Tom Jarvis and Tin-Tin Ho clinched golden doubles as they added individual titles to team success at the Sainsbury’s School Games in Manchester.
They were joined on the top step of the podium by disability champions Nicko Anderson, Lawrence John and Ashley Wray at the end of three days’ competition in Manchester.
Jarvis defeated his Midlands team colleague Alex Ramsden, pulling away in the third and fourth sets to shake off a tenacious opponent who had barely put a foot wrong all weekend.
For Jarvis, it corrected a blip in the group stages, when he lost 3-2 to Jac Jenkins and only progressed alongside the Welshman on countback.
Indeed, it was a final line-up that arguably few would have predicted at the start of the knockout rounds.
However, two of the fancied players exited in the last 16 as Sam Mabey was beaten by Welsh ace Jac Jenkins and Danny Lawrence lost at the hands of his South East team-mate Luke Savill.
Mabey rallied from two down to level against Jenkins, only for the Welshman to surge into a 10-2 lead in the decider, finally winning it 11-5.
Lawrence, who had been beaten by Ramsden in the group stage, came from 1-0 behind to lead 2-1, but Savill levelled it up. The younger player took the decider to seven, leaving a frustrated Lawrence struggling to keep his emotions in check.
Savill advanced to the semi-finals, where he found Jarvis irresistible, going down 11-4, 11-7, 11-8.
In the bottom half of the draw, Jenkins could not follow up his defeat of Mabey, losing in three straight to Marcus Giles in the quarters. Ramsden in turn lowered
Giles’ colours with a highly impressive 11-9, 15-13, 11-7 victory to book his final place.
But he could not deny Jarvis his golden moment and the champion said: “It feels so good. A lot of hard work has gone into it in training every day and I’m pleased it’s paid off.
Tin-Tin Ho made up for last year’s shock defeat in the semi-finals to defeat reigning champion Maria Tsaptsinos in four high-quality ends.
In a repeat of the crucial match in the team final, South-East’s Ho had too much when it mattered as her South West opponent could not build on taking the opening end 13-11.
Ho had wasted game points of her own and, perhaps galvanized by that, upped her game to take the next three and with it her second gold of the games.
The 16-year-old Londoner joked: “I’m really happy, it’s been a pretty good weekend, but I’ve still got school again tomorrow!”
Ho had also had to step up her game in the semi-finals when Emily Bolton levelled their tie at 1-1. The 11-6, 11-2 scores in the next two sets reflect the degree to which Ho raised her level.
Welsh duo Lawrence John and Ashley Wray and South East’s Nicko Anderson were the three gold medallists at the end of some high-quality finals.
Anderson held on to his title in the wheelchair event with victory over Midlands’ Daniel Bullen in a repeat of last year’s final.
The scoreline this time was 3-0, in contrast to 2013’s 3-2 thriller, but the scoreline disguises a closely fought encounter.
But it was the defending champion who had the big shots when it mattered most, taking the title 11-6, 12-10, 11-6 to end his School Games career in style.
The Greenhouse teenager said: “It’s my last one, so it’s nice to go out with a bang.
“There’s so much talent at this event, it’s good to see. You get a higher level of competition and friendship every year – it’s a brilliant event.”
One of the best matches of the games came in the wheelchair semi-final, when Anderson twice fought back from a set down to beat Megan Shackleton.
The last table to finish, an appreciative crowd gave both athletes vocal support, particularly in an epic fourth as Anderson levelled by taking it 17-15. He then sealed a place in the final by taking the last 11-8.
In the standing category, there was another successful defending champion in the shape of John, who did not drop a set in the competition and finished with an emphatic 3-0 victory over South West’s Billy Shilton.
“I feels really good, but almost relieved as well,” said John. “I felt really confident but also a bit nervous at the start but as soon as I got into it I was able to play well.”
Fellow Welshman Ashley Wray took the learning disability title in the closest final of the day, eventually prevailing in five over Midlander Archie Taylor having twice come from a set down.
“It’s a good achievement, probably the best win of my career so far,” said Wray. “He beat me in the team event and in the group, so I was concerned in case I lost, but I got a bit lucky in the end, I think.”
When all the results were added up, the South East won the team award, ahead of Midlands and Wales.
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Tom Jarvis (Mid) bt Alex Ramsden (Mid) 3-1 (11-5, 6-11, 11-3, 11-7)
Tin-Tin Ho (SE) bt Maria Tsaptsinos (SW) 3-1 (11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5)
Standing disability singles
Lawrence John (Wal) bt Billy Shilton (SW) 3-0 (11-7, 11-5, 11-5)
Learning disability singles
Ashley Wray (Wal) bt Archie Taylor (Mid) 3-2 (6-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-7, 12-10)
Wheelchair disability singles
Nicko Anderson (SE) bt Daniel Bullen (Mid) 3-0 (11-6, 12-10, 11-6)
By Paul Stimpson
September 7, 2014