The para table tennis tournament 17th I Feel Slovenia Open Thermana Laško ended successfully for Slovenia on Saturday with Luka Trtnik’s career first semi-final in the singles of such a prominent event. Two of the remaining three Slovenia players also progressed to the knock-out stage of the singles competition.

The tournament was successfully organized by Sports Federation for the Disabled of Slovenia – Paralympic Committee of Slovenia (NPC Slovenia).

In four days, 330 players from 38 countries competed at the world’s biggest para table tennis event. Slovenia was represented by Primož Kancler, Bojan Lukežič, Andreja Dolinar and Luka Trtnik.

The latter, also a participant in the last Paralympig Games in Tokyo, was the most successful, reaching the semi-finals for the first time in his career at events of this level. He lost his semi-final match only by 2-3 against the Thai Chalermpong Punpoo, who was up 1-0 and 2-1 in games. The Slovenian recovered and even had a match point in the fifth, deciding game, leading by 11-10. The Thai later lost the final match against the Brit John William Bailey by 0-3 in games.

“I had said anything is possible if he showed his best play. That has happened today. The opponent was up by 2-1 and 6-1. I felt I needed to take a time-out. Luka brought it to a tie at 2-2 and won himself a lead of 6-4 in the fifth game. Got to 11-10 and a match point, but then … well, things like that happen in table tennis,” the head coach Ožbej Poročnik was content despite the defeat.

Of the remaining three Slovenian representatives, Bojan Lukežič and Andreja Dolinar reached the quarter-final stage of their singles events, only Primož Kancled didn’t make it out of his round-robin group.

“Overall, our national team’s performance was excellent. Luka a semi-finalist, our two legends Andreja and Bojan in the top 8 in the world – knowing only the Chinese were missing in Laško,” added Poročnik after the competition.

Trtnik, Kancler and Lukežič will also compete at a strong tournament in Montenegro in two weeks, as well as at the world championship in November.

“We have managed to carry out yet another major event, we are happy and proud to have hosted and satisfied the top representatives from the International Table Tennis Federation. The organization ran quite smoothly and I am very content to see the progress of our players, Luka Playing in the semi-final and just nearly missing out on the final. So, this is another area where things are advancing. The anti-covid measures were executed well, the athletes and teams arrived and left healthy. The tournament was a big success once again,” president of NPC Slovenia Damijan Lazar summarized at the end of Laško.

“Our hearts are jumping with joy to be returning to some sort of a normality. The tournaments are back and we showed the high ITTF representatives in Laško that a small town is more than capable of holding such an event. Slovenia in general hosts the most events considering its size. We saw so much in the past days; I hadn’t known what to expect since Tokyo. But the players are ready, it was also a big thing to have a Ukrainian team participate. And Trtnik faced players better than him and played great all the way to the fifth game, when he expectedly showed some nerves. This was the strongest tournament this year, so there’s no reason he can’t be just as successful at the world championship,” concluded tournament director Gorazd Vecko, pointing out that the eminent guests also added to the recognition of the Laško tournament, which was visited by Petra Sörling (president of ITTF); Raul Calin, ITTF Secretary General; Leandro Olvech, ITTF Foundation Director; Steve Dayton, (ITTF Group CEO) and Marjan Hribar, president of the Slovenian Table Tennis Association.

NPC Slovenia and ITTF were also the ones enabling the Ukrainian team to participate at the competition in Slovenia.

Single event winners at the 17th I Feel Slovenia Open Thermana Laško:

SM1: Hyeon Uk Kim (Korea)
SM2: Fabien Lamirault (France)
SM3: Thomas Schmiberger (Germany)
SM 4:  Young-gun Kim (Korea)
SM 5: Valentin Baus (Germany)
SM 6: Matteo Parenzan (Italy)
SM 7: Will Bayley (UK)
SM 8: Viktor Didukh (Ukraine)
SM 9: Ivan Mai (Ukraine)
SM 10: Patryk Chojnowski (Poland)
SM 11: Florian Van Acker (Belgium)

SF1-2: Su Yeon Seo (Koreaa)
SF 3: Jiyu Yoon (Koreaa)
SF 4: Wijittra Jaion (Thailand)
SF 5: Alexandra Saint Pierre (France)
SF 6: Maryna Lytovchenko (Ukraine)
SF 7: Kelly Van Zon (Netherlands)
SF 8: Frederique Van Hoof (Netherlands)
SF 9: Alexa Szvitacs (Hungary)
SF 11: Natalya Kosmina (Ukraine)