10 Mar 2024

Surprise defeats for major medal contenders at Paris 2024 Paralympic Games

Gold just over one month earlier in Brazil but as yet to secure a major men’s singles title, Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Ming-Chih was the man in form at the 2024 ITTF Lignano Masters Para Open, play concluding on Saturday 9th March.

The 44-year-old caused one of the biggest upsets of the year to date.

Competing in class 4, at the semi-final stage, he beat China’s Cao Ningning, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist (11-3, 5-11, 15-13, 11-6), before overcoming Germany’s Valentin Baus, the current holder of the big three titles, to secure the top prize (11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-8).

Valentin Baus crowned European champion last year, World champion in 2022, has found Cheng Ming-Chih a most difficult opponent in the past; en route to gold at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, in the penultimate round he needed the full five games to secure victory (7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9).

The men's singles class 4 podium (left to right) Abdullah Ozturk (silver), Wanchai Chaiwut (gold), Nesim Turan (bronze) Filip Nachazel (bronze)
Men’s singles class 4: Abdullah Ozturk (silver), Wanchai Chaiwut (gold), Nesim Turan (bronze) Filip Nachazel (bronze) (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Defeats for two incumbent Paralympic Games gold medallists, it was the same scenario for Turkey’s Abdullah Ozturk, Frenchman Fabien Lamirault as well as for Australia’s Lei Li Na.

Abdullah Ozturk, in addition to Tokyo, successful in Rio de Janeiro, had to settle for runners up spot in men’s singles class 4; he was beaten at the final hurdle by Thailand’s Wanchai Chaiwut (11-8, 11-4, 11-9).

Similarly, Lei Li Na, gold medallist at the three most recent Paralympic Games, experienced defeat in the women’s singles class 9 final; she lost to Hungary’s Alexa Szvitacs (9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9).

Defeats in the final, for Fabien Lamirault, like Valentin Baus, the current holder of the three major titles, he witnessed a penultimate round defeat in men’s singles class 2 at the hands of the Czech Republic’s Jiri Suchanek (10-12, 11-9, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6).

Alas for Suchanek, there was no gold, he was beaten in the final by Poland’s Rafael Czuper (11-9, 11-3, 11-8), the player Lamirault had overcome in the Tokyo final by the minimal margin (11-6, 10-12, 11-5, 7-11, 11-9).

Alexa Szvitacs, the women's singles class 9 winner
Alexa Szvitacs, the women’s singles class 9 winner (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Unexpected outcomes, not necessarily, when considering Wanchai Chaiwut and Alexa Szvitacs, both commenced play the top seeds; furthermore, Alexa Szvitacs had beaten Lei Li Na in the final (4-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9) at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Championships.

Testing times for Lei Lin Na, it was the same for colleague Ma Lin in men’s singles class 9; gold in 2012 in London, silver more recently in Tokyo, the top seed, he experienced a penultimate round reverse at the hands of Great Britain’s Joshua Stacey, the no.5 seed (11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-6).

A place in the final but it was not to be gold, he was beaten by Ukraine’s Lev Kats (11-5, 7-11, 13-11, 11-7); not listed amongst the leading names in Lignano, the situation belies his status. In November 2022 the 23-year-old was named at no.2 on the class 9 men’s list.

Runners up spot at the expense of Ukraine for Joshua Stacey, for Great Britain colleague, Aaron McKibbin, it was the opposite scenario.

The no.4 seed, at the final hurdle he accounted for Maksym Nikolenko, the no.3 seed (10-12, 13-11, 11-8, 11-8) to arrest the men’s singles class 8 title. One round earlier, Nikolenko had halted the progress of Frenchman Clément Berthier, the top seed (11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5).

Men's singles class 8: (left to right) Maksym Nikolenko (silver), Aaron McKibbin (gold) Emil Andersson (bronze), Clement Berthier (bronze)
Men’s singles class 8: Maksym Nikolenko (silver), Aaron McKibbin (gold), Emil Andersson (bronze), Clement Berthier (bronze) (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Success somewhat against the odds for Aaron McKibbin, according to seeding it was the same in men’s singles class 11 for Korea Republic’s Kim Gitae, gold medallist at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Championships.

Occupying the no.3 spot, having ousted Frenchman Lucas Creange, the top seed, in the quarter-finals (10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8); he overcame Poland’s Maciej Makajew (11-7, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5) and Australia’s Samuel von Einem (10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8) to arrest the title.

Worthy performances, it was the same in the women’s singles from India’s Sonalban Patel in class 3 and Israel’s Caroline Tabib in class 5.

