Australia’s stroke of genius in table tennis competition

15 September 2023

The inaugural Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 table tennis competition has wrapped and Team Australia has shown its fighting spirit.

Smashing it out in the green and gold on day five were Verity Sanchez, Stephen Lockwood, Steve Richards and Brooke Mead; all four causing a racquet and showing Australia can’t be discounted on the tables.

“In a lot of European countries, table tennis is their main sport,” team captain, Stephen, said.

“In Australia, it’s played in churches in the middle of the country; no one really knows about it. So these countries have all come together to play their national sports and we’re just hanging in there, giving them hell. What else can you do?”

From a pool of 64 competitors, Stephen fought it out to the top eight before falling to Romania’s Dan Craciun.

“I came here with the intent to win one game,” he said.

“A lot of the guys I’ve played have come here just to play table tennis. Most of them are country players, so to beat them, especially in Germany, yeah, I rate that.

“My name’s been on the screen, I’ve won a few games so I can’t ask any more than that.”

With a powerlifting bronze medal already under his belt, humble Stephen cited his favourite moments of the Games as everyone else’s accomplishments, including Team Australia’s wheelchair rugby win and the swimming team smashing their PBs in the pool.

Verity Sanchez was the pride of the nation as she also proved herself on the tables of Merkur-Spiel Arena’s centre court.

Progressing to the final game after four match-ups without losing a set, Verity took on Israel’s Mor Mizrahi. The Aussie took out the first set 11-4 before losing the second 11-7. A close final set saw the Israeli take the win 11-7 to take the gold. Teammate, Brooke Mead, also represented with style, making it to the women’s quarter finals despite only coming to the sport very recently while Steve Richards came close in the elimination rounds.

Meanwhile, the Aussie sitting volleyball team also had an absolute ball on day five of competition.

A tight game was first up for the day, where Team Australia went head-to-head with Belgium over three sets; the first going Australia’s way, followed by the Belgians taking out the second. Duelling scores throughout the third set had the crowd on its feet before Australia clinched the win.

Team Australia’s Alex Jay said she was impressed by the close-fought match.

“They made it challenging for us,” she said. “They didn’t give up; we didn’t give in and in the end we were able to cross that line to 15 points.

“The judges actually told us it was one of the best games they’d seen so far because we were always so close in the scores. We didn’t know which way the scales were going to tip in the end.”

In the second game, Team Australia took on the Netherlands in another close contest. The green and gold took the first set before the Dutch won the second.  The third and final set of the night saw Australia reach lucky number 15 first to win the match.

Sitting volleyball continues tomorrow, as Australia meets Georgia in one of the quarter finals.

It’s been a successful Games for Alex, who took out two bronze medals in the athletics before powering through the indoor rowing competition. While she’s proud of her solo achievements, sitting volleyball offers a more social pay-off.

“The last sport I have for the Games is seated volleyball and this is the most exciting in terms of it being a team sport. I can actually celebrate the victories with other people,” she said.

“Sitting volleyball is fun because it’s high-energy, it’s fast-paced – you’ve always got to be ready.”

The first-time Invictus Games competitor has enjoyed her Games experience, inspired by her fellow competitors and stories of courage and resilience. In true Aussie mateship fashion, she has found support within the Team Australia family.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect. People had said Invictus Games are high energy, lots of people, lots of noise, but everyone has been so kind,” she said.

“My family and friends weren’t able to make it so everyone has come together to make sure I feel supported and I’m so appreciative of that.

“Everyone here is so kind and compassionate. I feel really well looked after but more so I’m having so much fun. I’m just so grateful to be here.”

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