Paralympian Rob Davies wins European table tennis gold

By Nick HopeBBC Paralympic sports reporter
Rob Davies
Rob Davies was a semi-professional rugby player until he broke his neck playing the sport in 2005.

Paralympian Rob Davies defeated team-mate and London 2012 bronze medallist Paul Davies 3-0 to claim his maiden European table tennis title in Italy.

Rob Davies, 29, beat German Paralympic champion Holger Nikelis en route to beating Paul Davies, 46, in the final.

It is the first time GB Para table tennis has achieved a European one-two.

Will Bayley failed to defended his European crown losing 3-1 to Ukraine's Mykhaylo Popov whilst GB's Sue Gilroy and Sara Head won bronze medals.

Gilroy was competing in women's class four and Head in women's class three.

Rob Davies was a semi-professional rugby player until he broke his neck playing the sport in 2005.

He originally dismissed table tennis as a 'girly sport', but was persuaded to play it by London Paralympic bronze medallist Sara Head as part of his rehabilitation and soon "got the bug."

The Welshman finished second at the 2011 European Championships and was delighted with his achievements this time around in the class-one categoryexternal-link - for wheelchair users with severe upper body impairments.

"It feels amazing to be European champion," he said.

"I've beaten all the guys who are ranked above me now this year so I'm very proud and pleased."

Bayley, 25, from Tumbridge Wells is a class-seven standing player with arthrogryposisexternal-link and overcame cancer as a child.

He defeated world number one Maxym Nikolenko 3-1 in the semi-finals and looked strong in the opening set of the final before Popov found his range and stormed to victory.

"I was flying at the start and I don't know what went wrong really," admitted Bayley.

"I'll keep working hard and hopefully for the world championships next year I'll be better than I am now."

Great Britain Para table tennis performance director Gorazd Vecko was pleased with the achievements of his team on day three of the Championships.

"It's been a very good day," he said.

"We can look forward to the team competition where we also have a great chance of taking some medals."