Australia ace home Oceania Championships

Table tennis medallists draw closer to Tokyo 2020 Paralympics 06 May 2019
female Para table tennis player Daniela di Toro plays a forehand

Six-time Paralympian Daniela di Toro claimed singles gold at the Oceania Championships

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By Becki Ellsmore | For the IPC

Australia's Para table tennis team started the year in style, winning four golds at the 2019 Oceania Championships, the first qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

The home nation won all four singles categories (men's standing and sitting, and women's standing and sitting) in Darwin, Australia, with some well-known favourites leading the way.

The class 6-10 tournament was the first of two all-Australian finals. In a repeat of their match at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Melissa Tapper claimed victory over teammate Andrea McDonnell in a three-set final (11-1, 12-10, 11-4) to win the gold, and her third Oceania Championship title.

In the women's single class 2-5 category, fellow Australian and six-time Paralympian Daniela di Toro defeated Fiji's Merewalesi Vakacegu Roden in an exciting four-set battle (11-5, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6).

Roden had been a favourite to retain her 2017 title, and although she had to settle for the silver medal , she remains the only non-Australian to have won gold at the Oceania Championships. Di Toro is a relative newcomer to Para table tennis, having switched from wheelchair tennis in 2014. The 44-year-old's win in Darwin secures her a Paralympic qualifying spot as well as her second international gold medal in the sport.

In the men's single class 3-5, another Australian, Junjian Chen, had a tricky start to his final against Fijian favourite Iakoba Taubakoa, dropping the first set 9-11. But Chen rallied back to beat Taubakoa in the next three sets 11-4, 11-3, 11-8 to claim Australia's third gold medal of the Championships, and retain his 2017 title, the only athlete to do so at this event.

The men's single class 6-10 category saw the other all-Australian final. Joel Coughlan went on to win 3-1 against Nathan Pellissier to claim the title, earning the 30-year-old his first international gold and a Paralympic qualifying spot. That qualification place was hard-earned, after Coughlan lost the final at the same event four years ago, and with it the chance to compete at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

In the team events, Australia were also dominant. The mixed class 2-4 category was Australia vs Australia, with the pair of Chen and Caleb Crowden seizing the prize after defeating di Toro and Amanda Tscharke 3-0.

The commanding combination of Coughlan and Pellissier in the men's class 6-10 event ensured that Australia continued their winning record, although New Zealand (Victor Kamizona and Matthew Britz) were able to claim silver over the second Australian pairing of Connor Holdback and Trevor Hirth.

In the women's class 6-10 event, a combined Fiji/Australia team of Tapper, McDonnell and Laniana Serukalou won against the all-Australia team of Rebecca Julian and Christine Wolf, with the Solomon Islands in third place to claim one of the handful of non-Australian medals.