Six medals for GB in Spain

A young GB squad picked up six medals in the Para TT Open Ciutat del Prat in El Prat de Llobregat, Spain with 17 year old Megan Shackleton and 21 year old Felicity Pickard taking medals in singles and team events.

Megan Shackleton France 2014Class 4 Shackleton reached the semi-finals of the women’s class 4-5 singles with a 3-1 win against class 5 World number six Caroline Tabib from Israel and took the first set against former European champion and World and Paralympic medalist Ingela Lundback before the very experienced Swedish former class 5 World number one came back to win 3-1. Shackleton then combined with 21 year old Lucie Bouron to take bronze in the women’s class 3-5 team event, losing their semi-final to Turkey, who went on to take the gold.

“I feel I’ve played at a consistently good level throughout the tournament,” said Shackleton, “and to get the win over Tabib is promising for the future. Winning a bronze in both singles and team shows to me that I’m putting all the hard work in and starting to see some good results.”

Felicity Pickard Belgium 2015Pickard topped her group in the women’s class 6-7 singles with comfortable wins over Pilar Gonzalez from Spain and Agnes Ekblad Frosemo from Sweden and lost a very close semi-final to the eventual gold medalist Fatma Fattakhova from Russia, 11-9 in the fifth. She and Fattakhova then took bronze in the women’s class 6-10 team event after losing their semi-final to the Hungarian/German partnership of Bettina Bicsak and Marlene Reeg.

“I am pleased to win another medal,” said Pickard, “and I feel I am learning more and more with every experience. I feel I could have played better in the semi-final but this will only make me work harder and come back stronger than ever at future tournaments.”

Lawrence John Nat Champs2015 2Swansea teenager Lawrence John topped his group in men’s class 10 with wins over Angel Garrido from Spain and Fatih Erdem from Turkey and reached the semi-finals after a 3-0 quarter-final win against teammate Josh Morgan. The 18 year old was not disgraced in losing in three close sets to the World number nine Jorge Cardona from Spain and was delighted to win his first international singles medal.

“I’m extremely happy with my performance and results,” said John. “I felt as though I played well, especially during the early matches, and was clinical in finishing them. I felt as if I stood a good chance also in the semi-final against Cardona where all three sets were close and I just missed out.”

Martin Perry France 4Paisley’s Martin Perry also took bronze in the men’s class 6 singles, progressing from his group in second place and then beating fellow Scot Conor McAdam 3-0 in the quarter-finals before taking a set off World champion and World number one Alvaro Valera in the semi-finals.

“I felt that my performance wasn’t what I know it can be,” said Perry. “I had to really dig deep at times, mentally and physically, but to come away from the competition with a bronze medal and losing 3-1 to the world number one – I’m happy with that result. Knowing that I have the Romania Open next week will make me want to kick on with my level of play and hopefully by the end of the two weeks I’ll be playing the table tennis I want to be playing.”

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Shackleton and Shilton head young GB squad in Spain

Megan Shackleton April 2014 1

Megan Shackleton

European medalists Megan Shackleton, 17, and Billy Shilton, 17, head a squad of young GB players competing in the Para TT Open Ciutat del Prat taking place in El Prat de Llobregat, Spain this week (June 16-18).

The full list of players is:
Lucie Bouron (class 3)
Megan Shackleton (class 4)
Daniel Bullen (class 5)
Conor McAdam (class 6)
Felicity Pickard (class 6)
Martin Perry (class 6)
Lee Wilkinson (class 7)
Euan McLoughlin (class 8)
Billy Shilton (class 8)
Craig Allen (class 9)
Joshua Morgan (class 10)
Lawrence John (class 10)
Ryan Henry (N/A)
Alexander Bland (N/A)
Declan Tobin (N/A)
Elliott Medland (N/A)

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GB Team on track for Rio

Following two major international competitions in Slovenia and Slovakia GB Para Table Tennis Team Performance Director, Gorazd Vecko, is happy that his team is on track for the Paralympic Games in September.

Euro Champs 2015 Will Bayley with Gorazd Vecko

Gorazd Vecko and World champion Will Bayley

“Over the last two tournaments the athletes have shown great performance,” said Vecko. “Head coach Greg Baker and I are very happy with them because everyone had some brilliant wins and great results. Will Bayley taking gold in Slovenia – beating everyone who will be in Rio apart from two players; Rob Davies also taking gold and Paul Davies coming back from two years away to take silver. This was really important because Slovenia was one of the strongest tournaments yet in Para table tennis and we had eight medals and five in the Paralympic events.

“In Slovakia, Sara Head beating the former Paralympic and World champion Alena Kanova for the first time and Jack Hunter-Spivey beating World champion Valentin Baus from Germany – what this tells me is that all the players are on track and we have a big chance to take medals in Rio. David Wetherill and Jack Hunter-Spivey reached the finals in Slovakia and it was encouraging to see that when our top players did not reach finals other players stepped up, so this shows the strength of our programme.”

Vecko acknowledged that the last month has been a mental and physical challenge for the athletes with back-to-back tournaments.

“It was tough for the athletes,” he said. “Some have been away for one month and some for three weeks and for the Paralympics they will be away for a similar time so we needed to see how they can cope and see how they do. At the end of Slovakia some players were physically and mentally exhausted – this is where we need to prepare them better over the next three and a half months.

“We have a lot of training camps planned – we will bring sparring partners to Sheffield and at the end of July we have a big international training camp in Slovenia which will give us the opportunity to have some match practice as for most of the players Slovakia was their last competition before Rio.

“The standard of competition is going up year by year and we need to keep improving so we need to do things to bring our athletes to a better standard. I will never say we will take medals because there are great players around the world and all the countries are working hard. But I will say that it will be difficult to beat GB in Rio and all the GB players will be the best prepared they can be.”

