A three-day tournament, the ITTF Finland Para Open, factor 20 for World ranking points, scheduled to start in Pajulahti on Friday 29th September, one name stands out above all others.
The name is that of Belgium’s Laurens Devos, a class 9 player, the holder of the three major titles the sport has to offer; furthermore, for each he has completed a successful defence.
In 2015 he won the men’s singles title at the Europeans in Vejle, two years later he repeated the success in Lasko, before earlier this month succeeding in Sheffield.
Likewise, he was crowned World champion in 2018 in Lasko and again in 2022 in Grenada; at the Paralympic Games, he struck gold in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
Furthermore, one wonders what riches lay in store, he is only 23 years old.
The record currently overshadows that of Poland’s Natalya Parytka, who completed a full house of titles at the recent 2023 ITTF European Para Championships in Sheffield; somewhat contrary to expectations, at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games she had to settle for bronze, at the 2022 ITTF Para Championships it was silver.
A class 10 athlete, in women’s singles events, she has 11 European titles, five World successes and four Paralympic Games gold medals.
Notably, Laurens Devos and Natalya Partyka are not the only players competing in Pajulahti who have the full set, the other is Florian van Acker, like Laurens Devos from Belgium, the difference is that he has never held all three at the same time.
Competing in class 11, recently he regained the European title previously won in 2015 when he succeeded in Sheffield; he secured the World crown in 2018, Paralympic Games gold in 2016.
Outstanding records, equally impressive is that of Frenchman, Mateo Boheas alongside Natalya Partyka’s Polish women’s team colleagues Karolina Pek and Dorota Buclaw.
Competing in class 10, Mateo Boheas has won medals in all three major Para tournaments: silver at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, bronze at the 2019 European Para Championships and at the 2022 World Championships.
Meanwhile, in Sheffield, Karolina Pek, a class 9 player, like Natalya Partyka completed a full house in Sheffield, Dorota Buclaw added the women’s singles class 1 title to the World crown donned last year in Granada.
Strong entries from Europe, there is also formidable opposition from Latin America, Argentina’s Guillermo Bustamente and Fernando Eberhardt cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Plying his skills in class 1, Guillermo Bustamente was a bronze medallist at the 2017 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica and at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima.
Notably, Fernando Eberhardt, in 2017 and earlier in 2013 when Costa Rica was also home for the Pan American Championships, he struck gold.
Names to note, as are those who are in form.
Present in men’s singles class 11, earlier this year Poland’s Maciej Makajew won in Slovenia and the Czech Republic, Spain’s Eduard Cuesta in Poland.
In a similar vein, like Mateo Boheas from France, in men’s singles class 3, Florian Merrien prevailed in Greece, Clément Berthier in class 8 in Brazil; additionally, Sweden’s Daniel Gustafsson, a class 9 player, present in Pajulahti, succeded in New Taipei City.
Not to be overlooked, present in Pajulahti, there was women’s singles success for Romania’s Gabriela Constantin in Saudi Arabia, for Danielle Rauen victory on home soil in Brazil and most significantly for Finland, Aino Tapola won in Italy.
Overall, 111 players compete in Finland.