Welcome to 2019: Table tennis

Five regional Championships have Tokyo 2020 implications 14 Jan 2019
Natalia Partyka competing at the Para Table Tennis World Championships, holding the bat and watching the ball closely
Natalia Partyka wins gold at the Para Table Tennis World Championships in Slovenia
ⒸVid Ponikvar/Sportida
By Connor Craig-Jackson | For the IPC

The fight for regional bragging rights takes centre stage in 2019, as the top Para table tennis players look to build up their resumes for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

All five regional Championships will take place this year, with the top ranked finishers securing Paralympic qualification slots for their nations.

The Oceania Championships in Darwin, Australia, kicks things off from 1-4 May, with 2017 class 6-7 champion Trevor Hirth among the stars. He aims to bounce back from just missing out on the 2018 World Championship knockout stages. Fiji’s Merewalesi Vakacegu Roden remains the only non-Australian to ever win gold at the Oceania tournament. The 51-year-old class 2-5 champion is a favourite to defend her title.

For the first time in four years, the African Championships will return from 30 June – 3 July. Held in Alexandria, Egypt, the tournament could see six-time class 10 gold medallist Abdelrahman Abdelwahab celebrate another title on home court, while Nigeria’s Chineye Obiora seeks to add to her four class 5 golds.

The action then moves to Taichung, Chinese Taipei, for the Asian Championships from 23-27 July. One of the sport’s top athletes will take the spotlight, as China’s reigning Paralympic, world and Asian champion Feng Panfeng will be tough to stop in the men’s class 3. It is a similar story on the women’s side, as Mao Jingdian holds the same credentials in the women’s class 8. She will look to make it five Asian singles titles after winning the World Championships last year. Zhang Miao prepares to defend her class 4 title against the likes of Chinese compatriot Zhou Ying, who is coming off two golds from the 2018 Asian Para Games in Indonesia.

The multi-sport Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, will act as the Championships for the Americas region. Held from 22-27 August, Lima 2019 will star Brazil’s Paulo Sergio Salmin Filho looking to add to his sixth continental gold medal in the men’s class 7. Costa Rican teenager Steven Roman Chinchilla returns as the defending men’s class 8 champion, while Mexico’s Edith Sigala Lopez could make it eight American titles in the women’s class 1-3.

Helsingborg, Sweden, will be the final stop of the regional action, seeing the European Championships underway from 16-21 September. Poland’s unstoppable Natalya Partyka will bid for an unprecedented eight European class 10 singles and team titles. Belgian sensation Laurens Devos is coming off a Worlds gold and can keep on his dominance in class 9. The Netherlands’ Kelly Van Zon is out for redemption on the European stage after her Turkish rival Kubra Korkut snatched the gold last year in the class 7.

The complete 2019 calendar can be found on the International Table Tennis Federation’s website.