by Ian Marshall, Editor (interviews by Francesca Bullock, Great Britain Para Table Tennis Team Press Officer)
However, on this occasion there was a difference; it was not the usual familiar face in the final.
After losing to the host nation’s Israel Stroh in the group stage of proceedings in Rio de Janeiro (10-12, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7), in the gold medal contest Will Bayley reversed the decision (11-9, 5-11, 11-9, 11-4). Earlier this year, he accounted for Israel Stroh in the Lignano Masters final in Italy (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-3); then in Lasko repeated the feat (8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8).
In Tokyo, life was rather different. After, without dropping a single game, securing first place in his initial stage group, finishing ahead of Japan’s Kazuya Kaneko, Hong Kong’s Chen Silu and India’s Naazim Khan, Will Bayley progressed in some style.
He accounted for the Czech Republic’s Daniel Horhut (11-5, 11-7, 11-2), prior to reserving his place in the final by ousting Germany’s Jochen Wollmert (9-11, 11-3, 12-10, 11-3), the player against whom he had experienced defeat in the London 2012 Paralympic Games final (11-8, 4-11, 11-5, 11-4). A hard fought penultimate round contest, it was the same in the final, a full distance win was the outcome against Jean-Paul Montanus of the Netherlands (11-7, 4-11, 8-11, 15-13, 11-8).
“This was probably my best win of the season so far. It feels amazing to have won three tournaments in a row; I just want my level to get better and better. J-P is always a tough match as he is a great player so I know that I have to play my best to win; when I was 2-1, 5-1 down I changed my tactics. I felt more confident in the last game but it was so tough.” Will Bayley
Gold for Will Bayley, for colleagues Ross Wilson, Ashley Facey Thompson and Megan Shackleton there were silver medals, for Jack Hunter-Spivey, Aaron McKibbin and Kim Daybell, the colour was bronze.
Competing in women’s singles class 4, in a group organised event, Megan Shackleton finished in runners up spot behind Thailand’s Wijittra Jaion, the top seed.
“So far I’m pleased with how I’ve played here. I played quite well against Jaion but just a few errors cost me the close games in the end. I’m looking forward to building on this and hopefully upping my level for the Czech Open and the Europeans next month.” Megan Shackleton
Meanwhile for Ross Wilson there was an air of déjà vu; earlier in the year in Slovenia he had lost in straight games to Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh in the men’s singles class 8 final (11-5, 13-11, 11-7); the contest was slightly closer in Tokyo, it was decided in four games (11-5, 15-13, 9-11, 11-7).
“It has been a successful competition but I would loved to have got the gold. My match against Didukh was closer than in Slovenia but I’d like to have improved my quality the whole way through the match as I felt I was only playing well in patches. I’ll look to do better next time and take the positives from this leading up to the European Championships.” Ross Wilson
Runners up spot for Ross Wilson as his second seeded position advised, for Ashley Facey Thompson, not seeded, his silver medal was somewhat of a surprise. He was beaten in the final by Australia’s Ma Lin (11-2, 11-4, 11-7).
“I thought I played very well against everyone up to the final. I had a lot of confidence and focus coming here, I believed in myself and it gave me the best chance. The final was a difficult match as he is such a world class player but he played really, really well so credit to him.” Ashley Facey Thompson
Defeat in the final for Ashley Facey Thompson; for Jack Hunter-Spivey in men’s singles class 5, it was one round earlier; he was beaten by Norway’s Tommy Urhaug (11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 11-3), the eventual gold medallist.
“I feel that my overall level has been high. In the semi-final I played some really good table tennis and executed what I’ve been working on in training well but I made too many unforced errors and Tommy took full advantage of it. He’s an amazing player and he was the better man on the day. I’m really happy to take a medal out here especially with a year to go until the Paralympics.” Jack Hunter-Spivey
Similarly in men’s singles class 8, it was a penultimate round defeat for Aaron McKibbin, like Ross Wilson at the hands of Viktor Didukh (11-4, 11-7, 11-7).
“It’s been a constant improvement for me this year and I’m happy to have taken another medal in singles. I felt I played well in the semi-final but Viktor was just too good today, he was onto everything I tried. I know what I need to work on, I’ve made a lot of progress. I need to get to the next level; that motivates me for the coming weeks leading up to the Europeans.” Aaron McKibbin
Farewell for in the penultimate round for Jack Hunter-Spivey and Aaron McKibbin against the champion elect; it was the same in class 10 for Kim Daybell, a recently qualified doctor, he was beaten by Japan’s Nariaki Kakita (11-9, 12-14, 12-10, 11-7).
“I struggled a little bit today against Kakita and fair play to him he played very well. I feel a bit disappointed with my performance but that is the way it goes sometimes. I’ll go back to the drawing board and try and get some more hours of training in. It hasn’t been easy making the transition into work and training and I don’t feel I’ve got it quite right yet but all I can do is keep trying.” Kim Daybell
The team events now follow, play in Tokyo concludes on Saturday 3rd July.
2019 Para Japan Open: Draws and Latest Results