by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
After some seven years of preparation the curtain closed, Riocentro Pavilion 3, home for the table tennis events, having witnessed high drama and moments of emotion but which had been the more captivating, was it the Olympic Games or was it the Paralympic Games?
Asking those who had been present for both, the answer was unanimous, the latter won the vote.
At the Paralympic Games, there was no player who could wield a racket with the power of Ma Long or could match the consistency of Ding Ning but there were plenty who could match their endeavour, their will to win, their desire to prove themselves.
Notable amongst the Paralympians was the respect for each other; no doubt it was present at the Olympic Games but it was not so clearly displayed. It appeared that the more severe the disability the greater the show of respect.
Watching the wheelchair athletes, in particular, reach out to each other at the end of a match, hug each other was a heart rending sight.
Furthermore watching the reaction of the coaches when their player succeeded underlined the respect they possessed for their charges; in several instances their delight overshadowed that of the athlete they had advised.
It was a humbling experience in what is an event that can be compared with no other.
Respect, there was also appreciation. At the end of an interview there was a most sincere “thank you” time and again; being afforded such attention may well be the norm for the Olympians, it is not for the Paralympians.
Even the World Para Championships cannot be compared; equally an tournament that could be regarded as the equivalent of an ITTF World tournament does not merit great media attention.
Also, at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was there not an element of education? Did the crowd not learn?
Understandably they supported their own, they created a memorable atmosphere but after three or four days, as the players left the arena, all received the plaudits of those in the tiered seating stood in honour; the effort made against considerable odds was recognised and appreciated.
One more fact, accepted there were far more matches but was there not a greater percentage of upsets?
Players who had won medals in London four years earlier left with nought; those who had missed out or were new to the theatre emerged successful.
China emerged the most successful but equally they suffered defeats against foreign opposition; the last time that happened in an Olympic Games was in 2004 in Athens/
A Paralympic Games table tennis event to remember, 47 National Olympic Committees, 29 events; a total of 269 athletes competed in Rio de Janeiro.
Medal winners or not, all earned the greatest of respect; all deserve our admiration, all are athletes with ability, outstanding ability.