THE HOPES invested in Slovakia’s Paralympic table tennis players have been justified. Three of the four Paralympic medals won so far by Slovak athletes at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London have come from this discipline. Ján Riapoš, the chairman of the Slovak Paralympic Committee (SPV), won the top prize, gold, when he beat world number one Kyung Mook Kim, from the Republic of Korea, in the men’s singles, by three sets to one. It is Riapoš’ fourth Paralympic medal.
“The medal will not make you happy,” Riapoš, 43, who uses a wheelchair following a car accident almost 20 years ago, told the SITA newswire after his victory on September 3. “The path you follow to reach success is more important, as is what happens to you on this path… If somebody in 1993, when I was not able to move my arms seven months after the car accident, had told me that I would win gold at the Paralympics, I would not have believed him… This should be an encouragement to those who give up on simple obstacles. One should not give up, but pursue one’s goals.”
Alena Kánová won a bronze by beating Great Britain’s Sara Head in the women’s singles class 3 play-off by three sets to one. Like Riapoš, the 32-year old athlete was left in a wheelchair by a serious car accident some 18 years ago, and London was her fourth Paralympics. So far she has won three Paralympic medals: gold in Sydney in 2000, bronze in Athens in 2004 and silver in Beijing in 2008.
Another table tennis player, Richard Csejtey, won a silver medal after China's Shuai Zhao beat him by three sets to one. For the 33-year old athlete it was his biggest success in a singles competition, after winning two silvers and two bronzes in Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 in team and doubles competitions.
On September 6 shooter Veronika Vadovičová won a bronze in the women’s R8-50m Rifle 3 Positions with 669.6 points. She almost repeated her success from Beijing four years ago, where she ended second in the same discipline.
Slovakia fielded 34 athletes in total at the 2012 Paralympic Games, held in London between August 29 and September 9. The country’s Paralympic squad consists of 30 physically challenged athletes, three visually disabled athletes and one guide. They competed in nine of the 20 events in London.
The most successful discipline for Slovak Paralympians was without doubt table tennis. The second most successful sport, which has previously produced a gold medal, is shooting.
Of the Slovak team, 13 athletes made their debut at this year’s Paralympics. Handless swimmer Viktor Kemény was, at 16, the youngest member of the Slovak team. He ended seventh in the men’s 100m breaststroke, improving his personal best by almost four seconds from 1:30.06 to 1:26.58.
The prestige and coverage of the Paralympics has grown in Slovakia and worldwide. For the first time public service Slovak Television (STV) broadcast the opening ceremony live, on August 28, and Paralympics winners will receive the same financial rewards that non-disabled athletes did following their successes at the Olympic Games a few weeks ago.
7. Sep 2012 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková