by Ian Marshall
Poland’s Natalia Partyka and Karolina Pek secured women’s team class 9-10 gold; Zhang Bian and Zhou Ying won women’s team class 4-5, to be followed by their Chinese national team colleagues, Liao Keli and Yan Shuo who struck gold in men’s team class 6-7.
A Rio de Janeiro repeat commenced the day’s action.
Five years ago in the Brazilian city, the event class 6-10, the same players in action but with Lei Li Na and Yang Qian representing China, as opposed to Australia; in the final Natalia Partyka and Karolina Pek had recorded a 2-1 win.
In Tokyo, much depended on Natalia Partyka; she duly responded. She guided Karolina Pek to doubles success by the very narrowest of margins (11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9), before overcoming Yang Qian, the player against whom she had experienced defeat in women’s singles class 10 earlier in the proceedings.
Six days after the defeat, in the team final, it was a single minded 32-year-old that entered the arena, Yang Qian offered stout resistance but there was pride at stake, Natalia Partyka prevailed in straight games (11-5, 11-9,11-5), once again gold was in Polish hands.
“I’m very happy to win gold, every game was close; after losing in the singles, I was a bit stressed but then after a day off I was focused on the team event. I was prepared, stay close to the table, play with spin and power. We defended our title, so I think that shows we are a good team.” Natalia Partyka
Natalia Partyka was superb, but one player does not make a team; great credit must go to Karolina Pek, nothing extravagant, put the ball on the table, keep calm and support your colleague. In the doubles, she did that to perfection.
Notably since 2004 in Athens, both Natalia Partyka and Lei Li Na have always secured women’s team medals.
Additional to gold in Rio de Janeiro, Natalia Partyka was bronze medallist in 2012 in London, silver in Athens and in Beijing.
Similarly, prior to Rio de Janeiro, Lei Li Na had won gold on three consecutive occasions.
Success for Natalia Partyka and Karolina Pek was followed by success for Zhang Bian and Zhou Ying in the women’s team class 4-5 final; hard fought success, the contest lasted just short of two hours.
A 2-1 margin of victory was the outcome in opposition to Sweden’s Anna Carin Ahlquist and Ingela Lundbäck.
Crowned European champions in 2009 in Genoa and 2015 in Vejle, the Swedes secured the doubles in a tension packed contest (11-9, 6-11, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8).
Immediately China responded, Zhang Bian overcame Anna Carin Ahlquist in four games (9-11, 13-11, 11-9, 11-5). A brave effort in defeat, Anna Carin Ahlquist is a class 3 player and therefore of a greater disability than Zhang Bian who is class 5, it was an exceedingly difficult task for the Swede.
“For the doubles match, our opponents were very swift in their attacks. Defending swift attacks is my weakness, so I’ll have to work on that” Zhang Bian
Matters level, Zhou Ying accounted for Ingela Lundbäck (8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-7) to seal gold.
“It was stressful for me going into the singles match after losing the doubles.” Zhou Ying
It was for both Zhang Bian and Zhou Ying their fourth consecutive gold medal in the event, the first being on home soil in 2008 in Beijing. However, it was only the second occasion when Zhang Bian had played in the final and a first for Zhou Ying. Previously Gu Cai had always been on duty in the gold medal contest.
Seventh heaven for China
Success in women’s team class 4-5 made the overall total six golds in the team events, soon after they made it seven.
Liao Keli and Yan Shuo recorded a 2-0 victory against Great Britain’s Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak, an event very difficult for Paul Karabardak being a class 6 athlete, as opposed to the remaining three players being class 7, his mobility much more restricted.
Forehand top spin strokes to the fore, Liao Keli and Yan Shuo secured the doubles in straight games (11-7, 12-10, 11-2).
Advantage China, next on the menu was a repeat of the men’s singles class 7 final earlier in the tournament when Yan Shuo had beaten Will Bayley. Furthermore, it was a repeat outcome; Yan Shuo prevailed in four games (7-11, 15-13, 11-6, 11-4), the second game crucial, Will Bayley having established a 10-8 lead.
“This is my second time participating in the Paralympics. I won a bronze medal for singles at Rio 2016, so I really desired a gold medal this time. I worked very hard the past five years and managed to bag two gold this time.” Yan Shuo
” I was nervous coming into today’s competition because our performance at the team event is a representation of our country’s ability in table tennis. Having seen the other men’s teams victories yesterday, we wanted to win very badly too. I was certain Yan would hold the fort in his match and I didn’t have to play the third match. I trust him a lot; we’ve been working together since 2014.” Liao Keli
Gold for China and a first of that colour for either Liao Keli or Yan Shuo in a Paralympic Games team event.