05 Mar 2024

Seeking places in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games is the prime source of motivation

A four-day tournament, play commencing on Wednesday 6th March, located in north-east Italy on the Adriatic coast, the 2024 ITTF Lignano Masters Para Open is no place for the faint hearted.

Gaining valuable ranking points by the end of the month to secure places at the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games plus, for those already qualified, a valuable opportunity to measure progress in preparation for the quadrennial multi-sport gathering, forms an equation with one quite straightforward result, the quality of the entry is par excellence.

The men’s singles wheelchair events endorse the fact; every gold medallist at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be on duty.

Korea Republic’s Joo Youngdae (class 1), Frenchman Fabien Lamirault (class 2), China’s Feng Panfeng (class 3) and Turkey’s Ali Ozturk (class 4) in addition to Germany’s Valentin Baus (class 5) all ply their skills.

Now, add to the list Great Britain’s Rob Davies (class 1), Germany’s Thomas Schmidberger (class 3) and China’s Cao Ningning (class 5) as well as Korea Republic’s Kim Hakjin (class 1) and Chile’s Luis Bustamente (class 2), the scenario is further underlined.

Rob Davies and Cao Ningning both struck gold at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Kim Hakjin and Luis Bustamente are the players in form; each emerged successful at the recently concluded ITTF Astana Para Open.

Meanwhile, Thomas Schmidberger is the reigning World champion and like Cao Ningning has a chance to turn the tables. He was beaten by Feng Panfeng in the Tokyo final, a situation that also beheld Cao Ninging; he held match point in the fourth game before losing to Valentin Baus.

Similarly, high quality is the order of proceedings in the men’s singles standing classes; the host nation’s Matteo Parenzan (class 6) and Korea Republic’s Kim Gitae (class 11) both reigning World champions compete, as does Chile’s Ignacio Torres (class 6) and Poland’s Maciej Makjew (class 11).

Ignacio Torres and Maciej Makjew both won in Astana, they are relatively new names especially when compared to title contenders Nigeria’s Tajudeen Agunbiade (class 9) and Tahl Leibovitz from the United States (class 9).

Each owns Paralympic Games gold, Tajudeen Agunbiade in 2000 in Sydney, Tahl Leibovitz four years earlier in Atlanta.

Elite names in the men’s singles, it is the same in the women’s singles.

Successful in Astana, Great Britain’s Megan Shackleton (class 4), Korea Republic’s Jung Younga (class 5) and Australia’s Melissa Tapper (class 10) all compete.

Likewise, from Australia, Lei Li Na (class 9) will be in action, as will Ukraine’s Maryna Lytovchenko (class 6); both won gold in Tokyo.

Furthermore, the names of reigning World champions, Italy’s Giada Rossi (class 5) and Lea Ferney of France (class 11) appear on the entry list, as do those of Brazil’s Bruna Alexandre (class 10) and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Tzu-Yu (class 10).

Bruna Alexandre was a silver medallist in Tokyo, Lin Tzu-Yu, the winner at the ITTF Asian Para Games 2022.

Prominent names and most certainly that of Raisa Chebanika (class 6) may be added to the list. She competes as a neutral athlete, having at the London 2012 Paralympic Games won gold when representing Russia.

A factor 20 tournament for World ranking, a total of 200 men and 95 women will compete in Lignano. Additional to Raisa Chebanika, 45 member associations are represented.

Impressive numbers, but arguably the most impressive fact is that every continent has players on duty.

Play commences with the men’s singles and women’s singles events.

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