A sense of theatre pervaded on the morning of Tuesday 8th November as the doubles events came to a conclusion at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Championships; nerves jangled, colleagues sat, then stood in the tiered seating applauding their teammates, the Palacio Municipal de Deportes de Granada was no place for the faint hearted.
In mixed doubles class 20; in a final that witnessed the leading pairs in action, Poland’s Patryk Chojnowski and Natalia Partyka recovered from a two games to nil deficit to overcome Australia’s Ma Lin and Yang Qian (5-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-3).
“A very hard match today. We had to struggle so much to win this gold medal.” Patryk Chojnowski
“Yesterday when I lost in the women’s doubles final with Karolina (Pek) it was really painful, I didn’t want to lose another final; to get the World Champion title with Patryk is incredible, he is a fantastic person and a true friend.” Natalia Partyka
Likewise, in mixed doubles class 7, it was a full distance affair, success for Germany. Thomas Brüchle and Sandra Mikolaschek (GER) secured the title at expense of Korea Republic’s Kim Juynggil and Yoon Jiyu (11-6, 7-11, 5-11, 12-10, 11-8).
“It was as really tough match, it’s always tough playing against Koreans, we knew we were not the favourites to win but that gave us great motivation.” Thomas Brüchle
Tense times for Germany, it was the same for the Netherlands in the mixed doubles class 14 final. Jean-Paul Montanus and Kelly van Zon emerged successful by the very narrowest of margins against Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh and Maryna Lytovchenko (4-11, 11-7, 6-11, 13-11, 12-10).
“We can’t believe it! We are excited. A very long match, we played point by point and at the end we’ve reached the title.” Jean-Paul Montanus
Korea Republic increased its medals tally. Kim Gitae added to his collection of gold medals, the previous day he had partnered Seo Yanghee to mixed doubles class 22 success, on the third day of action, competing in the same category in the men’s doubles, he partnered Jeoung Kyuyoung to victory.
Furthermore, for Kim Gitae it was a repeat in more ways than one; in the mixed doubles event the pair had lost their opening match and proceeded to claim the title on match ratio. In the men’s doubles, the scenario was of a similar nature. The duo experienced defeat in their second contest, losing to Australia’s Samuel Von Einem and Rory Carroll (9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9).
Approaching the concluding group matches, Kim Younggun and Jung Younga had one defeat against their names, Japan’s Takeshi Takamori and Koya Kato possessed the perfect record. The Korea Republic duo prevailed in straight games (11-9, 11-7, 11-8); the result meant that at the end of the day both pairs were clear of the field with three wins each. In such instances, the result of the contest between the two pairs decides. Thus, first place for Kim Gitae and Jeoung Kyuyoung, runners up spot for Takeshi Takamori and Koya Kato.
Success also for Kim Younggun and Jung Younga who showed no mercy in the mixed doubles class 10 final. They overcame Thailand’s Wanchai Chaiwut and Wijittra Jaion to seal gold (11-7, 11-7, 11-5).
“We are super happy, that medal means a lot for us. It is the first time that we have played together and we’ve won an amazing tournament.” Kim Younggun
Later in the morning session of play there was further success for the Korea Republic, again the outcome as expected. Park Jincheol and Seo Suyeon, the top seeds, beat Italy’s Federico Crosara and Giada Rossi (11-8, 13-11, 11-7) to secure mixed doubles class 4 gold.
“In the first game I was so nervous. We thought that it would be hard. On the other hand, we got the result that we wanted. We are happy now.” Park Jincheol
Titles as predicted, the Korea Republic pairs both started their respective events as the top seeds, for Great Britain’s Fliss Pickard and Grace Williams, in women’s doubles class 14, it was the exact opposite.
They commenced their journey as total outsiders. In fact, Grace Williams, who only started playing table tennis five years ago, didn’t qualify for Andalucia, she received a wild card! The win was on a par with their compatriot John Hilton who in 1981 won the men’s singles title at European Championships at odds of 1000-1!
Wild and that described the reaction of her colleagues who were on their feet in adulation, as step by step the duo overcame the top seeded German partnership of Stephanie Grebe and Juliane Wolf (11-9, 11-7, 12-10).
“We are speechless, totally shocked, stunned with the victory, I felt pressure before the match, a bit overwhelmed as it was a World Championship final but I knew I had Fliss beside me and Shaun (Marples) in the corner. I knew whatever the outcome they’d be proud of me and I’d be proud of myself as well. As soon as we won the final point I thought ‘that’s it’ but it hasn’t really sunk in yet.” Grace Williams
“I knew we’d get there one day but I never thought it would happen so soon. Grace was incredible, the way she dealt with the pressure was unbelievable and I think you could really see out there we were both having lots of fun and that is what has got us to where we are.” Fliss Pickard
Bedlam in British ranks, it was the same for Italian cohorts, raucous cheering as Michela Brunelli and Giada Rossi hugged each other in delight after securing the women’s doubles class 5 title, At the final hurdle they beat Thailand’s Dararat Asayut and Chilchitraryak Bootwansirina (12-14, 12-10, 14-12, 11-4).
For Hong Kong China; Ng Mui Wui and Wong Ting Ting, the top seeds in women’s doubles class 22, beat Anne Divet and Lea Ferney of France, the second seeds (13-11, 13-11, 11-4) to secure gold.
“We are really pleased to have won today, difficult to describe our feelings.” Ng Mui Wui
It was equally impressive from Serbia in women’s doubles class 10. Borislava Peric-Rankovic and Nada Matic justified their top seeded position; in the final they accounted for Korea Republic’s Jung Younga and Yoon Jiyu, the second seeds (11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-8).
“We feel really good, we are the first from Serbia to win a doubles title at a World Para Championships.” Borislava Peric-Rankovic
Gold for Serbia, nothing unusual, for Brazil it was very different, their first ever at a World Para Championships. In 2017 in Bratislava, Bruna Alexandre, Jennyfer Parinos and Danielle Rauen had combined to win women’s class 9-10 gold at the World Para Team Championships but the success recorded by Paulo Salmin and Bruna Alexandre in Andalucia was the first when individual events were on the schedule.
Competing in mixed doubles class 17, they duo accounted for Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier and Thea Nielsen (12-10, 11-5, 11-6) to reserve the top step of the podium.
“Bruna had the experience of playing in medal matches at the Paralympic Games, so that was really helpful for me; we have been playing together for eight months.” Paulo Salmin
Matters concluded very much as the day had begun, full of tension; Cha Soo Yong and Park Jingheol beat Spain’s Iker Sastre and Miguel Angel Toledo (11-6, 10-12, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7) to secure men’s team class 4 gold.
Attention now turns to the men’s singles and women’s singles events, no doubt more drama beckons.