03 Mar 2024

Major strides for Paris 2024 Paralympic Games reservations made in Kazakhstan

Prominent in Tokyo but yet to secure places at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, competing as neutral athletes, Iuri Nozdrunov, Maliak Alieva, Raisa Chebanika, Nadejda Pushpasheva and Elena Prokofeva, alongside Victoriya Safonova emerged the names to note at ITTF Astana Para Open, play concluding on Sunday 3rd March.

Top of the list, gold just under three years ago in Japan’s capital city when representing Russia, Elena Prokofeva secured the women’s singles class 11 title; in a group organised event she finished ahead of Poland’s Ewa Cychowska.

Success for Elena Prokofeva, in the women’s singles it was the same for four of her colleagues.

Nadejda Pushpasheva won class 1-2, finishing ahead of Kazakhstan’s Galiya Bespalya; Maliak Alieva beat Raisa Chebanika (11-3, 11-5, 11-7) to secure the class 6 title.

Following suit Victoriya Safonova prevailed in a group organised class 7 event, concluding matters ahead of the host country’s Raushan Orynbayeva; Elena Litvinenko claimed the class 8 title overcoming Great Britain’s Grace Williams in the final (11-3, 11-7, 11-5)

In Tokyo, Pushpasheva, Safonova and Chebanika all secured bronze; Alieva was a silver medallist. Notably, five years earlier in Rio de Janeiro Chebanika had struck gold; for Litvinenko such plaudits await.

Not to be overshadowed, in the men’s singles it was gold for compatriots Iuri Nozdrunov and Artem Iakovlev; the win recorded by Nozdrunov was no great upset, he claimed bronze in Tokyo, for Iakovlev, he was the biggest surprise winner.

Nozdrunov finished in first position ahead of China’s Liu Chaodong in a class 9 group contest; Iakolev, the previous international best being bronze in 2018 in Costa Rica, overcame Poland’s Piotr Grudzien, the top seed (11-7, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 12-10) to arrest the class 8 title.

Success against the top seed; it was the same for Vladimir Toporkov. Also competing as a neutral athlete, at the semi-final stage in men’s singles class 3, he beat favourite for gold Korea Republic’s Baek Youngbok (11-7, 11-7, 14-12), before at the final hurdle losing to Frenchman, Sylvain Noel, the no.2 seed (11-3, 2-11, 11-3, 11-4).

An upset of note on a day when experience told, top seeds in the ascendancy.

In the men’s singles wheelchair categories, it was gold for Korea Republic’s Kim Hakjim (class 1), Chile’s Luis Bustamente (class 2), Indonesia’s Adyos Astan (class 4) and Norway’s Tommy Urhaug (class 5).

In the standing events, also from Chile, there was gold for Ignacio Torres (class 6) and Great Britain’s Will Bayley (class 7), alongside Poland’s Igor Misztal (class 10) and Maciej Makajew (class 11).

Good form from top seeds but if there has been any player so far this year in form, it is Great Britain’s Megan Shackleton; now three international appearances, three titles.

In the United States and Brazil on both occasions at the semi-final stage and in the final, she prevailed in full distance five games duels. In Astana it was very different, she claimed the top prize in a class 4 group organised event without losing a single game.

Imposing from Shackleton who is gaining experience by the day, for Slovakia’s Alena Kanova (class 3) it was years of experience that brought success; she struck gold at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

Equally, experience played a role in the title winning efforts of Korea Republic’s Jung Younga (class 5) and Australia’s Melissa Tapper (class 9-10); both are seasoned competitors.

Gold for Jung Younga, it was the same colour in women’s doubles class 5-10 partnering colleague Kang Oejeong.

Similarly, Nadejda Pushpasheva added to her previous day’s success, as did Korea Republic’s Kim Hakjin and Iuri Nozdrunov.

Partnering colleagues, Pushpasheva allied with Rasul Naziro to win mixed doubles class 4; Kim Hakjin joined forces with Baek Youngbok to secure men’s doubles class 4 gold. Earlier in the day Baek day had claimed the mixed doubles class 10 top prize in harness with Kang Oejeong; thus each departed Astana with two titles.

Following suit, Iuri Nozdrunov partnered Elena Litvinenko to mixed doubles class 17 success, a win that meant Litvinenko claimed a full house of three titles.

Additional to her women’s singles class 8 gold, she partnered Olga Komleva-Gorshkaleva to women’s doubles class 20 gold, an outcome that also afforded Komleva-Gorshkaleva two titles.

On the concluding day of play she secured the mixed doubles class 20 title alongside Ivan Karpov.

Three titles for Litvinenko, it was the same for Artem Iakovlev. The surprise men’s singles class 8 winner, on the final day of action in class 14, he added the men’s doubles class title alongside Alexander Esaulov, the mixed in partnership with Maliak Alieva.

Impressive performances as the tournament concluded. It was the same for the French pairing of Sylvain Noel and Nicholas Savant-Aira, the men’s doubles class 8 winners, as it was for Romania’s Camelia Ciripan and Gabriela Constantini, the women’s doubles class 14 champions.

Meanwhile, not to be overshadowed, there was gold for Indonesia. Komet Akbar and Banyu Tri Mulyo won men’s doubles class 18, Yayang Gunaya and Osrita Muslim succeeded in mixed doubles class 7.

Play concluded in Astana; attention now turns to Italy; the four-day 2024 ITTF Lignano Masters Para Open commences on Wednesday 6th March.

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