Creditable performances earlier in the year but no titles to their names, China’s Zhan Dashun alongside Great Britain’s Bly Twomey took centre stage at the ITTF Fa40 SQY French Para Open 2023, a tournament full of players who have enjoyed success at the very highest level.
Proceedings concluding on Sunday 12th November, neither seeded, Zhan Dashun, silver medallist in October at the Asian Para Games, won men’s singles class 5; Bly Twomey the previous month a bronze medallist at the European Para Championships, prevailed in women’s singles class 7.
Against all odds, at the quarter-final stage, Zhan Dashun caused not only the biggest upset in the tournament but arguably of the year. He beat Germany’s Valentin Baus, the reigning Paralympic Games, World and European champion (11-5, 7-11, 12-10, 13-15, 11-8).
A place in the penultimate round, he accounted for compatriot Liu Fu (11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 8-11, 12-10), before turning the tables to secure the top prize at the expense of Norway’s Tommy Urhaug, the no.2 seed and London 2012 gold medallist. The previous day in the group stage, Zhan Dashun had lost to Tommy Urhaug (7-11, 5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-3).
Landmark success for Zhan Dashun who had struck gold at the 2017 Asian Championships, for Bly Twomey it was an ever more significant milestone.
New to the international scene this year, only 13 years old, after recording a semi-final win against Sweden’s Smilla Sand (11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8), she caused a sensation comparable with the efforts of Zhan Dashun,
She beat China’s Wang Rui, the top seed, recently crowned Asian champion and Tokyo 2020 women’s team gold medallist to secure gold. Most imposingly the teenager from Brighton on the south coast of England won in straight games (14-12, 11-3, 11-9).
The success for Bly Twomey is not only a groundbreaking win; it enhances her chances of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
“Competing in a Paralympics is all I’ve been dreaming of since I started playing sport. I’ve always wanted to go to the Paralympics, and it would mean a lot to go to Paris because I’ve only been playing for two years, and I will only be 14.” Bly Twomey
Problems for Wang Rui; in men’s singles class 8, it was the same for colleague, Zhao Shuai, gold medallist in Tokyo and recent Asian Games winner.
He departed proceedings at the semi-final stage losing to Frenchman Clément Berthier (11-9, 4-11, 11-8, 11-8); alas for Clément Berthier there was no gold. He was beaten in the final by Sweden’s Emil Anderson, the no.3 seed (11-6, 11-4, 12-10).
Surprise outcomes, otherwise, it was success for prominent names.
Paralympic Games gold medallist, in the men’s singles events, there was success for China’s Feng Panfeng (class 3), Yan Shuo (class 7) and Lian Hao (class 10). Likewise, Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier (class 6) and Belgium’s Laurens Devos (class 9) emerged victorious.
Also, there was gold for top seeds; Italy’s Federico Crosara (class 2) and Maxime Thomas (class 4) emerged successful as did Korea Republic’s Kim Hakjin (class 1). The no.2 seed, he beat teammate Park Jungsoo, the top seed, to claim gold (12-14, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6).
Significantly, in the women’s singles there was a somewhat surprise defeat for Zhou Jing, Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games gold medallist. Competing in class 4, she was beaten in the final by colleague Gu Xiaodon (12-10, 11-8, 11-6).
Gold for Gu Xiaodon, it was the same for her colleagues Liu Jing (class 1-2), Zhang Bian (class 5), Huang Wenjuan (class 8) and Xiong Guiyan (class 9). Titles very much as anticipated, likewise there was success for Croatia’s Andela Muzinic Vincetic (class 3), Germany’s Stephanie Grebe (class 6), Brazil’s Bruna Alexandre (class 10) and Japan’s Kanami Furukawa (class 11).
The top prize for Kanami Furukawa, later alongside colleague Takeshi Asano she secured the mixed doubles class 22 title.
Adding to the list, it was the same for Zang Bian, she joined forces with compatriot Cao Ningning to win mixed doubles class 10; similarly, Huang Wenjuan secured gold in women’s doubles class 14 in harness with Jin Yucheng.
Further titles for China and there were more. Gu Xiaodan added to her women’s singles class 4 win by claiming women’s doubles class 10 gold with Pan Jiamin and in the same colour in the mixed doubles partnering Zhai Xiang, thus becoming the tournament’s most successful player.
Similarly, amongst the men, Maxime Thomas departed with two titles as did Yan Shuo, both added to their men’s singles gold medals won the previous day. Maxime Thomas partnered Emeric Martin to men’s doubles class 8 success, Yan Shuo prevailed in men’s doubles class 14 alongside Liao Keli.
Success for France, in the men’s doubles there was notable success for Spain. Ikre Sastre and Miguel Angel Toledo won class 4, Jorge Cardona and Ander Cepas secured the class 18 title, Eduardo Cuesta allied with Poland’s Maciej Makajew to win class 22.
Meanwhile in the women’s doubles Michaela Brunelli and Giada Rossi claimed class 5 gold, China’s Liu Meng and Mao Jingdian secured class 20 gold, for Poland’s Krystyna Lysiak and Dorota Nowacka it was the top prize in class 22.
Noteworthy results for China; the mixed doubles realised more. Peng Weinan and Xiong Guiyan won class 17, Ding Hao and Hou Chunxiao class 20.
Also, in the mixed doubles, there was gold for Korea Republic, Park Sungjoo and Lee Migyu succeeded in class 4, Thomas Rau and Juliane Wolf in class 14.
Proceedings concluded in France, attention now turns to Parapan American Games in Santiago commencing on Thursday 16th November and the ITTF Oceania Para Championships which begin one day later.