23 Sep 2018

Present at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games was Slovakia’s Juraj Stefak, at the recent Czech Para Open, which concluded in Ostrava on Saturday 22nd September, he was also in attendance.

Once again he fulfilled the same vital role; he was the Chair of the Classification Commission; the goal to ensure that the distribution of the players into classes is fair.

by Clara Riddellova, Czech Para Open Organising Committee

The main task is to ensure level playing conditions. None of the players should have the advantage of physical condition. There are ten classes in Para table tennis divided according to the severity of the handicap; also there is one further category for players with an intellectual disability.

Five of the ten classes are for those in wheelchairs, the other five for players who have disabilities that allows them to play standing.

“We need to judge a player’s capabilities and classify them either according to medical tests and special tests such as observing their abilities to move. Each class must include players with comparable handicaps so that victory can be achieved by the one who trains harder and is the more talented, rather than the one with an advantage because of better physical condition.

The decision is usually quite difficult owing to the variety of disabilities. Moreover, every human is unique which makes the decision making even more challenging. It requires a serious approach, experience, knowledge, time and we have to respect the human factor.” Juraj Stefak

I presume that at least one member of the Committee must have a medical degree.

Who else oversees the evaluation of how severe is a player’s disability and how should be classified?

“The classification panel consists of two people; one of whom has a medical education and a former table tennis player or coach. If there is a large number of participants at a tournament there must be two classification teams.

“Overall 250 players participated in the Czech Open this year; there are 23 newcomers who were classified for the first time. We found out that one player doesn’t even meet the conditions for the minimal handicap.

Every new player must undergo classification and after that is able to receive something like an identity card for Para table tennis; this document contains information about the player. He can then sign up for any tournament and there is no need to reclassify. We watch the newly classified players; about 95 per cent of our original assessments turn out to be correct. During the tournament this year three players had to be reclassified.” Juraj Stefak

How long have you been a part of the Classification Committee? Have you ever been carried away by a dramatic match while assessing players?

“I have been doing this for 21 years now. It is our duty to do our job properly. After the job is done we are able to go around and enjoy matches. For example, the match between Ivan Karabec and Kim Daybell on Friday was an extraordinary performance to behold.” Juraj Stefak

Kim Daybell is a player of note and maybe one day will assist with classification; recently he qualified as a doctor.

2018 Czech Para Open: Draws and Results

Paralympics Para Table Tennis Czech Para Open