The Slovenia Open, one of the most prestigious Para table tennis events, will gather more than 300 athletes from Saturday (6 May) in Lasko.
Paralympic medallists from Rio 2016 are expected to take on their first international competition since September, including Great Britain’s Will Bayley and Rob Davies.
Bayley will headline the men’s class 7, and the 29-year-old world No. 1 said he does not feel any more pressure as the reigning Paralympic champion.
“I feel like I am playing OK – not my best but I have made a lot of changes in the last few months and I feel that I am starting to get into my rhythm and my game,” Bayley said. “I am where I thought I would be at this stage of the season – maybe a little bit ahead - and I’m looking forward to the challenge of Slovenia.”
For many of the European Para table tennis players in competing in Lasko, the event will also give them a taste of the site of the European Championships held in late September.
“The Slovenia Open is always a strong competition so I know that it will be tough,” Davies, the top-ranked men’s class 1 player, said. “My main goal for this year is the European Championships in September and that is what I am working towards so Slovenia will give me an indication of where I am and the areas I need to improve over the next few months."
Eyes will also be on Rio 2016 gold medallists Natalia Kosmina of Ukraine (women’s class 1), Sandra Paovic (women’s class 6), the Netherlands’ Kelly Van Zon (women’s class 7) and Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic (women’s class 4), all coming off victories from the Lignano Master Open held in March.
The tournament is also drawing top competition from around the world.
The men’s class 7 category could see a rematch of the Rio 2016 finals, as Brazil’s Israel Pereira Stroh will look to challenge Bayley. He will be joined by compatriot and reigning Paralympic bronze medallist Bruna Costa Alexandre in the women’s class 10.
Rungroj Thainiyom will take on his first tournament since Rio 2016. The Thai athlete was not able to defend his Paralympic title at Rio 2016, leaving with bronze in the men’s singles class 6.
Complete information on the Slovenia Open, which runs until Tuesday (9 May), can be found on the event website and Facebook page @PTTSloveniaOpen.