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Team silver for Gilroy and Wetherill on final day in Slovakia

Slovaki Open 2016 team medalistsThe GB Para Table Tennis Team took four team medals on the final day of the Slovakia Open to add to the six singles medals won earlier in the tournament. Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4) and David Wetherill (men’s class 6) took silver medals and there were also bronze medals for Rob Davies and Paul Davies (men’s class 1) and Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 10).

Barnsley school teacher Gilroy and her team partner Alena Kanova from Slovakia reached the final of women’s class 4 with a 2-1 semi-final win against Brazil. After losing the doubles they needed to win both singles and Gilroy beat Joyce Oliveira, the three times PanAmerican champion, 3-0 before Kanova took them into the final with a 3-1 win over Thais Fraga Severo.

In the final they faced World team champions Serbia and after losing the doubles 0-3 against European champion and World number two, Borislava Peric-Rankovic, and European silver medalist, Nada Matic, they needed to win both singles. Gilroy played a good match against Matic, coming back from 2-1 down to level at 2-2 but it was the World number five who proved just the stronger and she won the fifth game 11-7 to clinch the gold for Serbia.

Sue Gilroy Vejle 2015“I’m really pleased,” said 43 year old Gilroy. “It has been a really difficult week – I’ve not really had form earlier on but I played so much better today. The shots that I have been working on are starting to come through.  A 3-0 win against Joyce, who is a really good player, and then to go to the fifth with Matic, who I lost to convincingly the other day, was really good for me. It gives me a lot of positives – a lot of things to work on in the next four months but it shows that I am getting to the standard that I know I can play at to beat these girls.”

In their semi-final 26 year old Wetherill and his Spanish team partner Alberto Seoane beat Chile 2-0, winning the doubles 3-1 before Seoane won the match with a 3-0 win against PanAmerican champion Matias Nicolas Pino Lorca. Against the combination of Paralympic champion Rungroj Thainiyom from Thailand and World number four Hong Kyu Park from Korea in the final they started well but eventually lost the doubles 1-3 and had to settle for silver when Seoane lost in three close games to Thainiyom.

David Wetherill Vejle 2015“It’s been a tough two weeks,” said Wetherill, “but I’ve only lost two games against the top two players in the world so it is not a bad performance really. I came here to improve my seeding for Rio and I think I’ve done that so I’ve reached my targets. As I said yesterday I always want to win every match that I play so I’m disappointed in that respect that I’ve lost those matches but they’ve been close and I’ve played well, especially this week, and it’s all good for Rio. I’m pretty confident that with the preparation we’ve got over the next few months the results will be much better for me in Rio.”

In their men’s class 1 semi-final Rob Davies and Paul Davies had to come from 2-0 down in the doubles to beat the German/Swiss combination of Holger Nikelis, the reigning Paralympic champion and former World number one, and the very experienced Sylvio Keller 3-2. However, the effort of doing that appeared to take effect in the singles and after Paul Davies lost 0-3 to an in-form Nikelis, Rob Davies fought hard against Keller but lost in five sets and the Welsh duo had to be content with the bronze.

Although disappointed Davies and Davies insisted that they will come back stronger.

Rob Davies 2“I was really happy with the way we played in the doubles,” said Rob Davies. “To come back and fight like we did and take it 3-2 showed what we’re made of a bit. Unfortunately I couldn’t repeat it in my singles – Sylvio is playing well and I’ve got to give him credit. That’s the way it goes – that is sport and I’ve got to use that as a fighting tool now. The next four months I know I’m going to work my socks off before Rio and I’m looking forward to that fight now to be honest.”

Paul Davies action 3 2014“It was a good result in the doubles from 2-0 down,” agreed Paul Davies, “and we did well to get back and win that. Holger played well but I don’t feel I played my best against him as I made a lot of errors. There were some simple shots I missed – I was too eager and jumped in too quick. But that is down to lack of match practice after two years out. The next four months are going to be work, work, work and these results won’t reflect on our chances in Rio as far as I’m concerned. The boys are working us hard back home so the next four months is what it is all about.”

In the third match of their round-robin men’s class 10 team event Leeds University medical student Daybell and London South Bank University student Facey Thompson took on Brazil and fought back really well from 2-1 down in the doubles to beat PanAmerican champion Carlos Alberto Carbinatti Junior and Diego Moreira 11-3 in the fifth. Daybell then clinched the win with a 3-0 defeat of Moreira.

That put them in contention for the gold medal going into their final match against the Czech Republic/Belgium combination of former Paralympic and World champion Ivan Karabec and the precocious talent of 15 year old class 9 European champion Laurens Devos, but a 3-1 loss in the doubles and a 3-1 defeat for Daybell against Devos left them with the bronze.

Kim Daybell France 2“I felt a bit mentally drained today especially towards the end,” admitted 23 year old Daybell, “but he (Devos) was stronger than me and he played well. Overall I think my level has been high – it’s been difficult coming from Slovenia but I’m pretty happy. I’ve played well over the past two weeks and taken two singles medals and I’ve shown that I’m competing in that top ten bracket in the world so I’m pretty pleased.”

Ashley Facey Thompson France 1“It has been an up and down week,” said Facey Thompson. “I played well in the singles and lost to a strong player in the quarter-finals but it has been mentally tiring and draining for me. If you look around you can be 5-0 down and the game is done and you wish you could start all over again. So if you are mentally tired it is very hard to win matches. I’m going to work on my consistency, my backhand and movement and improve everything for the next season.”

