A series of imposing performances, Poland occupied centre stage at the ITTF European Para Championships in the English city of Sheffield, when play concluded on Saturday 9th September, after six days of unrelenting action.
Patryk Chojnowski alongside Natalya Partyka and Karolina Pek completed the full house of three titles.
They emerged the only players to achieve the feat in what was a new format for the tournament, an event that first saw the light of day in Delden, Netherlands in October 1985; men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles replaced the men’s team and women’s team events.
Natalya Partyka clinched the women’s singles class 10 title for an incredible ninth time, before in class 20 partnering Patryk Chojnowski to mixed doubles gold and Karolina Pek to women’s doubles success.
Earlier, Patryk Chojnowski had secured men’s singles class 10 gold for the sixth time, rather differently in women’s singles class 9 it was a first for Karolina Pek. Later both enjoyed success alongside colleague Piotr Grudzien; Patryk Chojnowski in men’s doubles class 18, Karolina Pek in mixed doubles class 17.
Adding to an impressive collection of titles, it was the same for Germany’s Thomas Schmidberger; he won men’s singles class 3 for the fifth time, later partnering Valentin Baus to men’s doubles class 8 gold. Earlier Valentin Baus had secured the men’s singles class 5 title for the second time.
Similarly, it was men’s singles gold at the European Para Championships for a fourth time for Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh in class 8 and Belgium’s Laurens Devos in class 9. Maintaining form; on the concluding day of play Viktor Didukh partnered Ukrainian compatriot, Maryna Lytovchenko, the women’s singles class 6 winner, to mixed doubles class 14 success.
Not to be overshadowed by Laurens Devos, compatriot Florian van Acker won men’s singles class 11 for the third time, an achievement matched by Turkey’s Abdullah Ozturk class 4.
One win less, Great Britain’s Will Bayley delighted the home supporters by claiming men’s singles class 7 for the second time in his career.
Impressive performance, more European titles in the locker, it was very much the same in the women’s singles.
Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic succeeded for the seventh time by winning class 4-5, Norway’s Aida Dahlen prevailed in class 8 for the third time.
Responding to the occasion, Dorota Buclaw added to Polish delight by winning class 1 for the second time, having prevailed in 2019 in Helsingborg, a feat matched by Italy’s Giada Rossi in class 2.
Later, Aida Dahlen partnered Merethe Tveiten to women’s doubles class 14 gold, Giada Rossi joined forces with Federico Crosara to win mixed doubles class 4.
Increasing the European collection, rather differently in the women’s singles, it was a first for Croatia’s Andela Muzinic-Vincetic, as well as for Turkey’s Kubra Korkut and Ebru Acer.
Andela Muzinic-Vincetic won class 3, before in the very last match of the tournament to conclude, she won women’s doubles class 10 in harness with Helena Dretar-Karic; success for Ebru Acer came in women’s singles class 11, for Kubra Korkut in class 7.
A first, for Kubra Korkut it was also a second. At the Andalucia 2022 World Para Championships she beat Kelly van Zon of the Netherlands for the first time in her career, succeeding in the women’s singles class 7 final (6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7); in Sheffield at the same stage, she repeated the success (2-11, 6-11, 11-3, 12-10, 11-8).
First time gold, it was no different in the men’s singles.
Italy’s Matteo Parenzan won class 6. He maintained the form displayed when crowned World champion in 2022 in Granada. Notably, in the Sheffield final he beat Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier (11-8, 11-8, 11-6), the European champion in 2013 and 2019.
A first men’s singles success for Matteo Parenzan, it was similar in class 1 for Hungary’s Endre Major and in class 2 for Poland’s Rafal Czuper; both turned the tables.
Endre Major, having lost to Great Britain’s Rob Davies in the final four years ago in Helsingborg (11-3, 11-5, 8-11, 15-13) and in group stage in Sheffield (11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8), responded in style, he beat his long- time friend and rival in five games to secure the title (11-8, 4-11, 4-11, 11-7, 11-6). Rob Davies had won the top prize on the four most recent occasions commencing in Lignano in 2013.
Somewhat similarly Rafal Czuper had lost to Frenchman Fabien Lamirault in the final at the 2019 European Para Championships (11-6, 11-8, 11-5); then at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games (11-6, 12-14, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9) and most recently at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Championships (11-9, 11-8, 11-9).
Hard fought matches, the same in Sheffield just this time the verdict added to the Polish medal haul, victory for Rafal Czuper (17-15, 11-6, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9). Fabien Lamirault had previously won the title in 2015 in Vejle.
Disappointment for Fabien Lamirault but there was success and success for France. In the men’s doubles, partnering Julie Michaud he prevailed in class 4. Additionally, in class 14, Clément Berthier and Esteban Herrault, claimed gold, in class 22 it was success for Lucas Creange and Timothe Ivaldi.
Meanwhile, in the mixed doubles, Majiej Makajew and Ewa Cychowska added to the Polish medal haul by winning class 22; Germany’s Thomas Brüchle and Sandra Mikolaschek won class 7, Serbia’s Mitar Palikuca and Nada Matic emerged the class 10 victors.
Titles secured but if one player above all attracted who attracted the attention it was a 20-year-old studying nutrition at the local Hallam University.
On European Para Championships debut, Grace Williams caused the sensation of the tournament. At the semi-final stage of women’s singles class 8, she beat Thu Kamkasomphu of France by the minimal two-point margin (11-13, 11-3, 11-8, 11-13, 12-10).
Twice women’s singles gold medallist at the Paralympic Games, eight times European champion; the first of each of those titles, respectively Sydney in 2000 and 2001 in Frankfurt, were gained before Grace Williams was born.
Silver was to be the outcome; Grace Williams was beaten in the final by Norway’s Aida Dahlen (6-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-4). Nevertheless, it proved the fact that Grace Williams is the player for the big time; totally against the odds, also on debut, at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Championships, she partnered Fliss Pickard to women’s class 14 gold!
Continental champions crowned; eyes now turn to a tournament of a similar nature; the four-day 2023 ITTF African Para Championships commence in Giza on Wednesday 20th September.
- 2013 ITTF European Para Championships – Podium Places
- 2023 ITTF European Para Championships – Complete Results
- 2023 ITTF European Para Championships – ITTF YouTube Channel