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Paralympics Ireland have launched a new campaign “Next Level”. Which will help support Ireland’s incredible Irish Paralympic Athletes, including our very own Colin Judge on the road to the Tokyo Paralympics and beyond as they bring human achievement to ‘The Next Level’. This campaign is about giving Para athletes full credit for their remarkable level of performance.
This campaign gives the Irish public an opportunity to have an impact on Irish sporting achievements in a way that has never been available before. Every donor will know that they have played a key role in helping Irish Para Athletes achieve major results on the world stage. Irish supporters are rightly known around the world for their vociferous support of their sporting heroes, now we are asking those amazing supporters to support this unique campaign.
Tune into the @RTELateLateShow tonight for the unveiling of some exciting news from Paralympics Ireland! Our very own @ColinJudge95, along with fellow Para-Athletes Nicole Turner, Ellen Keane and Martin Gordon, and Paralympics Ireland President, John Fulham, will be appearing on the show to chat to Ryan Tubridy.
Colin Judge emerged the winner in the Men’s Singles (Class 3). The no.4 seed, in the final he beat Korea Republic’s Kim Jinsung (11-9, 11-8, 17-15), having in the penultimate round ousted Poland’s Maciej Nalepka, the top seed (12-10, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9).
In the Men’s Team (Class 3) event, Colin Judge alongside the French pairing of Alexandre Delarque and Nicolas Savant-Aira emerged with victory. These three players were the most successful male players on duty at the 2020 ITTF Para Polish Open in Wladyslawowo. This second title gained by Colin Judge was not to be expected.
Next up for Colin is the Costa Brava Para Open which is taking place next week.
A Para Development Squad travelled to Malmo, Sweden, last weekend to represent TTI in the annual Malmo Paralympic Open Competition. The squad was one of the largest in recent years with 12 players from all three Paralympic classes and three provinces represented. Indeed the Irish squad was the largest single group of players among the 8 countries, 40 clubs, and 124 players who entered the Malmo Open this year. Supporting our 12 players were coaches/managers/minders Susan Keating and Mick Cunningham, along with additional coaching from Rachel, Hiroto and Chinatsu, who also assisted when coaches were under pressure to cover all of the matches. Mick also provided the entertainment but, alas, what was said in Malmo, stays in Malmo….! While our overall approach to the competition was one of developing the skills and confidence in our emerging players, our overall medal toll tells us that we are well on the way on that journey – a whopping 2 gold, 5 silvers and 2 bronze medals with an additional 5 quarter-finalists in the knockout stages of a number of classes.
Friday 7th involved all of the doubles matches. Gerry Commins won gold (partnering Arnoy Brede of Bergen) in the Wheelchair Doubles final, where the final opposition was provided by our own Mark Henderson and Alicia Winter, on a score of 3-1. In the standing doubles, Aaron Mellows and Matthew Collins progressed to the last 8 of the knockout stage, but were unlucky to come up against the top seeds and eventual winners and lost 3-0. Matthew Flynn and Conor Halpin qualified for the plate event in the Standing Doubles, but lost out in the last 8. So, a great start with 1 gold and 2 silver medals plus a quarter-final placing in a knockout stage.
Saturday 8th saw matches for players over 21 years organised across 3 mixed performance classes along with a Youth (U/15) class for both wheelchair and standing players and a Junior (U/18) class for both wheelchair and standing players. In the largest class – Performance Class 3 – Gerry Commins, Mark Henderson and Patrick Sweeney qualified out of their respective groups, but were beaten at the last 16 of the knockout stage. Aoife Kelly and Aaron Daly both went through to the last 16 in the plate, but lost out at that stage. Gary Sorenson enjoyed a wonderful run in the plate and eventually finished joint third winning a bronze medal – mission accomplished for both Gary and Susan! In the Junior Standing event Matthew Collins qualified out of his group but lost out at the last 8 in the knockout stage, while Aaron Daly, Matthew Flynn and Caoimhe Folan went into the plate but lost out at the last 8 stage. The undoubted highlight of Day 2 came in the Youth Standing class where Conor Halpin, playing very well throughout, won the plate final. In the same class Aaron Mellows was very unlucky to finish outside of the medals in 5th place. So, another gold medal plus a bronze medal for Ireland!
