30 Aug 2021

Four gold medals remaining, four titles to be decided in the individual events at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games; the music of Queen greeted the umpires for the start of play on the late afternoon of Monday 30th August.

At the close of the day, the crowns were bestowed on Frenchman Fabien Lamirault and Turkey’s Abdullah Ozturk, alongside Australia's Lei Li Na and Yang Qian.

by Ian Marshall

Familiar foes faced each other to commence the concluding programme.

Rio repeat

Fabien Lamirault confronted Poland’s Rafal Czuper, a contest that was a repeat of the Rio de Janeiro final; on that occasion the verdict had gone in favour of France, Fabien Lamirault emerging successful in four games (11-6, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9).

Vocal support from colleagues in the tiered seating urging their hero forward, Fabien Lamirault repeated the success, only on this occasion by the very narrowest of margins (11-6, 12-14, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9); the “time out” he called at 8-7 in the deciding game proving a wise move. He won the next two points before eventually securing that vital gold medal point.

“I am delighted for my wife and for my children, Rafal played well, I must congratulate him; he made it difficult for me to play my game. We are ranked number one and two in the world so there is little difference between us; today I achieved my goal of becoming the first player ever to win class 2 twice in succession at the Paralympic Games.” Fabien Lamirault

Successful twice in succession but the second player to win the men’s singles class 2 title on two occasions; Slovakia’s Jan Riapos won in 2004 in Athens and 2012 in London.

So near yet so far for Rafal Czuper (Photo: Rémy Gros)


One wonders as to whether Fabien Lamirault might have been taking lessons from Gaël Monfils, France’s leading tennis star; always before serving Fabien Lamirault bounces the ball on the floor three times! Notably, trailing 4-5 in the second game, he served a clean ace!

Support plentiful, hopefully in 2024 crowds will have returned to the arena; if these two meet again in just under three years’ time in the final in Paris, can you imagine the scenes?

Turkish delight

Loud support for Fabien Lamirault, it was the same for Turkey’s Abdullah Ozturk in the men’s singles class 4 final against Korea Republic’s Kim Yunggun; both coaches on their feet to congratulate each success gained by their player.

In a tension packed contest, long rallies requiring quick reactions the order of the day, the verdict went to Abdullah Ozturk in four games (9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 12-10).

“Today is victory day in Turkey, so I wanted to win on Victory Day; I lost the first game but with the help of my coach I was able to overcome the difficulties. My aim is to try to set new records for Turkey.” Abdullah Ozturk

The euphoria after the final point was such that he fell off his wheelchair, finishing seated on the floor, supporters mobbing him in congratulations.

Gold once again for Abdullah Ozturk (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Gold for Abdullah Ozturk meant he retained the title won in Rio de Janeiro five years earlier; for Kim Younggan he finished one step short of repeating his efforts of 2004 in Athens and 2012 in London when gold had been the reward.

Advance Australia fair

Gold for Turkey, immediately following there was success for the country that wears the green and gold. Australia’s Lei Li Na eventually overcame the penhold grip blocking skills of China’s Xiong Guiyan (6-11, 11-5, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5), a player using smooth reversed rubber on one side of the racket and long pimples on the other.

Understanding how to respond to the style of play executed by Xiong Guiyan was a feature of Lei Li Na’s play; controlled top spin and when needed, a safe push stroke, won the day.

“I’m very happy to have won gold. More importantly, I just wanted to enjoy competing and not think too much about the outcome. To be honest, I didn’t expect to win. Before the match, I just told myself to focus on playing one game at a time, earning one point at a time.

At the start of the first game, I couldn’t quite get used to Xiong’s long pimples. After all, it’s been ages since I last trained and played with someone who uses long pimples. I started getting used to it from the second game onwards. The second and third games went pretty well. Coming the fourth game, I started to waver a little mentally. So, when we went into the last game, I told myself I had to stay strong all the way.” Lei Li Na

Success for Lei Li Na meant she won for the third time; representing China, she prevailed in 2008 in Beijing and in 2012 in London.

A third Paralympic Games women’s singles class 9 title for Lei Li Na (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Also, she becomes the third player when representing Australia to win gold in the table tennis events at a Paralympic Games. In 1984 Terry Biggs claimed the men’s singles title when the tournament was held in New York.

Coincidentally, in 1964 in Tokyo, Daphne Ceeney and Marion O’Brien, secured women’s doubles gold.

More gold

Success for Lei Li Na; immediately following in the contest that brought the individual events to a conclusion, there was success for her compatriot, Yang Qian. She overcame Brazil’s Bruna Alexandre in a contest that was a credit to both players, high quality exchanges were the order of proceedings.

Yang Qian, compact in her play, proved the marginally more consistent, emerging successful in four games (11-13, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9).

Victory for Yang Qian meant she secured the title for the first time in her career; in London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) she had been the silver medallist, on both occasions losing to Poland’s Natalia Partyka.

Consistency won the day for Yang Qian (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Similarly, for Bruna Alexandre it was progress, on home soil in Rio, she had won bronze.


The team events now commence, play concluded on Friday 3rd September.

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