Iacob settles for silver, Strbikova takes bronze medal
A resurgent Felix Wetzel saved the best for the last yesterday to spring a major surprise by beating much-quoted Eric Glod, of Luxembourg, and clinch the gold medal in the singles’ event.
Wetzel’s success coupled by the silver medal won by Camilla Iacob in the women’s events as well as the gold medals won in the teams’ events and doubles put this Malta side on top of all-time GSSE table tennis standings with four gold, two silver and a bronze -7 in total. Their previous best was five in Andorra in 2005.
Wetzel knew that he would have to play the best table tennis of his life to have even a chance of victory and he produced it in a captivating arm-wrestle of a contest.
Charging out of the gate, Wetzel hit some exciting spin shots in the opener, taking the match to the world number 200 and prevailing 11-5 in the first set.
Glod got a lucky break due to a favourable net cord and took the upperhand in the second set. Thus, forcing Wetzel away from the table to defend the assault.
But the Austria-born player was in tremendous shape, chopping down Glod’s fast attacks showing great technique with some incredible forehand topsins.
The second set was a classic. At no time did more than two points divided the players, who went on to reach 8-8.
On 9-8 for Malta, a very nervous Glod tried to break Wetzel’s rhythm by calling a time-out. The game went to deuce. Wetzel kept his cool and grabbed the final two points to earn his second set.
In the final set, Wetzel rode on the public’s wave of enthusiasm to finish off his opponent 11-5, 13-11, 11-9.
Wetzel let out a huge roar when Glod missed his last service as he went to embrace his coach Simon Gerada before climbing onto the table to salute the sizeable crowd at the University Pavilion.
“This is the best I have ever played. I had the best tactics as I put more balls back, so I am so happy to win it,” the 21-year-old Wetzel explained.
“It was a tough week for all of us. In difficult moments, this time around I kept cool and focused on winning one point at a time,” he added.
“I am really proud of achieving two gold medals and a silver. In two years’ time, I am hoping to get a clean sweep of gold medals,” Wetzel said after stepping onto the podium to have another gold medal hung around his neck.
A visibly tired Camilla Iacob had to settle for silver against a very strong Xiaoxin Yang.
Strapped on both calves, she did what she could against the Chinese-born Monégasque, ranked 15th in the world.
Yang made her intentions clear from the start, storming out of the blocks by taking a six-nil advantage to finish the first set 11-5.
In the second set, Iacob made an instant reaction albeit being mentally and physically drained.
She held her own against Yang, delivering some spin shots to put her opponent under pressure.
Yet that was not enough as Yang edged closer to the gold medal, winning the second set 11-9. In the last
set, Iacob could not keep up with Yang’s rhythm to settle for silver.
The girls’ tally in table-tennis was particularly noteworthy, as they won two gold medals in the teams’ and
doubles’ event, as well as silver and bronze in the singles. An elated Viktoria Lucenkova reflected on the biggest-ever haul of medals in the GSSE.
“This is undoubtedly the best harvest our players have ever reaped during the GSSE and has rewarded our team for their hard work and dedication,” she said.
Indeed, the dividends were impressive. The results at these Games have vindicated the decisions made by former table tennis stalwart, to choose this line-up of players, who has been in constant liaison with Simon Gerada.
“This experience will serve as a springboard of our homegrown hopes. For example, Anthea Cutajar had the opportunity to play at this high-level in the teams’ event. This will serve her well for the future,” she added.
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