Sunday 9th presented the Squad with competition in singles matches in their respective Paralympic classes. Here we enjoyed our largest medal haul and some outstanding performances. In class 3, Alicia Winter went into the plate event and eventually made it to the final where she finished second, winning a fine silver medal. In class 3-4 combined, Gerry Commins and Mark Henderson also progressed into their plate event where Gerry won a silver medal and Mark, losing out in the semi-final, won a bronze medal. In class 7 both Matthew Flynn and Caoimhe Folan lost out in the last 16 of their plate event. In class 8 Conor Halpin fared better in getting to the last 16 stage of the knockout event, but eventually lost out here. In class 11, Aoife Kelly, Matthew Collins and Aaron Mellows qualified out of their respective groups into the knockout stage. In an unfortunate draw Aaron and Matthew were pitched against each other in the last 16 and, after a titanic struggle, Matthew prevailed on a 3-2 score. Both Matthew and Aoife failed to get beyond the last 8 stage having been beaten by the eventual finalists respectively. In the plate event Gary Sorenson went out in the last 16, Aaron Daly and Patrick Sweeney progressed into the last 8 where they were drawn to play each other. Patrick prevailed 3-1 and eventually he made it to the final where he lost out 3-1 despite playing very well. So, a medal toll of 3 silver and 1 bronze for Day 3.
Finally, thanks to the coaches for their unfailing enthusiasm and encouragement of the players; thanks must also go to all our players for a wonderfully competitive attitude over the weekend and for being great ambassadors for themselves and for TTI; last, but not least, special mention must go out to the family members who travelled to Malmo to support the players and who contributed to a very enjoyable social experience.
This year will see Colin Judge embark on a qualification campaign all around the world in an attempt to qualify for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Colin has 3 missing limbs and Table Tennis is the sport that gave him an outlet through some very difficult times. His dream is to represent Ireland and win a medal at the next Paralympic Games in Tokyo in 2020!
The typical costs for an athlete to help prepare, travel, compete, qualify and participate in the Paralympics would be in the €40,000. Giving Colin any bit of help, no matter how big or small, can really help take the pressure off Colin and his family in a very important year.
The first morning of action saw the doubles competition. Ireland had three teams in the standing event and one in the wheelchair. The Irish pairings found it difficult facing against teams who clearly had a lot more experience in the tough doubles format but nevertheless each player fought well. The Cork and Dublin duo of Conor and Seán came closest to an Irish victory in the first round with a narrow 3-2 defeat to a Swedish pair. The Junior and Youth Standing and Wheelchair age category events took place in the afternoon. These events combined the Standing classes (6-11) together and the Wheelchair event saw classes 1-5 combined. Mark and Alicia came up against high quality opposition in the Wheelchair event and both competed well but unfortunately were knocked out of their groups. However they were to both meet in the ‘B’ final where Mark came out on top to claim the Gold while Alicia took home Silver. Aaron and Darragh both won Bronze medals after narrow defeats in their “B” Standing semi-finals while Peadar was unfortunate to miss out after defeat in his “B” quarter final. Caoimhe playing the Womens Standing event had some great performances and two victories over Swedish and Danish opponents saw her claim a Bronze medal. Seán and Conor both progressed out of their Standing Junior groups into the quarter finals. Notably Conor, who is Class 6 played three Class 10 players in a row and both lads were unlucky to lose out in the quarters.
The second and final day of the event saw the individual Class events taking place. Mark (Class 4) claimed his second medal of the competition with a Bronze in the “B” event. Alicia (Class 3) would also earn her second medal, a Bronze in her “B” event. Both players fought hard and the experience gained over the weekend will definitely serve them well. Darragh (Class 7) played extremely well and managed to pick up another Bronze after defeat in his “B” semi-final. Two medals in his first international was a great result for the Cork man. Caoimhe (Womens Class 7) had a superb 3-2 victory in her “B” semi-final over her Danish opponent and picked up a Silver medal after narrow defeat in the final. Caoimhe showed great capability and performances in what was only her second international competition. Aaron (Class 11) had terrific results and managed to top his first round group. He guaranteed himself a Bronze by comfortably winning his quarter-final but came just short in his semi-final losing to the eventual winner. It was a great result on his international debut. Seán (Class 9) and Peadar (Class 10) played in the Class 9 & 10 event. Peadar was drawn in an extremely difficult first round group and after some well- contested matches, he was unfortunate to lose in his “B” quarter-final. Despite a victory in his first round group, Seán failed to progress but recovered well to win 3-0 in his “B” quarter, semi and final against Class 10 players to pick up his first international medal and Ireland’s second Gold of the competition. Conor (Class 6) progressed from his first round group and was unfortunate to come up against Michael Azulay of Sweden (WR 23) in his quarter. After a closely fought game, Azulay won out but a good performance capped out a great return to international competition for Conor who had only recently returned from injury and there is sure to be success in the future for the Cork man. A fantastic weekend saw the Irish team return with eleven medals.
A big thank you to the coaches who travelled with us – Susan, Mick, Hiro and Chinatsu who guided and coached us through the competition and the parents and travelling Irish supporters who got behind each and every player. Thanks also to Table Tennis Ireland for organising the trip and for their continued support of the Para programme and to our High Performance coach Gavin for his commitment to helping us improve our games. There is no denying that Irish para table tennis certainly has a bright future ahead.
