Pertinently, Sweden’s Anna-Carin Ahlqhuist (Class 3), China’s Zhang Bian (Class 5) and current World champion, Kelly van Zon of the Netherlands (Class 7) all occupy the top seeded spot in their respective events.
Points to prove
However, for Mao Jingdian, the World champion, she may have to prove a point; in Class 8 she is the second seed, the top seed is Thu Kamkasomphu of France.
A potentially testing time ahead for Miao Jingdian, for Hong Kong’s Wong Ka Man in Class 11, to retain the title is a quite foreboding task.
Six players on duty in the event, she is the sixth highest ranked! Ukraine’s Natalia Kosmina is the top seed.
In all Women’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.