In their final match of the round-robin women’s class 2-3 team event Jane Campbell and Sara Head lost 0-2 to the World team bronze medalists from Korea. Although they lost the doubles 3-0 they were competitive in all three games and the experience of playing the strong Koreans will be valuable before Rio.

Jane Campbell & Sara Head doubles Vejle 2015“It didn’t feel as though we were outclassed,” said Campbell. “I think there are just a few things we need to work on and then we can be very competitive. It has been good finding out exactly what I need to work on and nice to know that I am going to have a lot more training time than I’ve had over the last few months so it is all positive.”

Head lost the singles to Jiyu Yoon but was also able to reflect positively on her performance.

“This is the first time we’ve played that combination,” she said, “so it was very good for us to play against them and they put their A team out against us today. Doubles will be very important in Rio so we will work on that but we are going to work on everything over the next four months. We can see the positives from what we have been working on – it is just about being more consistent now.”

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GB team assured of team medals in Slovakia

The GB Para Table Tennis Team is assured of more medals in the Slovakia Open with Rob Davies and Paul Davies through to tomorrow’s semi-finals of men’s class 1, David Wetherill and Alberto Seoane from Spain through to the semi-finals of men’s class 6, Sue Gilroy and Alena Kanova from Slovakia through to the semi-finals of women’s class 4 and both Jane Campbell and Sara Head (women’s class 2-3) and Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 10) still in contention for a medal in their round robin events with final matches to play tomorrow.

Rob Davies and Paul Davies started their first team competition together for two years with a hard-fought win yesterday against Brazil/Hungary. After losing the doubles 1-3 Rob Davies looked to be in trouble against the Brazilian Aloisio Lima Junior at 0-1, 5-9 but came back to win 3-1 and Paul Davies used all his battling qualities to defeat Endre Major 11-5 in the fifth.

They took on France today and after winning a tight first game 14-12 they won the doubles 3-0 in a much improved performance. Paul Davies lost in four close sets to Paralympic silver medalist Jean-Francois Ducay but Rob Davies secured the tie and a place in the semi-finals by beating Alan Rene Jean Papirer 3-1.

Paul Davies action 3 2014“Our doubles today was a massive difference from yesterday,” said Paul Davies, “we played as a team like we can do. We got through yesterday – I had a big five setter against Major which I knew would be tough but I got the result. Lost to Ducay this time but I beat him in Slovenia so it’s one all. His coach just said to me ‘maybe we meet in the final in Rio’ so you never know.”

“I’m really chuffed that I managed to lift myself back up yesterday and get Paul and me into a winning position,” said Rob Davies, “as it is hard after losing in the singles. We played really well in the doubles today. We wanted to be clinical – it was an important doubles for us and it showed in the end so I’m happy we won and we’re back on form together. Now on to tomorrow.”

In women’s class 4 Gilroy and Kanova had to fight hard yesterday to beat the German/Dutch combination of Sandra Mikolaschek and Femke Cobben in the doubles 11-4 in the 5th. Gilroy then lost to World number four Mikolaschek 1-3 but a 3-0 win for Kanova against Cobben gave the British/Slovakian team a 2-1 win.

Sue Gilroy Germany 2015 3They had another tough match against Turkey today and had to come from 2-0 down in the doubles to beat World number seven Nergiz Altintas and World bronze medalist Hatice Duman 3-2. At 0-2 Gilroy looked to be heading for defeat against Altintas in the first singles but she used all her experience and determination to fight her way back into the match and eventually won it 12-10 in the fifth to take her team into the semi-finals.

“I’m really struggling with my form at this competition,” admitted Gilroy, “so I’m finding it really difficult when I know how well I was playing at home. I’m just not putting it into practice as much as I want which I’m finding really frustrating. To come back from 2-0 down in doubles and again in singles – I’m really pleased with that.”

Wetherill and Seoane started their men’s class 6 team campaign with a 2-0 win against France/Ireland yesterday and they won their second match against Israel/Switzerland 2-1. Having won the doubles Wetherill secured the tie with a 3-0 win against Valentin Kneuss after Danny Bobrov had beaten Seoane 3-2.

In their final match against Greece Wetherill and Seoane won the doubles 3-0 and Wetherill clinched their place in the semi-finals as group winners with a 3-0 win against Giorgios Mouchthis .

In the women’s class 2-3 team event Campbell and Head won their first match against Russia/Italy with a 3-1 win in the doubles followed by a 3-0 win for Head against and the Italian Giada Rossi, the class 2 European bronze medalist.

“Our doubles was fantastic today,” said Campbell. “Some of the things we’ve worked on in training have come good so that is delightful actually. The key is understanding our positions, what we’re doing and where we are putting the ball – once we are doing that it makes it simpler for us.”

Head was also happy with her performance: “I’m pleased with how I’m playing. I haven’t been feeling too good so to play as well as that – I’m really happy. We play Korea tomorrow – it’s going to be good practice for us for Rio and a fantastic learning experience – bring it on!”

Daybell and  Facey Thompson started with a 2-0 win yesterday in men’s class 10 against a combined team from Austria, Chile and Kazakstan. The GB pair beat the Austrian Krisztian Gardos and Valentin Rene Letelier Mendoza from Chile in the doubles 3-1 and Daybell won the tie with a 3-0 win against Makhanbet Nassikhan from Kazakstan.

Kim Daybell & Ash Facey Thompson doubles Vejle 2015In their second match today against Thailand/Hong Kong they lost the doubles 0-3 and although Daybell levelled the tie with a hard fought 3-1 win against Bunpot Sillapakong from Thailand it was the Asian Games bronze medalist Chi Yin Wong from Hong Kong who won the tie for his team with a 3-2 win against Facey Thompson. The GB pair have two more matches to play tomorrow.

