Para-table tennis: 10 things learned

Find out who are the ones to beat, who are the rising stars and more after this year of para-table tennis. 24 Dec 2015
Selfie of seven people

A star filled selfie of all the 2015 ITTF Star Award winners. David Jacobs and Borislava Peric-Rankovic won the para-table tennis awards.

By Devon Robertson | For the IPC

1. Who is heading to Rio 2016

Rio 2016 will feature approximately 276 athletes in 16 men’s and 13 women’s events. At the five regional events that took place in 2015 (Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania), the top-rated men and women in each individual event qualified. Additional athletes qualified based on their world ranking list as of 31 December 2015.

Athletes who have qualified can be found on the official website for Rio 2016.

2. ITTF Star Award recipients

The 2015 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Star Awards in Lisbon, Portugal, recognised the top individuals in table tennis.

Indonesia’s Davis Jacobs took home the Male Para Table Tennis Star award, ousting Ukraine’s Viktor Didukh and Germany’s Thomas Schmidberger for the honour. Jacobs is ranked No. 2 in class 10 and took home a singles gold at the Asian Championships.

Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic won the Female Para Table Tennis Star award. The class 4 athlete is ranked second in the world and took home a singles gold from the 2015 European Championships.

3. Regional championships give taste of Rio 2016 action

Regional championships took place in 2015, giving fans and athletes alike a look at the competition that can be expected at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. As the last major events to take place before the Paralympics, top athletes took advantage of the opportunity to directly qualify and prepare for September 2016.

Among those was the men’s class 6 singles between Spain’s Alvaro Valera and Denmark’s Peter Rosenmeier. Valera came out victorious, but a rematch is expected at Rio 2016.

4. Tough competition from new blood in the para-table tennis world

Para-table tennis has long been dominated by a few athletes in each class. However, in 2015 we have seen some real up-and-coming athletes make a name for themselves.

Belgium’s 15-year-old Lauren Devos debuted as a senior in international para-table tennis competition. As the youngest champion of the European Championships, he qualified for the Rio 2016 with a win over Russia’s world No. 2 Iurii Nodrozunov in the class 9 final.

Denmark’s Sophie Walloe took home her first major medal at the European Championships. Falling to Poland’s Natalia Partyka in the class 10 final, the 15-year-old put up a strong fight going undefeated until the final.

5. Brazil dominated competition at Toronto 2015

Brazil once again dominated the competition at the Parapan American Games. Claiming an impressive 15 gold medals, 10 of which were singles titles, Brazil came first in the medal standings ahead of Mexico, who took three golds, and the USA, who took two. Brazil has held the top spot since the 2007 Parapan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro.

6. Spain’s Valera is not slowing down

Valera took home his fifth European singles title and has now set his sights on winning Paralympic gold for the first time since 2000. At this year’s European Championships, the world champion beat the defending champion Rosenmeier of Denmark in the class 6 singles final 3:2.

7. Sandra Paovic dominating women’s class 6

Croatia’s class 6 star and world No. 1 completed a perfect season with her European Championships singles gold. After only three years of competing internationally in para-table tennis, the 32-year-old is headed for Rio for her first Paralympic Games.

8. Michal Jensen still has it

Jensen came out of retirement to play in his country of Denmark in front of a home crowd at the European Championships. Rosenmeier and Jensen took gold in the team competition at the 2005 European Championships and were looking to reclaim their title. Jensen secured their place in the final following a 3:2 win over Russia’s Alexander Esaulov in the second singles game of the match. Jensen and Rosenmeier secured Denmark’s only gold at home following their 2:0 defeat of Great Britain.

9. Great Britain came to impress

Failing to claim a gold medal on home soil at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain has been working hard in preparation for Rio 2016. Great Britain took 11 medals in their best ever European Championships this year. Favourite Will Bayley reclaimed his No.1 world ranking after two years. Robert Davies held on to his No. 1 world rank in class 1 for the third consecutive year.

10. Every point matters

Competition was tough this year in para-table tennis as athletes vied for a spot in Rio. The year was full of titles being stolen and new faces making a name for themselves.

Norway’s Aida Dahlen took the class 8 European title with a close 3:2 win over Germany’s Juliane Wolf. Dahlen saved the match with a 13-11 win in the fourth game. Down 1-6 in the fifth, Dahlen fought back and took home her first major tournament gold.