by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The win adds to the list of major titles won by the 21 year old from Shijiazhuang, a city in Hebei Province, some two hours by train from Beijing.
Notably in 2010 he won Men’s Singles Class 6-8 at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, before securing the securing gold in Singles lass 8 four years later in Incheon.
“I was under a lot of pressure as I was the defending champion from London, I wanted to win it again and get another gold medal”, said Zhao Shuai. “I have been training very hard, six times a day and sometimes I find table tennis very boring!”
Tedious maybe but there was nothing to suggest boredom in his performance against Andras Csonka.
“However, it freaks me out when I lose a match but this was my dream to be Paralympic Games champion; it gave me the power I needed”, added Zhao Shuai. “I lost to Andras in Germany last year but I was confident I could beat him when it mattered, at the Games and win the gold medal, I believed I could do it.”
He succeeded and no doubt his family back home in China was delighted.
“My father was an amateur table tennis player so that is why I started playing; then I went to the national table tennis centre in Zhengding”, concluded Zhao Shuai. “It’s known the world over, it’s very famous; you train alongside professional players, every table tennis player in the world knows Zhengding.”
Meanwhile, for Andras Csonka it was a case of what might have been.
“I lost to him in London in the quarter-finals but managed to beat him in an open tournament in Germany last year so I thought I could beat him again”, said Andras Csonka. “He was the better player and I can take the defeat; he is a very good player, he is the defending champion and deserved to win.”
Defeat but there was more than consolation.
“I am so happy as this is the first Paralympic medal in my life so I have achieved a dream; this is my fourth Paralympic Games and finally I have got a medal”, concluded Andras Csonka. “This is the biggest success of my life and I have to thank everybody who has supported me throughout.”
Bronze for Poland
Gold for China, silver for Hungary, it was bronze for Poland; in the contest for the third place on the podium, Piotr Grudzien overcame Ye Chaoqun, like Zhao Shuai from China.
He won in five games (11-6, 5-11, 11-9, 3-11, 11-3).