STONEHOUSE’S Billy Shilton and playing partner Paul Karabardak, from Swansea, produced a superb performance on day two of the Andalucia 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships to take gold in the men’s class 14 doubles in only their second tournament together.
In their semi-final Shilton and Karabardak took on the three-time World team champions from Spain – class 6 former World and Paralympic champion Alvaro Valera and class 7 World champion Jordi Morales – and they looked to be in control at 2-0, 5-2 but the Spanish pair, cheered on by the home supporters, used all their experience to take the third set 11-9.
At 5-4 down in the fourth GB coach Andrew Rushton called a time out and it worked as Shilton and Karabardak led 7-5 but Valera and Morales are great competitors and they fought back to level at 9-9 and had a point to take the match into a deciding set before the GB pair edged it 12-10 to take the match 3-1.
“We were on top for the whole of the match really,” said Shilton.
“Even in the third set we could have won it.
“Under the pressure and with a home crowd it wasn’t easy for me and Paul and we’re obviously delighted to have made the final.”
“I think we played really well,” said Karabardak.
“They are good players and their experience brought them back into it, but I knew if we kept going for our shots and being positive we’d have a great chance to win.”
In the final they took on Thailand – class 6 world number three and former Paralympic champion Rungroj Thainiyom and class 8 Phisit Wangphonphathanasiri, gold medallist in Mexico and Thailand this year. Karabardak and Shilton made great start and took the first two sets 11-8 11-8 but won only one point in the third set as the experienced Thai pair fought back.
The GB pair edged ahead in the fourth and had three match points at 10-7.
The first one was saved but when Wangphonphathanasiri sent a backhand long Karabardak punched the air in triumph before hugging Shilton and Rushton.
“They changed the tactics a little bit in the third set,” said Shilton.
“There were a few mistakes on my part but in the fourth set we just went back to what we know we can do with the serves and the receives and I’m really happy.
“I just think our togetherness on the court and the way we are talking all the time is so important.
“The way we communicate with each other in a match is amazing and I honestly think that is one of the reasons why we are World champions.
“What a feeling – it is something I’ve thought about every day when I’m in the hall, something I wanted to do as a kid and to do it for the first time with Paul is so special.”
“It is amazing,” said Karabardak.
“I’ve won a lot in my career and obviously Tokyo was really special and will take some beating but to be World champion here is one of the best things I’ve ever won and to do it with such a great doubles player like Billy who is also such a good friend makes it even more special.
“I’m not sure there are many World champions who come from Swansea so I think they will be really proud and it is going to be really special for the city as well.”
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