Having won their opening match in men’s class 5 yesterday against the Czech Republic 2-0 Jack Hunter-Spivey and Tommy Urhaug from Norway progressed to the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win against Thailand. After losing a marathon first game in the doubles 16-18 they came back to win the match 3-1 and Hunter-Spivey won the tie with a 3-0 defeat of Maitree Kongruang in the first singles.

In the quarter-final they faced Serbia and after losing the doubles in three close sets Hunter-Spivey could not find his best form against World and European bronze medalist Mitar Palikuca and was beaten 0-3.

Jack Hunter-Spivey Slovenia 2016Although disappointed the 21 year old from Liverpool was able to reflect on a successful competition after his silver medal in the singles.

“I’ve not played my best today which is disappointing,” he said, “but overall it has been a good competition for me. I think I have improved and people have been commenting on how well I’m playing so I’ve got to take the positives from it. Disappointed in the way I’ve played today but overall a good tournament.”

In men’s class 8 Aaron McKibbin and Billy Shilton had beaten a combined team from Australia and Thailand yesterday and faced the European team silver medalists Slovakia in their second match. They combined really well to win the doubles 3-0 and McKibbin then showed great character to come back from losing the first game against Richard Csejtey to beat the former World champion 3-1 and avenge his singles defeat by the Slovakian earlier in the tournament.

In their final group match they beat the combination of Marius Olczak from Poland and Asylkhan  Saysatov from Kazakstan 2-0, winning the doubles 3-0 before 17 year old Shilton beat 19 year old Olczak 3-1 in the first singles to ensure that they progressed as group winners.

That earned them a quarter-final against the very experienced Belgian team of Marc Ledoux and former Paralympic and World champion Mathieu Loicq and they made the perfect start with a 3-0 win in the doubles. McKibbin had beaten Loicq in the singles earlier in the week but this proved a match too far for the 24 year old Londoner and Loicq gained his revenge in a 3-0 win. Shilton then needed to beat Ledoux in the final singles but the former World number one had too much experience for the 17 year old and won the tie for Belgium with a 3-0 win.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a good day for the GB pair but both were able to take plenty of positives for the future.

Aaron McKibbin ETTA Nationals 2016“It’s been a long two weeks,” said McKibbin, “and we’ve played a lot of matches. I think we did really well in the doubles which is a positive for the future but I was fighting hard to get going and summon some energy from somewhere. To be fair he (Loicq) played very well and I wasn’t at the races when I needed to be and that is something that won’t happen in Rio. Overall it has been a tough two weeks and some positive and negatives as always and a lot of stuff to work on and I’m looking forward to the next four months.”

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 13“I’ve never played with Aaron before so I think we did really well,” said Shilton. “We didn’t lose a set in doubles so that is definitely a positive for the future. It is definitely a massive learning curve – I’ve never experienced anything like that before – playing the last game against a top team like Belgium. I’ve learnt a lot over the last two weeks – this is my first time doing back-to-back competitions and to get the experience is really good and hopefully now I can push on for the up-coming tournaments.”

Successful start to team event for GB

The GB team made a winning start to the team events at the Slovakia Open today.

Rob Davies and Paul Davies started their first team competition together for two years with a hard-fought win against Brazil/Hungary. After losing the doubles 1-3 Rob Davies looked to be in trouble against the Brazilian Aloisio Lima Junior at 0-1, 5-9 but came back to win 3-1 and Paul Davies used all his battling qualities to defeat Endre Major 11-5 in the fifth.

In women’s class 4 Sue Gilroy and Alena Kanova from Slovakia had to fight hard to beat the German/Dutch combination of Sandra Mikolaschek and Femke Cobben in the doubles 11-4 in the 5th. Gilroy then lost to World number four Mikolaschek 1-3 but a 3-0 win for Kanova against Cobben gave the British/Slovakian team a 2-1 win.

Jack Hunter-Spivey and men’s class 5 Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug from Norway took on the Czech Republic and combined to win the doubles 3-0 before Urhaug beat Rene Taus 3-0 to give his team a 2-0 win.

In men’s class 6 David Wetherill and Alberto Seoane from Spain began with a 2-0 win against France/Ireland, combining to win the doubles 3-0 before Seoane beat Bastien Grundeler 3-0.

Aaron McKibbin and Billy Shilton began their men’s class 8 competition with a 2-0 win against a combined team of Australia and Thailand. After a 3-0 win in the doubles McKibbin beat the Australian Barak Mizrachi 3-0 in the first singles to secure the win.

Men’s class 10 is being played in a round-robin format and Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson started with a 2-0 win against a combined team from Austria, Chile and Kazakstan. The GB pair beat the Austrian Krisztian Gardos and Valentin Rene Letelier Mendoza from Chile in the doubles 3-1 and Daybell won the tie with a 3-0 win against Makhanbet Nassikhan from Kazakstan.

Six singles medals for GB in Slovakia

Slovakia Open singles medalists 2016The GB Para Table Tennis Team took six medals in the singles events at the Slovakia Open today. Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5) and David Wetherill (men’s class 6) both took silver and there were bronze medals for Will Bayley (men’s class 7), Kim Daybell (men’s class 10), Rob Davies (men’s class 1) and Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4).

Liverpool’s Hunter-Spivey, who turned 21 yesterday, had enjoyed one of the best wins of his career in the quarter-final against the German World champion Valentin Baus, saving six match points against the World number three before winning the fifth and deciding game 15-13. A 3-0 win against Bilal El Baqqali Talibi from Spain then took him through to the final and a rematch against Ali Ozturk, who had beaten him in the group stages yesterday.

