26 August 2021

Karabardak reaches new heights as one of four guaranteed table tennis medallists

An emotional Paul Karabardak assured himself a first Paralympic medal at the fourth time of asking, becoming one of four ParalympicsGB athletes to bank themselves at least a table tennis bronze in Tokyo.

The 35-year-old had fallen at the group stage at each of the Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games, but following an earlier win over Bobi Simion of Romania in the men’s singles class 6 competition, Karabardak overcame Australia’s Trevor Hirth in straight games to advance to the knockout rounds.

Korea’s Park Hong Kyu stood in the way of a podium place and despite sacrificing a two-game lead Karabardak utilised his experience to prevail 13-11, 11-7, 16-18, 11-13, 11-3, and set up a semi-final with the USA’s Ian Seidenfeld – where the loser gets a bronze medal with the winner going on to compete for gold.


I’ve waited 20 years for this and you don’t know whether it is ever going to come

Paul Karabardak

“I can’t put it into words,” he said. “I’ve waited 20 years for this and you don’t know whether it is ever going to come. It meant so much to me – I think that’s why I couldn’t put him away and let him back in.

“I definitely want more than bronze. It’s not so much the way I’m playing, it is being relaxed and enjoying it more.

“I think coming through lockdown massively helped with that as when I came back and I could play again I realised how much I love the sport.”

Paralympic debutant Thomas Matthews also started the day by navigating his way into the class 1 quarter-finals with a Group B, 3-1 win over the Russian Paralympic Committee’s Dmitrii Lavrov, before earning himself at least bronze by overcoming Italy’s Andrea Borgato 11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 14-12.

Jack Hunter-Spivey was one of four ParalympicsGB athletes to guarantee themselves at least a table tennis bronze

Elsewhere, Jack Hunter-Spivey is refusing to rest on his laurels after fighting back to beat his hero, Norway’s London 2012 champion Tommy Urhaug 9-11, 13-11, 11-9, 10-12, 12-10 in the men’s class 5 singles quarter-finals.

The 26-year-old had earlier safely navigated his way out of Group B with a string of wins that included usurping Chinese Taipei’s world No.2 Cheng Ming Chih, and he is confident he can go all the way in the Japanese capital.

“It doesn’t feel real,” said Hunter-Spivey. “Tommy is the guy I’d idolised when I was a kid, the guy I watched YouTube videos of and the guy I wanted to be.

“This medal isn’t just for me - it is for everyone back home and everyone who has supported me.

Will Bayley secured a third Paralympic singles medal with victory over Bjoern Schnake

“I really think I can take this gold. I don’t think anyone realises how much hard work I’ve done in lockdown.”

Rio 2016 men’s singles class 7 champion Will Bayley guaranteed himself a third Paralympic singles medal with a straight-games win over Germany’s Bjoern Schnake, but there was disappointment for Joshua Stacey, who fell to an agonising 11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 7-11 defeat against the RPC’s Iurii Nozdrunov at the class 9 last-eight stage.

Meanwhile Aaron McKibbin, Billy Shilton and Ross Wilson all progressed into the class 8 quarter-finals, with victories over Sweden’s Linus Karlsson 3-2, Poland’s Piotr Grudzien 3-2 and Sweden’s Emil Andersson 3-0 respectively.

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