by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Organised by the International Paralympic Committee, at the 2017 Paralympic Sport Awards ceremony, staged in Abu Dhabi on Thursday 7th September, Laurens Devos was named the Best Male Debut athlete.
Coached throughout the tournament in Rio de Janeiro by Carlo Agnello, the fact that on the day he secured the gold medal, he was only 16 years and 27 days old was a remarkable feat; it overshadowed one further quite astounding achievement. He did not surrender one single game en route to the title.
“The award means a lot for me because I did not expect that I would receive it. I am very happy that I got it and I think everyone wanted to receive this award. My coach Carlo, he worked hard for me so I am really thankful to him. He spent all his time on me. He took me to matches and he analysed all the matches. He knew what I needed to work on and because of that I became a stronger player.” Laurens Devos
Laurens Devos is from Malle in the Belgian province of Antwerp. He is the youngest in a family of four; he was born, seven weeks premature and was diagnosed with hypoxia; it meant that the right side of his body was deprived of a certain amount of oxygen.
At a young age, he did try horse riding but encouraged by elder brother Guy, who plays in the Belgian Second Division and the more well-known Robin, presently listed at no.151 on the Men’s World Rankings, Laurens alongside his twin sister, Isabel, turned their attentions to table tennis.
Later Laurens, on his own insistence, attended the sports school for high level athletes in Leuven; currently he is listed at no.1 on the Men’s Class 9 World Rankings.
2017 Paralympic Sport Award Winners
……….Best Female: Omara Durand (Cuba)
……….Best Male: Siamand Rahman (Iran)
……….Best Female Debut: Beatrice Vio (Italy)
……….Best Male Debut: Laurens Devos (Belgium)
……….Best Team: Turkey’s women’s goalball team
……….Best Official: Kate McLoughlin (Australia)
……….BP Courage Award: Ammar Hadi Ali (Iraq)
……….Best Written: Marca (Spain)
……….Best Broadcast: Canadian Paralympic Broadcast Consortium
……….Best Photography: Bob Martin