Today’s game was much tighter and it was the greater experience of the Turkish World number seven that won the match 11-7 in the fifth but it was nevertheless a great performance by Hunter-Spivey who is progressing all the time.

HUNTER SPIVEY Jack“I’m playing really well,” he said, “and I learnt from the first match we played yesterday. It’s been a tough day and I’ve had some good wins so it is just disappointing that I lost towards the end. I could have done my tactics a bit better than I did but I’ve got to be proud of getting to the final of a factor 40. Baus was an amazing win for me – I managed to save six match points and I didn’t bottle it. I feel that I am a big match player – I enjoy the atmosphere and the big arenas. I’m definitely making progress although not quite playing my best, which is probably the perfect place to be before Rio.”

Wetherill, from Torpoint, had started the day with a 3-0 win in the quarter-final against the Spaniard Alberto Seoane Alcazar, and had then showed great character to come back from 2-0 down against Rungroj Thainiyom from Thailand to beat the Paralympic champion 11-6 in the fifth. That took him through to the final against the World number one Alvaro Valera, who was class 8 Paralympic champion in 2000 and is the current World and European champion in men’s class 6. After edging the first game 12-10 the Spaniard took the second 11-6 and although Wetherill fought back from 3-6 to lead 10-8 in the third Valera took it 12-10 to win the gold.

David Wetherill Vejle 2015 4“I just didn’t take my chances,” said 26 year old Wetherill. “I had game points in two of the three sets and to be honest my head wasn’t really there today. I was just a bit fatigued and let my concentration slip a little bit. I just need to be a bit more clinical. I feel as if I’ve played today with my bones stuck together with cement so I’m quite pleased to get to the final but to be honest I’m not really satisfied with that. I always want to win every match I play and it is always disappointing to lose, especially knowing that I haven’t been able to play at my highest level. But it’s encouraging and I know what I need to work on so hopefully in Rio it will be different.”

For two and a half games 23 year old Leeds University medical student Daybell looked the better player in his semi-final against Mateo Boheas, the talented 19 year old from France, and was two points away from winning the match. But the World number six worked his way back into it and eventually won 11-9 in the fifth.

Kim Daybell Vejle 2015 6“I played well for the first half of the game,” said Daybell. “I should have nicked it in the third at 2-0, 9-8 up and I think he changed his tactics a little bit and made things awkward for me so it was a shame I couldn’t quite finish him off.  Over the last couple of tournaments I think my level has been high but I lost the last semi-final from 2-0 so I need to be able to knuckle down and find a way to change when they change their tactics. It is not about level – I am clearly playing at the top level with all the top guys – I just need to make a few little tweaks so nothing to worry about.”

Will Bayley Slovenia 2016World champion Bayley looked sharp in a 3-0 quarter-final win against Katsuyoshi Yagi from Japan but could not find his form against Mykhaylo Popov in the semi-final and the Ukrainian former European champion avenged a 0-3 defeat by Bayley in Slovenia last week, beating the World number one 3-1. Although disappointed, Bayley was not too disheartened.

“I felt a bit mentally tired,” admitted the 28 year old from Tunbridge Wells, “but no excuses – he played really well. It has been difficult playing two back-to-back tournaments and quite a lot of pressure to do both and I think it got to me a bit. I lost my head a little bit and although I’m disappointed to lose I can accept it has been a good couple of weeks for me. I’ve beaten everyone I wanted to beat so overall I’m pleased.”

Rob Davies has also looked in great form here and was a comfortable 3-0 winner against Andrea Borgato from Italy in his quarter-final. However, against World champion Chang Ho Lee he struggled to play his game and lost in three close sets.

Rob Davies Vejle 2015 3“I just wasn’t able to perform against him (Lee) today,” admitted the 31 year old Welshman. “It is a mental thing at the moment more than anything so that is what I need to work on. We don’t play the Koreans often enough and they play slightly different to other countries. That is why I came here – I wanted to play them as much as I can. No matter what you try and emulate in the training hall it is never the same as competition and mentally I didn’t perform like I can. I’ve lost this one so I have to move on and hopefully play them in the team and try and do the job there.”

Davies’s men’s class 1 team partner and fellow Welshman Paul Davies had earlier played Lee in his quarter-final and the Korean World number six was just too strong in a 3-1 win.

Paul Davies action 3 2014“I did better than I thought I would,” said the 49 year old, who is playing in only his second tournament after two years out through injury, “but maybe a lack of match play has caught up with me a bit. I’ve got the skills – I know I can do it and I’m going to do it. He deserved to win today but that game was so nip and tuck it could have gone either way – he was the better player on the day but next time I know I can beat him. I beat him here two years ago and in London but it was his day today.”

Jane Campbell never recovered from a slow start against Mi Giyu Lee from Korea in her women’s class 3 quarter-final and although she fought back in the third game the Asian champion and World team bronze medalist took it 11-9 to win the match 3-0.

Jane Campbell Vejle 2015 2“I took too long to get going and figure out what was happening,” admitted Campbell. “I have played her before but a long time ago and her style is just something I’ve not come across recently – the speed and the pace just took me by surprise. I think the way I played in the third game shows it is possible for me to do it if I had just played like that from the start. Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity to come up against Korea in the team competition – we don’t see them very often so it will all be good preparation for Rio.”

London South Bank University student Ashley Facey Thompson, 21, took on Yuriy Shchepanskyy, the World number ten from Ukraine, in his men’s class 9 quarter final but never got going against the former European champion, who took the match 3-0.

Ash Facey Thompson Vejle 2015“I didn’t play my level at all today,” said a clearly disappointed Facey Thompson, “I wasn’t in the game at all. I tried to fight but never got into the match. It takes me a while to get going sometimes and I need to make sure I’m in the match from the start as it is hard to get into the match when you are 2-0 down.  I’m looking forward to playing team with Kim (Daybell) – it will be the last time we play together before he goes to Rio so it should be good.”

