“I might never have the opportunity again to hold all three titles at the same time so it is a dream and something I never really thought was possible.”
The 2017 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) European Para Championships are currently underway in Lasko, Slovenia, with plenty of anticipating match-ups to come.
Great Britain’s Paralympic champions Will Bayley and Rob Davies are among the athletes in search for European titles.
Bayley, 29, is looking to add the men's class 7 European crown to his world and Paralympic titles. He will face tough competition from Ukraine’s top-seed Maksym Nikolenko.
“I might never have the opportunity again to hold all three titles at the same time so it is a dream and something I never really thought was possible,” said Bayley. “I think I thrive off the pressure and really enjoy being the player that people expect a lot of – it shows that I am playing well and training well. I’m also realistic enough to know that sport is unpredictable and anything can happen but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Davies is bidding for his third consecutive European singles title in men’s class 1.
“I just like competing and trying to be at my best for the major competition every year – whether it is Europeans, Worlds or Paralympics,” Davies said. “That is always the goal every year and I’m really looking forward to it and hoping I can do my best.”
In order to retain their European titles, Germany’s Tomas Bruhle, France’s Maxime Thomas and Norway’s Tommy Urhaug will also have to upset the seeding if they are to emulate their success from Vejle, Denmark, two years ago.
Thomas sits at No. 2 in the men’s class 4 behind Turkey’s Abdullah Ozturk. Bruhle sits at No. 3 in the men’s class 3 behind teammate No. 1 Thomas Schmidberger and France’s No. 2 Florian.
In the women’s singles event, Italy’s Giada Rossi (class 1-2) and Turkey’s Neslihan Kavas (class 9), both gold medallists in Vejle 2015, must upset the seeding to retain their titles.
Croatia’s Paralympic champion and No. 1 Sandra Paovic is the overwhelming favourite in the women’s class 6, while Poland’s Natalia Partyka, who also competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics, is the same for the women’s class 10.
Sweden’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Anna-Carin Ahlquist (class 3), and reigning Paralympic champions in Serbia’s Borislava Peric-Rankovic (class 4-5) and the Netherlands’ Kelly Van Zon (class 7) occupy the top seeded positions.
The competition runs until 5 October, with live results and livestream available. Single events conclude on Saturday (30 September) and team events run from 1-4 October.
More information on the European Para Championships can be found on the event website.