Most of the players were experiencing their first taste of international para competition and after two training days on the 1st and 2nd of July, they were well prepared for the challenges ahead with the singles on the 3rd and team competition on the 4th. The opening ceremony for the games also took place on the 2nd. It was a great experience to be part of a big event and the cheers that erupted as Team Ireland entered the stadium gave each player confidence of support from a home crowd.
Alicia (Class 3) had a tough group in the women’s Class 3-5 event facing some high quality opposition from Thailand and Croatia but she played some outstanding table-tennis in her first international and the experience will no doubt stand to her. Alicia also had a very hard-fought match which unfortunately ended in defeat in the women’s open wheelchair event (Classes 1-5). Mark (Class 4) also had some great performances in the men’s Class 4-5 including a fantastic 3-0 victory over Hussain Albannai of Kuwait, which meant he finished 3rd in his group following close defeats to two players from Thailand. In the men’s wheelchair open event Mark came up against Yuttajak Glinbancheun (WR 13 in Class 3 and Rio 2016 Paralympian) from Thailand, who unfortunately was too strong for Mark.
Caoimhe (Class 7) in the Women’s Class 6-10 event faced some tough opposition in the form of Romania’s Ioana Tepelea (WR 11 in Class 10) and Croatia’s Anja Laus but played some of her best table tennis to defeat another Croatian, Tea Ivancic- Jokic 3-1 to secure a bronze medal for Team Ireland. This was an outstanding result for Caoimhe who was making her debut in the green jersey. Unfortunately Jokic avenged for her earlier defeat to Caoimhe when she won the Bronze medal play-off in the women’s standing open event. Caoimhe was very unlucky not to get her hands on another medal. Seán (Class 9) also competing internationally for the first time played in the men’s Class 9-10 event. Seán had a close 3-1 defeat to Daniel Ionita of Romania and contested well in matches vs Austrian opposition and Master Parinya- Punkaew of Thailand (WR 60 in Class 10). Another closely fought game vs Ionita in the men’s standing open event, unfortunately ended in defeat for Seán for whom the experience of playing high quality players will certainly help for future events. Paddy (Class 7), the most experienced player of this young Irish squad played in the men’s Class 7-8 event. Paddy recovered from an early 3-2 defeat to Czech Republic’s Daniel Palatka to win against players from Kuwait, Croatia and Romania and secured 2nd place in the group and a silver medal, a terrific result. In the men’s standing open event, Paddy tasted victory over Palatka in the first round before reaching the final where he unfortunately lost to Punkaew of Thailand 3-1 in a fantastic display of table tennis from both players which earned Paddy his second silver medal of the competition.
The team event took place the following day. Mark and Alicia teamed up in the wheelchair team while Seán and Caoimhe paired in the standing event. Paddy and Austrian partner Noah Rainer were also in the standing competition. The Galway pairing of Mark and Alicia fought hard and showed some excellent doubles play against a strong Croatia/Kuwait team as well as two teams from Thailand but unfortunately experience showed and they could not progress further. Seán and Caoimhe in Group B of the standing team also played some tough opposition including the team of Ioana Tepelea, Robert Boroleanu and Daniel Ionita from Romania, who were eventual finalists. The Dublin/ Galway pairing were unlucky not to win their doubles match in the next game vs Croatia, which the Croats won 3-1. Seán fought a close encounter in his singles match in some very tight sets but unfortunately the team just missed out on the bronze medals. The strong pairing of Paddy and Noah won through a very strong Group A which included Class 7-8 Gold medallist Palatka and his partner Borna Zohil to face off against Sean and Caoimhe’s conquerors Croatia in the semi-final. Paddy and Noah formed a formidable partnership and won through to the final comfortably. Tough opposition in the form of Romania awaited in the final. A fantastic and hard-earned victory in the doubles match gave the lads the edge heading into the singles matches. Paddy fought hard but went down to the very strong Tepelea to leave the tie at 1-1 heading into the deciding match. Noah stepped up to play Daniel Ionita and was outstanding as he brushed aside the Romanian challenge to capture the gold medals for Ireland/Austria. An amazing few days enjoyed by all finished with a fantastic medal haul of one gold, two silver and one bronze for Team Ireland.
A big thank you to IWAS and IWA Sport who hosted the games and also Athlone IT, which hosted the table tennis events. Thanks also to Table Tennis Ireland for their continued support and all the coaches, Gavin, Rena and Hiro who prepared, trained and guided us through the competitions, the parents who were super supporters throughout and also the players whose dedication and commitment to training and aiming to improve is unquestionable. Watch this space as there is undoubtedly more success to come from this young squad. The future of Irish para table tennis is certainly looking bright.