The tournament continues with the team events that conclude on Saturday.

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Good day for GB team in Slovakia

On the first day of the PTT Slovakia Open in Bratislava 11 out of 12 GB players progressed to the knockout stages of the singles events. Eight players will contest quarter-final matches tomorrow, including World number ones Will Bayley and Rob Davies, while Kim Daybell is assured of at least a bronze medal after reaching the semi-finals in men’s class 10.

Will Bayley Slovenia 2016In men’s class 7 Bayley began with a 3-0 win over Masachika Inoue from Japan and was equally impressive in beating Ming Yip Lee from Hong Kong, the bronze medalist in the Asian Championships. The 28 year old World champion looked sharp and ready to continue the form that saw him take gold in Slovenia last week.

“I think I’m playing better than I was in Slovenia,” he said. “I’ve just taken a bit of confidence from that and I’m starting to play some good stuff and I’m enjoying it. I’m looking forward to the quarter finals tomorrow – every match is going to be tough now so I’ve got to be at my best tomorrow and give it everything I can.”

Rob Davies is also looking to follow up his men’s class 1 gold medal winning performance in Slovenia and had a tricky first match against his old rival Endre Major from Hungary, the former European team bronze medalist. The pair have had some very close matches in the past but Davies was always in control today in a 3-0 win. He followed that with a 3-0 win against Fernando Eberhardt from Argentina, the PanAmerican champion in 2013, and was also happy to make smooth progress into tomorrow’s quarter-finals.

“The first two games against Major were quite close,” he admitted. “I think it was my nerves more than anything but I loosened off for the last one and it was a good score line so I’m really happy with the way I came through that. It eased the pressure off me for the next match and I felt a bit more comfortable and played like I can. It is difficult trying to get yourself back up so soon after a tournament but I’ve had a good rest and good preparation so looking forward to tomorrow now and the quarter finals – I’m excited.”

Paul Davies had a walkover in his first match against the former European team gold medalist Martin Polkorab from Slovakia and then lost 3-1 to KiWon Nam from Korea, the World number four and World team gold medalist. A 3-0 win in his final match against Alan Papirer from France – including a run of 14 points in a row – took him through from his group and he received a bye into the quarter-finals.

Daybell dropped the opening game against Bunpot Sillapakong from Thailand, team bronze medalist in the Asian Championships, but came back to win 3-1 and followed that with a 3-1 win against Ivan Karabec from the Czech Republic, the former Paralympic, World and European champion who had beaten him in the quarter-finals of the European Championships last October. A 3-1 win over Carlos Carbinatti Junior from Brazil, the PanAmerican champion, took him through to the semi-finals tomorrow.

Kim Daybell Vejle 2015 6“I think it has been quite a difficult day,” said Daybell, “everyone is a bit tired as Slovenia has taken its toll but I was pleased in the way I played and I was able to grind the games out so it was a solid day. Karabec is always a difficult player to beat – every time you beat him you know you have played well and he always makes you work hard. I think I am playing a lot better than I was in the Europeans and that showed – I felt on top of him for most of the game and even though I didn’t play my best table tennis against him I felt I still won relatively comfortably so I was pleased. It’s another medal – two from two – so I’m looking to push on and hopefully make it to the final.”

In men’s class 9 Ashley Facey Thompson began with a 3-0 win against Dawid Sowa from Poland but a 3-1 loss to the PanAmerican champion and former Paralympic bronze medalist Tahl Leibovitz from the USA left him needing to beat Nurzhan Korpetayev from Kazakstan 3-0 to progress from the group. He did just that – coming through 7,3,4 to finish top of his group and receive a bye into tomorrow’s quarter-finals.

“I was really happy with my performance in the first match,” said 21 year old Facey Thompson. “The second match was a tricky game – he is a good player and a bit awkward but I gave it my all. I knew I needed to win 3-0 in my last game but that wasn’t in the back of my mind I just played my game and the result was 3-0 so I’m happy about that.”

David Wetherill started slowly against Alexander Nagy but recovered to beat the Slovakian 3-1 in his first match in men’s class 6. At 0-2 he looked to be heading for defeat against the former World silver medalist Bastien Grundeler from France but he came back superbly to win 11-4 in the fifth and topped his group after a 3-0 win against Georgios Mouchthis from Greece.

“I think it has been quite tough,” said the 26 year old, “because we have come straight from Slovenia and played a lot of table tennis recently. I haven’t been physically 100% today so every match has been a battle so I’m glad to have won all of them. I think I have a few more gears so that is encouraging so I’ll try my best and see what happens. As long as I can grind out the wins I’ll be happy.”

Aaron McKibbin 4In men’s class 8 Aaron McKibbin started with a comfortable 3-0 win against Clement Berthier from France and then after taking the first two games in his second match he overcame a spirited fight back by the former Paralympic and World champion Mathieu Loicq, the Belgian levelling at 2-2 before 24 year old McKibbin took the fifth game 11-5 to win the match 3-2. A 3-0 win against Lertsak Ngoenkrachang from Thailand took him into a last 16 match against Richard Csejtey from Slovakia and the former World champion used all his experience to take the match 3-1.

“He’s a good player and I struggled a lot with his service,” admitted McKibbin. “I felt I played OK in the rallies but I really struggled with the receive and in this sport that is massive when it comes down to it. He’s very experienced and it is one of the main strengths of his game so I need to go away and find a way to do better against it – I’ve been working hard at it but obviously it needs more work and hopefully I find a better way to play him.”

