Great Britain win team gold on final day of European Para Table Tennis Championships
Winning his first major gold medal is a moment Paul Karabardak will remember for some time as he came from behind to be crowned European class 6 team champion alongside David Wetherill and Martin Perry.
Facing world silver medallists Croatia in the final in Slovenia, Karabardak and Wetherill got Great Britain off to a flying start in the opening doubles match to lead 2-0, before the combination of Pavao Jozic and the former world No.1 Vjekoslav Gregorovic came back to level at 2-2.
But the British pair asserted themselves once more, winning 11-4 in the fifth set to triumph and move just one match victory away from the European title.
It wasn’t the best start from Karabardak – who turned 32 on Tuesday – as he fell 2-0 behind to Jozic, but the Welshman drew on all his experience to level at 2-2.
In the fifth set, Karabardak found himself 3-0 down when his coach called time out, and it proved to be a title-winning decision as he quickly levelled before moving ahead, winning the set 11-7 and securing gold for Great Britain.
“I was frustrated because I know I can stay in the game with him, so to be 2-0 down and him to be dictating the game and me trying to force the play, I knew I had to change things and try and control the game, which I did,” he said.
“I started getting the ball on the table and I think he started to get a bit nervous and I was able to capitalise on that.
“When I was 3-0 down at the start of the fifth I was told to move the ball around which I did and I managed to get back into it and I’m over the moon with the way I played against a top opponent who has had a good competition.
“It’s very special – my first major gold – and I’m so pleased that I could play my best table tennis and help the team to become European champions.”
It was a second medal of the European Para Table Tennis Championships for three-time Paralympian Wetherill, after he won silver in the men’s class 6 singles.
And having left Karabardak at the table after their doubles victory, he admits he had full confidence his teammate could get the job done.
“We knew from the start that the doubles would be really important, and if we could go into the singles 1-0 up then Paul could play relaxed and we would be in a very strong position to take the victory,” he said.
“I was so glad Paul won because I was a nervous wreck watching from the bench. He played amazingly and I’m really proud of him.”