Table tennis is one of the most important sports of the Paralympic Games in terms of athlete participation with 31 medalist events. But here are 10 to keep in mind as Tokyo 2020 approaches:
Kelly van Zon (NED)
Double Paralympic and triple world champion, the Dutch superstar travels to Tokyo 2020 in search of a third consecutive gold medal at the Games in the women’s class 7.
Her Paralympic debut in Beijing 2008 earned her a bronze in singles, but she rose to the top of the podium at London 2012 and defended her title at Rio 2016.
Van Zon made the headlines at Rio 2016 when she landed a miraculous diving shot around the net and left her opponent and future silver medalist, Turkey’s Kubra Korkut, stunned.
She has won singles gold in every major international tournament since 2009, except the 2013 and 2017 European Championships, and achieved a hat trick of world championship titles in 2018.
Van Zon started playing table tennis at the age of 9 and made his international debut in 2003.
Koyo Iwabuchi (JPN)
Iwabuchi will carry a nation’s hopes to Tokyo 2020 as the top-ranked Japanese player in Men’s Class 9. The world No.3 won his first major title at the 2018 World Championships when Japan won the 9-10 class team event. He won six silver and four bronze medals at the Asian Championships and Asian Paralympics and won the 2019 Dutch Open.
Hoping to convey the appeal of parasport in all kinds of perspectives ahead of Tokyo 2020, he launched a YouTube channel in 2020 with the aim of increasing people’s knowledge of table tennis by filming and editing his own videos.
“Bucci”, as he is called, is only 26 years old but has represented his country for almost a decade.
Melissa Tapper (AUS)
The Class 10 player became the first Australian para table tennis player to qualify for a valid national team when she was selected to represent her country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2016, she made history by becoming the first Australian to compete in the Paralympics and Olympics in the same year.
Tapper is a two-time bronze medalist at the World Championships (2014 and 2018), but has yet to secure a medal at the Paralympic Games. The world No.3 will be vying for a medal at Tokyo 2020, but will need to be at her best in an ultra-competitive field that includes multi-Paralympic champion Natalia Partyka.
Panfeng Feng (CHN)
Feng has been the most dominant male table tennis player in the sitting classes for nearly two decades. The Chinese athlete is in contention for a fourth straight Paralympic Games gold medal in singles after his successes in Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The current world number 1 in Class 3 also won gold in the class three team events in London 2012 and Rio 2016, and is a three-time world champion. He played his first international tournament in 2003 at the age of 13.
Natalia Partyka (POL)
Partyka has dominated Class 10 women’s singles for more than two decades and will become a six-time Paralympian at Tokyo 2020.
The Polish star made history as the youngest table tennis Paralympian in Sydney 2000 when she made her debut at just 11 years old and was also a strong challenger on the able-bodied circuit. In Athens 2004, she became the youngest Paralympic table tennis champion and was the first table tennis athlete to compete in the Olympic and Paralympic Games when she qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. also competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Partyka has a chance to win her fifth consecutive gold medal in singles at Tokyo 2020 this year and was crowned world champion for the sixth time in 2018.
Laurens Devos (BEL)
Devos burst onto the scene at the age of 14 at the 2014 Hungarian Open and within a year he was European champion. The Belgian Class 9 athlete wore this form to Rio 2016 to become the youngest table tennis player to win gold at the Paralympic Games when he represented Dutchman Gerban Last in straight sets.
He was crowned Para Table Tennis Men’s Star in 2016 and also won the Paralympic Table Tennis Player of the Year award. Devos added to his European record with new gold medals in 2017 and 2019 and won World Championship glory in 2018. The world No.1 is the favorite to defend his title at Tokyo 2020.
Anna-Carin Ahlquist (SWE)
Ahlquist has been a star competitor in the sitting classes for several years. The Swedish class 3 athlete begins her fourth Paralympic Games as the best player in her class and will look to add a second gold to her impressive career.
Ahlquist won the London 2012 singles title and added a silver medal in the team event. She was unable to defend her gold medal at Rio 2016 after the Chinese duel between winner Xue Juan and Li Qian. Ahlquist managed to get on the podium with a bronze medal.
Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh (EGY)
Egyptian Mohamed Sameh Eid Saleh has been at the top of his game for over 20 years and won everything in class 4 at the African Championships.
Success at the continental level spanned two decades for Saleh, who won his first individual gold at the Africa-Middle East Championships in 1999 and won an incredible ninth time in 2019.
London 2012 was his best Paralympic Games with a bronze medal in the four singles category. Saleh is on the brink of history as he is set to become the first African table tennis player to compete in the fifth Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020 after winning his toughest qualifying tournament yet.
Guiyan Xiong (CHN)
Xiong is looking for his first medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
The Class 9 competitor has won nine gold medals since 2013 in individual and team events at the Asian Championships and Asian Paralympic Games, and helped China win the Class 9-10 team title. at the 2014 Worlds.
Xiong has been mostly successful regionally, but now at No.1, she hopes to break the mold on the international stage at Tokyo 2020.
William Bayley (GBR)
Bayley has been a very consistent player in Class 7 men’s table tennis. The British star won his first Paralympic gold in singles by beating a strong field at Rio 2016, a redemptive result after losing in the final in these Paralympic Games at home in London.
Paralympic, world and European champion, the world No.3 is heading to Tokyo 2020 in search of back-to-back titles.
Born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disease that affected all four limbs, Bayley had multiple operations from the age of three months. He then underwent chemotherapy when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 7. It was while he was recovering from cancer that his grandmother bought him a ping pong table and his journey began.