Billy Shilton played really well in a 3-1 defeat by Piotr Grudzien from Poland, the Paralympic team gold medalist and former Paralympic singles silver medalist, and won the battle of the 17 year olds against Lewis Dalby from France 3-1 to reach the last 16. He was drawn against the experienced Gyula Zborai from Hungary in a repeat of their match in Slovenia last week that Shilton won. He could not quite repeat that today, losing 1-3 to the European silver medalist, but he remains an exciting talent.

“I found it difficult today – silly mistakes cost me,” said Shilton. “If I had cut those out and kept my serves short then I think I would have won the match against Zborai. My first match against Grudzien was very good, so overall the singles haven’t been too bad but could be a lot better. All my matches in class 8 are getting a lot closer now. I had a similar feeling in class 7 last year – all the matches were really close – and now it is the same in class 8 so hopefully I can push on now.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey 2On his 21st birthday Jack Hunter-Spivey began with a 3-1 win against Alaxey Eremenko from Israel, the former Hungarian Open champion, but then found Ali Ozturk from Turkey, the men’s class 5 World team silver medalist, in good form and after winning a tight first game 12-10 he lost the next three. He needed to beat Wira Chiaochan from Thailand to go through and did so 3-1 to reach the quarter-finals.

“I’ve played some tough matches today,” said the 21 year old from Liverpool. “I feel that I’m struggling a bit physically to play a lot of matches but I’m playing some good table tennis and it is a good way to end my birthday. Ozturk is a player I haven’t played for years and I am definitely up there with the big boys now and feel that on my day I can beat them. It didn’t go my way today but it was very close and could have gone either way.”

Jane Campbell lost her opening match to Doris Mader from Austria, the Paralympic silver medalist, in three close games and then fought back from 2-1 down to beat OK Kim from Korea 12-10 in the fifth and progress to the quarter-finals.

“I had to regather my confidence after the loss this morning which I managed to do,” said Campbell. “At 2-1 down against Kim I was just trying to concentrate on what I should be doing – sometimes that is over-riding my natural instincts to do what I don’t necessarily want to do so I just concentrated on doing it. I’m very pleased to come through it.”

Sara Head Nat Champs 2015Campbell’s women’s class 3 team partner Sara Head had never beaten Alena Kanova from Slovakia in 14 meetings and when the former Paralympic, World and European champion came back from 0-2 to level at 2-2 it looked as if she had the upper hand. However, in the fifth and deciding game it was Head who established an early lead and she went on to win the game 11-6 and the match 3-2. She followed that with a 3-1 win against Thais Fraga Severo from Brazil, the PanAmerican silver medalist but a 0-3 loss to Jiyu Koon from Korea in her final match meant that she missed out on a quarter-final place on countback.

“I’m really pleased to beat Kanova,” said Head. “I played really well – I played clever and it worked for me today so hopefully I can keep those tactics going. Every point and every win here helps for our seeding for Rio so I’m happy.”

In women’s class 4 Sue Gilroy was pushed all the way in her opening match against Helke Koller from Austria but eventually came through 11-3 in the fifth. In her second match she faced the in-form Nada Matic, World team gold medalist and winner of last week’s Slovenian Open, and the Serbian was just too strong in a 3-1 win. However, Gilroy will progress to tomorrow’s quarter-finals as the runner-up in her group.

“She (Matic) is the form player at the moment,” acknowledged Gilroy, “but I’m disappointed with how I played. I’ve lacked match practice as I couldn’t play in Slovenia and I think that is showing a little bit. Against Helke (Koller) I played three games really well and then two of the games I just didn’t play very well at all so a little bit inconsistent at the moment. Hopefully it will get better as I go through the tournament.”

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GB Team ready for Slovakia Open

Following a successful Slovenia Open last week, 12 athletes will be representing the GB Para Table Tennis Team in the Slovakia Open that starts tomorrow.  The squad includes World champion Will Bayley and European champion Rob Davies, who both won gold in the singles in Slovenia.

The full GB squad for Slovakia is:
Will Bayley – men’s class 7 (Tunbridge Wells/Sheffield)
Jane Campbell – women’s class 3 (London)
Paul Davies – men’s class 1 (North Cornelly)
Rob Davies – men’s class 1 (Brecon)
Kim Daybell – men’s class 10 (Sheffield/Leeds)
Ashley Facey Thompson – men’s class 9 (London)
Sue Gilroy – women’s class 4 (Barnsley)
Sara Head – women’s class 3 (Beddau)
Jack Hunter-Spivey – men’s class 5 (Liverpool/Sheffield)
Aaron McKibbin – men’s class 8 (London/Sheffield)
Billy Shilton – men’s class 8 (Stonehouse/Sheffield)
David Wetherill – men’s class 6 (Torpoint)

Four team medals for GB on last day in Slovenia

The GB Para Table Tennis Team won four medals in the team events on the final day of the ITTF PTT Slovenia Open, taking bronze in men’s class 8, men’s class 6, women’s class 6-7 and women’s class 4. With nearly all of the world’s top players competing in Lasko the GB team’s total of eight medals, including gold medals in the singles for Will Bayley and Rob Davies, is a good indication of where it stands with four months to go to Rio.

Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson had reached the semi-finals of men’s class 8 with a battling win in the quarter-finals against Belgium and they faced an even tougher test today against World champions China. Despite a slow start the GB pair took the first game in the doubles 12-10 and after losing the next two played superbly to level at 2-2 before the combined experience of World number two Ye Chao Qun and World number four Zhao Shuai clinched the match 11-9 in the fifth.

