02 Sep 2019

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are just under a year away and so far the race to the Japanese capital has been nothing short of spectacular.

With qualification on offer for this year’s continental championships, many familiar faces have already booked their tickets to Tokyo 2020 but one player who caught the eye at the recent 2019 Lima Para Pan American Games is Claudia Perez Villalba.

by Simon Daish

Inexperienced Mexican steals the show

A remarkable story, Mexico’s Claudia Perez Villalba travelled to Lima with the odds against her, after all she was competing in what was only her fourth professional tournament!

However, her lack of international exposure didn’t stop her from causing a storm in the Peruvian capital as she topped the women’s singles class 7 podium to seal her entry for next year’s Paralympic Games.

Success in Lima, Claudia Perez Villalba is certainly one of the standout names heading to Tokyo and will be joined on the plane by a whole host of international stars – Here are just a few names to note:

Melissa Tapper (AUS)

Australian superstar Melissa Tapper sealed her qualification after successfully retaining the women’s singles class 6-10 gold at the 2019 ITTF Para Oceanian Championships in Darwin with a straight games success against fellow compatriot Andrea McDonnell.

At Rio 2016 Tapper made history by becoming the first athlete from Oceania to qualify for both the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games – she will be looking to make even more headlines at Tokyo 2020.

Melissa Tapper pictured in action at the 2018 Commonwealth Games (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh (EGY)

At the 2019 ITTF African Para Championships in Alexandria, Egypt’s Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh beat Nigeria’s Isau Ogunkunle to men’s singles class 4 glory to qualify for Tokyo. A magnificent feat and a historic one too as he becomes the first African to reach the Paralympic Games for a fifth time!

Eid Saleh’s highlight Paralympic Games moment came in 2012, claiming the class 4 bronze medal in London and will be eyeing up more silverware in 2020.

Fifth Paralympic Games outing awaits Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh (Photo: Nada Mamdouh / Ahmed Farouk)
Feng Panfeng (CHN)

Just over a month back at the 2019 ITTF Asian Para Championships in Taichung, China’s very own Feng Panfeng took home the men’s singles class 3 top prize with victory over Zhai Xiang at the final hurdle.

Paralympic Class 3 champion at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, Feng Panfeng is aiming to make to four in a row in Tokyo and now has the opportunity to pull it off after securing his spot at the 2020 Games.

Will it be four in a row for Feng Panfeng? (Photo: Richard Kalocsai)
Plenty of places still up for grabs

Overall 21 further players will add their names to the entry list for Tokyo 2020 at the upcoming 2019 ITTF Para European Championships in Helsingborg, Sweden from Monday 16th to Saturday 21st September.

Alongside the 21 qualifiers from the European Championships, four players from Oceania have already sealed their tickets to the Paralympic Games with 14 from Africa, 21 from Asia and 15 from Pan America are also on the invitation list following the conclusion of the respective continental championships.

The remaining spots will be made up of successful athletes at Paralympic Qualification events in 2020, world rankings positions and wildcards – in total 280 athletes will be in action at Tokyo 2020 (174 male and 106 female).

Full details in relation to the qualification system can be found here.

Para Table Tennis Melissa Tapper FENG Panfeng Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh Claudia Perez Villalba