14 Sep 2016

Crowned European champion in the Danish town of Vejle just under one month ago in October 2015, Great Britain’s Rob Davies added to his list of titles on the morning of Tuesday 13th September at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

A potential Rugby career cut short, when in 2005 he broke his neck in a scrum playing for the Brecon club in South Wales, the 32 year old beat Korea’s Joo Youngdae to secure the Men’s Singles Class 1 title.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

After some tense moments, he emerged successful in four games (14-12, 4-11, 11-9, 11-5); winning the third game was the pivotal moment.

Bemused

“Is that right, I really don’t know”, admitted a totally bemused Rob Davies when I suggested that in the third game he was losing 2-6 and facing potential defeat.

The match, the moment a blur but he was well aware of the support he had received in recent years that had made the blur possible.

“Tim Pitt, our psychologist has been fantastic; he has really helped me cope with big match situations, he has really helped me become stronger mentally, he has helped me to become bold when I play”, explained Rob Davies. “The last twice I’ve played Joo Youngdae I’ve lost; I lost to him three-two last year in Slovenia but today I played a great match.”

In the team event in Slovenia he had experienced a straight games defeat (11-4, 11-7, 11-7); in the final of Men’s Singles Class 1 had suffered by the narrowest of margins (9-11, 11-7, 12-10, 6-11, 12-10).

Bayley boost

However much water has passed under the bridge in the meantime and one day earlier there had been a torrent of motivation.

“Yesterday the fact that Will Bayley won was a great boost for me, to see the Union Jack flying really encouraged me for today”, continued Rob Davies. “I really pushed myself as hard as possible.”

Notably first in line in the British Team to congratulate Rob Davies as he moved to answer questions from the press was Will Bayley with the rest of the squad in tow.

Team Great Britain

“Thanks to the Great Britain Team, they were here to support me; my thanks to everyone who has helped me”, added Rob Davies. “My thanks to Tim Pitt the psychologist, to Jason Beaumont, the physiotherapist who has made me stronger and to my twin brother, Rich and my whole family; just thanks to everyone.”

 Great character

A team effort with no-one more delighted than Greg Baker, the coach who had sat courtside guiding fortunes in both Vejle and Rio de Janeiro.

“He has so much character, he is so resilient; in London four years ago, he lost very closely; it’s been four years of hard work”, explained Greg Baker. At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Rob Davies had been beaten by Frenchman, Jean-François Ducay in five games at the quarter-final stage (11-5, 11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-9).

“A major strength of Rob’s play is that he has good serves and he has been working hard in the gym to improve his strength so he can reach the up and under shot”, added Greg Baker; in Class 1 and Class 2, a point winning tactic is to hit the ball high in the air, just over the net, so the opponent cannot reach the ball.

Coached by Neil Robinson

“Rob is based in Cardiff, he practises at the Welsh National Institute of Sport”, concluded Greg Baker. “He is coached by Neil Robinson.”

Notably Neil Robinson is present in Rio de Janeiro; a Class 3 player; commencing in 1992 he played in five consecutive Paralympic Games.

Like all members of Team Great Britain he was delighted for Rob Davies; the man who was introduced to table tennis when undergoing rehabilitation and thought it was a “girly sport” was a Paralympic Games gold medallist.

Added to total

Success and it added the total. It was the 32nd gold medal won by Great Britain at the current Paralympic Games.

The bronze medal was won by Nam Kiwon, like Joo Youngdae from Korea; he overcame Hungary’s Endre Major in four games (11-9, 4-11, 11-6, 13-11).

Paralympics Joo Youngdae Robert Davies

Match Highlights