Davies retains European crown as GB win seven singles medals in Slovenia
His European gold medal had barely been round his neck for five minutes yet Paralympic champion Rob Davies was already setting his sights on his next challenge – World Championship glory.
Davies sealed his third European Class 1 title in Slovenia, leading an historic British sweep of the medals as its para table tennis players secured seven with Tom Matthews (Class 1) and David Wetherill (Class 6) securing silver.
Fellow Paralympic champion Will Bayley (Class 7) missed out on his ambition to hold all three major titles at once, winning bronze alongside Paul Davies (Class 1), Ross Wilson (Class 8) and Sue Gilroy (Class 4).
Having defeated fellow Welshman Paul Davies in the semi-finals – in a repeat of the 2013 European final – Rob Davies faced his second all-British clash in succession in his gold medal match against Matthews.
The 33-year-old’s experience shone as he secured the win in three sets, but Davies was quick to pay tribute to the growing prowess of the British squad on the international stage.
“It feels pretty amazing,” said Davies. “It was a very emotional semi-final playing Paul.
“To say he has been through a lot in the last 12 months is an understatement and for him to come back and perform like that shows what he is made of and the character of him.
“For Tom as well to win the semi-final shows how much GB Para Table Tennis is coming on and the young players are improving all the time.
“The World title next year would be nice. That is definitely my aim – I didn’t think I would be in the finals here to be honest but I’ve done it, dug deep and battled through every match and got there.”
Having started his day with a 3-0 triumph over Kevin Dourbecker in the quarter-finals, reigning Paralympic and world champion Bayley faced Mykhaylo Popov in his semi-final.
The 29-year-old showed remarkable resilience to fight back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2, but the Ukrainian proved the stronger in the deciding set to progress to the final.
But despite his disappointment in defeat, Bayley was quick to focus on the positives.
“He is number three in the world and he has been European champion before so he is a great player,” said Bayley. “But that is sport and that is table tennis and anything can happen on the day.
“I gave it everything and it was close in the end. I have reached the final in every major from 2011 to 2016 and although the bronze is not what I wanted, to get another major medal makes me proud.”
With seven medals already on the bag, the action is not over just yet for the British squad in Slovenia, with the team events starting on Sunday and concluding on Wednesday.