Local fans had a reason to celebrate at the Para Table Tennis (PTT) Oceania Regional Championships in Suva, Fiji, from 13-16 April as Rio 2016 Paralympian Merewalesi Roden sealed the hosts’ only gold in the women’s singles class 2-5.
Roden achieved three victories to finish top of Group B and qualify for the semi-finals, where she beat compatriot Sainimili Naivalu 3-0. In the gold medal match, Roden defeated Australia’s Amanda Tscharke 3-2 and won the title.
Australia still proved to be the dominant force in the continent, as they secured the remaining eight golds.
Rebecca Julian, in the women’s class 6-8, and Melissa Tapper, in the women’s class 10, were Australia’s two female gold medallists in the singles events.
In the men’s singles competitions, Chen Junjian (class 2-3), Caleb Crowden (class 4-5), Trevor Hirth (class 6-7) and Nathan Pellisier (class 9-10) also topped the podium.
Australia landed two golds in the men’s team events as well. Junjian, Crowden and Steven Gow teamed up to finish first in class 2-5, whilst Pellisier joined forces with Hirth and Barak Mizrachi to win class 6-9.
A total of 55 players from Australia, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu competed at the Para Table Tennis Oceania Regional Championships.
The increasing number of athletes emerging in the region is a result of the efforts of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) with the help of the Agitos Foundation, the development arm of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Last December, the Agitos Foundation funded an ITTF Oceania Para Training Camp in Auckland, New Zealand, through the 2016 Grant Support Programme.
A total of 28 players from Australia, Fiji, Guam, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu participated in the event, which consisted of a two-day Para table tennis Level One Coaches course, a three-day training camp and the New Zealand Para Open Championships.
More participants are expected at the 2019 Para Table Tennis Oceania Regional Championships, with countries from the region hoping to send their largest ever Paralympic delegations to Tokyo 2020.