Sonalban Patel, the no.3 seed, accounted for Italy’s top seeded, Carlotta Ragazzini at the final hurdle (11-8, 6-11, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8); in a group organised event, Caroline Tabib finished ahead of Korea Republic’s Jung Younga, the top seed and bronze medallist in Tokyo.

Impressive from Sonalban Patel, in women’s singles class 4 Bhavina Patel was in form; at the semi-final stage she accounted for Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic, gold medallist in Rio de Janeiro and the reigning European champion (11-9, 11-8, 11-7).

Sandra Mikolaschek, the women's singles class 4 winner
Sandra Mikolaschek, the women’s singles class 4 winner (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Progress to the final but the end result was silver; she was narrowly beaten by Germany’s top seeded, Sandra Mikolaschek (9-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-8, 15-13).

Status justified by Mikolaschek, in the women’s singles it was the same in class 1-2 for the host nation’s Giada Rossi as it was for Ukraine’s Maryna Lytovchenko in class 6 and Great Britain’s Bly Twomey in class 7.

Following suit, Japan’s Yuri Tomono secured the top prize in class 8, colleague, Kanami Furukawa in class 11, a situation that applied also to Turkey’s Merve Demir in class 10.

Progress as per programme; in the men’s singles, winners in Tokyo underlined the fact they are seeking the same outcome in Paris later this year. Korea Republic’s Joo Youngdae won class 1, Feng Panfeng class 3.

Bronze in men's singles class 1 for Federico Falco
Bronze in men’s singles class 1 for Federico Falco (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Notably, at the semi-final stage, Joo Youngdae overcame Italy’s Federico Falco (11-9, 11-8, 11-4), the winner one round earlier in opposition to Great Britain’s Rob Davies, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist (9-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5, 11-7). In the final Joo Youngdae beat colleague Kim Hakjin, the top seed (11-8, 11-4, 11-5).

Not to be overshadowed Paralympic Games gold medallist in both 2008 and 2016, Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier secured the men’s singles class 6 title.

The top seed, it was gold for Rosenmeier as anticipated, in men’s singles class 7 it was the same outcome for Egypt’s Sayed Youssef as in class 10 it was for Montenegro’s Luka Bakic.

Success for Sayed Youssef, later he added the men’s doubles class 14 title partnering Belgium’s Ben Despineux; a situation that was par for the course, every men’s doubles partnership comprised a men’s singles winner.

Gold for Jang Yeongjin and Joo Youngdae in men's doubles class 4
Gold for Jang Yeongjin and Joo Youngdae in men’s doubles class 4 (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Joo Youngdae joined forces with Jang Yeongjin, the mixed doubles class 10 winner alongside Jung Younga, to secure class 4 gold, Wanchai Chaiwut allied with Yuttajak Glinbanchuen to win class 8; similarly Lev Kats lined up alongside Maksym Nikolenko to secure the class 18 title.

Similarly, Kim Gitae secured the mixed doubles class 22 top prize alongside Turkey’s Sumeyra Turk.

Conversely, the only women’s singles winners to secure gold on the concluding day of play were Great Britain’s Bly Twomey and Hungary’s Alexa Szvitacs. Bly Twomey allied with Megan Shackleton to win women’s doubles class 5-10; Alexa Szvitacs partnered Andras Csonka to mixed doubles class 17 success.

However, Alexa Szvitacs and Bly Twomey were not the only female players to depart with two titles.

Megan Shackleton and Borislava Peric-Rankovic, the women's doubles class 5-10 winners
Megan Shackleton and Borislava Peric-Rankovic, the women’s doubles class 5-10 winners (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

In class 20, Chinese Taipei’s Tian Shiau-Wen emerged the women’s doubles class winner alongside Lin Tzu-Yu, the mixed doubles winner partnering compatriot Sin Jin-Sian.

Meanwhile, in the remaining women’s doubles event, Poland’s Krystyna Lysiak and Dorota Nowacka won class 22; in the mixed doubles, the partnership formed by Korea Republic’s Kim Hakjin and Croatia’s Helena Dretar-Karic prevailed in class 4, Thailand’s Yuttajak Glinbanchuen and Wijittra Jaion in class 7.

Not to be overlooked, maintaining form, the winners earlier this year in Egypt added to their collection of gold, the French pairing formed by Clément Berthier and Morgan Caillaud prevailed in mixed doubles class 14.

Krystyna Lysiak partnered Dorota Nowacka to gold in women's doubles class 22
Krystyna Lysiak partnered Dorota Nowacka to gold in women’s doubles class 22 (Photo: Giuseppe Di Carlo)

Play concluded in Lignano, attention now turns to Spain; the four day 2024 ITTF Costa Brava Spanish Para Open commences on Monday 11th March.








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