The first defeat, but nothing lost yet! The Paralympic Games of Tokyo 2021 have kicked off.
The first match was against Claudia Perez Villaba, a Mexican who surprisingly won the last Pan American Championships. I’m always a bit nervous at major tournaments, but this time it felt even more intense, almost two years after I played and won the European Championship in Slovenia. Despite a challenging start, I managed to score points with less than stellar play. The disadvantage was that I prefer faster balls, and my opponent did everything to prevent that. By staying well-focused, I eventually won the match 3-0. It’s a satisfying feeling to know that I didn’t play exceptionally well but still secured the points.
Claudia Perez Villalba
Today, I played my second match against the French player Anne Barneoud, who has been a familiar face in the international circuit for several years. The international para-table tennis calendar has been empty for a year and a half, so no one knows exactly how other athletes have fared during this period and what their form is like. Anne was already a player who had developed well, and she played really well in this match. All games were very close; I won the first, then Anne won the next two, and finally, I won the fourth. The fifth game had to decide the outcome, and it was quite evenly matched, with me even having a match point. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convert that point, and I ended up losing the game and the match narrowly with a score of 14-12. Of course, it’s disappointing, but sometimes, things need to go your way at decisive moments. This time, luck favored Anne, and she deserved the win!
Losing a match in this group stage is not a fatal setback. Tomorrow, Anne still has to play against Claudia, but I am assured of a place in the quarterfinals. It won’t be known until tomorrow who my opponent will be, but honestly, I don’t find that interesting. If you want to become a Paralympic champion for the third time, you have to be able to defeat anyone. From now on, I can’t afford any more losses, and if I want to defend my title, I need to win the next three matches. This will definitely not be easy; I’ve already seen that all the familiar competitors are in good form. I can only give it my absolute best and not look further ahead than the next game. It’s likely that the next match will be on Saturday morning at 02:40 Dutch time. My parents will probably find it amusing to wake up in the middle of the night to watch. I don’t yet know on which table I’ll be playing, so I also don’t know if the match will be streamed by the NOS. If it’s not broadcasted, my parents will, like today, follow the live score, watching only the score on the computer screen change without seeing me play.
I want to thank you all once again for your amazing support, and I’ll do my absolute best to win the next match(es)!