by Ian Marshall
In the morning session of play he was beaten in three straight games by Korea Republic’s Cha Sooyong but the contest was far closer than the well-worn phrase might suggest. Each game was determined by the minimal two point margin (13-11, 12-10, 12-10).
On another day the outcome could have been the exact opposite; at the crucial stages, whatever Cha Sooyong attempted turned to gold, for Jan Riapos, it turned to concrete.
“This morning was my first match in the Tokyo Paralympic Games. I felt I played well but maybe I didn’t have the luck; things just didn’t go my way.” Jan Riapos
However, players finishing in first and second positions in each group advance to the main draw, a win against Japan’s Nobuhiro Minami was vital in order to reserve runners up spot.
Jan Riapos duly responded, winning a close first game bred confidence in the soul, from that moment onwards, he was totally dominant, straight games in a rather different mode to the straight games earlier in the day was the outcome (11-9, 11-3, 11-3).
In fact, such was the confidence that in the third game, when after losing the first two points, Nobuhiro Minami called “time out”, Jan Riapos didn’t move. He just stayed at the end of the table, as though waiting for the umpire to serve a cold beer; a glance at his coach and both knew matters were under total control.
“The tournament had now started; I need to be in good shape for tomorrow when the knock-out starts; I feel I have a good chance of a medal.” Jan Riapos
A medal is a distinct possibility but already by just being in Tokyo, he has won a medal. In the Olympic Games, Jörgen Persson, Zoran Primorac, Jean-Michel Saive and Segun Toriola in addition to Olufunke Oshonaike are all members of the seven club.
The same now applies for Jan Riapos, who suffered a car accident in 1993, he fell asleep for split second when driving and faced life threatening spinal injuries. Tokyo is number seven.
“Tokyo is good for me, I started in Atlanta in 1996, just go step by step, Sydney in 2000 was a great experience; playing in the Paralympic Games is for me wonderful.” Jan Riapos.
Moreover, Jan Riapos is not just a player. He was elected Chair of the Slovak Paralympic Committee in 2003. He has also served as Chair of the Slovak Association of Physically Handicapped Athletes and was the Tournament Director for the 2017 World Para Team Championships in Bratislava.