11 Sep 2016

They stood to a man, woman and child on the morning of Saturday 10th September at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Totally uninhibited, they raised the roof in support of Alois Lima in their efforts to will the Brazilian to success in his vital Men’s Singles Class 1 group stage contest against Great Britain’s Paul Davies.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
However, that was not the factor that was of the greatest significance in the contest.

Saved seven match points

Neither was the fact that Paul Davies recovered from a 5-10 deficit in the deciding fifth game to secure a dramatic victory; he saved no less than seven match points before on his one opportunity clinching victory (7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 5-11, 14-12)

Equally, it was not the fact that the win secured second position in the group and thus a passport to the main draw.

Earlier in proceedings both players had experienced defeat at the hands of Korea’s Lee Changho. Alois Lima had been beaten in three straight games by the Korean (11-6, 11-8, 11-1); Paul Davies in four games (11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7).

Standing ovation

Furthermore, the reaction at the end of the contest was quite stunning. Once again the massed ranks of Brazilian supporters stood in homage; simply they respected the effort their charge had made.

Also, did I detect more than a hint of admiration for the British player?

Player reaction

The fact that stood out above all else was the reaction of the players as the moved in their wheelchairs towards the umpire; before they reached the official they shook hands and hugged each other.

They showed, respect, admiration and esteem for each other; the gesture was an example to all who competed at the preceding Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Slap hands, not professional

How many times did I see the elite players of the world just slap hands with their adversary at the end of a contest?

I’m not asking the best players in the world to hug and kiss each other but surely they can shake hands properly? Shaking hands is professional, slapping hands is not!

If the best do not follow protocol of behaviour, then the younger generations follow suit; in Rio de Janeiro Paul Davies and Alois Lima set the example for younger generations whether able bodied or disabled.

Good friend

“Paul is my friend, he is a good friend, I played my best, I lost but I’m satisfied with the way that I played”, said Alois Lima. “I have to respect him; he’s older than me!”

Alois Lima had just lost a cliff hanger, he had spurned seven opportunities; yet his persona was one of smiles. He wished Paul Davies success.

The sport important

“We are here for sport, we compete but at the end of the day, we are friends; there is much more to life than winning or losing a table tennis match”, said Paul Davies who was clearly delighted to be in Rio de Janeiro.

“Here, we have all been well treated her by the Brazilians; they have all welcomed the players from Great Britain; today things worked out well for me, maybe in the fifth game Alois became nervous.”

Welsh wizards

A place reserved in the main draw for Paul Davies, who thus joined compatriot Rob Davies in the second stage; both are from South Wales.

Paul Davies is from Cornelly on the coast, Rob Davies is from Abergavenny, some 56 miles further inland; a drive of one hour on the A465 and Heads of the Valleys road.

Main draw qualifiers

Rob Davies finished in first place in his group, as did the Korean trio of Nam Kiwon, Lee Changho and Joo Youngdae.

In addition to Paul Davies, second positions were secured by Italy’s Andreea Bogato, Frenchman Jean-François Ducay and Hungary’s Endre Major.

Paralympics Paul Davies Alois Lima