Ross Wilson Slovenia 2016Wilson, from Minster in Kent, then made a great start against Zhao, taking the first game against the Paralympic champion who had beaten him so narrowly (3-2) in their last meeting in the semi-finals in London 2012. However, since then Wilson has missed two years of competition due to injury and Zhao came back to win the match 3-1 and take China into the final.

Nevertheless it was a promising performance by Wilson, who is still only 20 years old.

“It would have been nice to get some revenge on him but he is a great player,” he said. “The doubles was an improvement for us – we have definitely come a long way since Italy in February. They are a great team and it is good to know we can compete that well against them in doubles. On another day we could have taken them so it is definitely a positive going forward. I’ve played quite a few matches here and I’m really pleased with how it’s gone. I lost to the World number one and the Paralympic champion and I know what I need to work on back in the training hall. Going into Slovakia next week I’m at a good level so that is good to know.”

Aaron McKibbin ETTA Nationals 2016McKibbin can also be pleased with his progress four months away from the Paralympic Games.

“To play so well against China is a good sign,” said the 24 year old Sheffield based Londoner, “ as they are one of the teams we are going to have to beat to be successful in Rio. We are playing these competitions to prepare ourselves for the major events and we are not far away from them. It gives you confidence when you are losing 11-9 in the fifth – you are disappointed but at the same time you are thinking that in a major event we are really close to them now and we’ve only got to do a couple of things to change that result around.”

Swansea’s Paul Karabardak and 21 year old Martin Perry from Paisley had beaten European champions Denmark on the way to reaching the semi-finals of men’s class 6 but they could not find that form today and lost 2-0 to a combined team of Rungroj Thainiyom, the Paralympic champion and World number three from Thailand and the Italian Raimondo Alecci.

The doubles was close in all four sets but Thainiyom and Alecci took it 3-1 and the experienced Alecci then secured the win for his team by beating Karabardak 3-1.

While Karabardak was bitterly disappointed it was Perry’s first medal at a factor 40 tournament and a good result for a relatively new partnership.

Martin Perry France 2“Doubles today was tough,” said Perry. “They have a lot of experience in that team including the Paralympic champion and they’ve got some really awkward styles to play against but regardless of that I thought that Paul and I played some really good table tennis at times. We won one set and were tight in the others so it is something we can definitely learn from. Moving forward we are only going to get stronger. This is my first factor 40 medal and it’s my birthday tomorrow so I’m going to call it my birthday bronze.”

The teenage partnership of GB’s 17 year old Megan Shackleton and 18 year old Sandra Mikolaschek from Germany had a tough semi-final in women’s class 4 against the World team champions from Serbia and at 0-7 in the first game of the doubles they looked to be heading for a quick defeat. However, they fought back to 8-8 and despite losing the first game 9-11 they played really well as a partnership – taking the second game 11-8 and finally losing 17-19 in the fourth.

Mikolaschek, the World number four, took the first game against World number two Borislava Peric-Rankovic 11-9 but the European champion and former World number one used all her experience to take the match 3-1 and take Serbia into the final.

Megan Shackleton April 2014 1Shackleton, from Todmorden, has had a good tournament and is a great prospect for the future.

“I’m really pleased,” she said, “because we have never played as a team before and they are the World champions so to push them as much as we did is an achievement in itself. We didn’t start well and the best way we were going to come back was to take the pressure off completely and just try new things while we had the opportunity and that definitely worked in our favour in some respects. I’m really pleased to come away with a bronze medal especially in Paralympic year when all the teams are here and getting ready for the Games so that was a big eye-opener for me as well. I’ve had a really good tournament and I’m starting to play positively and confidently and I want to continue that and maybe just work on a few more technical things to bring to my game next time.”

Felicity Pickard is another talented young player and in women’s class 6-7 she was teamed for the first time with Yuliya Klymenko, the World number five and former European champion from Ukraine. In their semi-final they took on a strong Russian team of Raisa Chebanika , the class 6 Paralympic champion and World number two and Victoriya Safonova, the former class 7 World number one.

Felicity Pickard action 5 2014Despite losing the doubles 0-3 the GB/Ukraine partnership played well and Pickard, a class 6 player, was also far from disgraced despite a 0-3 loss in the singles to Safonova and can be very proud of her bronze medal.

“It is definitely great experience to play matches like this,” said the 21 year old from Burnley, “and they are a very strong team but I felt that I managed to compete with them and play some good stuff. I know that if I go out with a positive attitude and more confidence then I can dictate the game more rather than being worried about their position and looking at World rankings. I feel that if I do that and I get stronger then maybe I can dominate them a bit more and get the wins. I didn’t expect to get a medal here but it was a good win yesterday and I played well so it’s good that the hard work is paying off.”

In the round-robin women’s class 3 event London 2012 bronze medalists Jane Campbell and Sara Head lost their third match to a combination of World number six Michela Brunelli from Italy and the world number seven Alena Kanova from Slovakia 0-2, Campbell finding former Paralympic, World & European champion Kanova in good form in a 1-3 singles loss after the GB pair had lost the opening doubles by the same score.

Jane Campbell & Sara Head doubles Vejle 2015 3That meant they needed to win their final match against the combined team from Thailand and Japan to have a chance of a medal. The GB pair won the doubles 3-0 against World number 10 Dararat Asayut and Yukimi Chada before Head came through against Chada 3-2 in the first singles to secure the win for GB.

“It was disappointing to lose the match this morning,” said Campbell, “and it is always hard to pick yourself up after a loss but we did it. I think it was just grit and determination that got us through. Our doubles is coming together so that is a positive to focus on for Slovakia next week and also for Rio.”

“It was hard and I had to really focus,” admitted Head after her narrow win against Chada. “It has been a tough couple of days and I had to pull all my energy together to pull that win out of the bag so I’m happy with that. We were thrilled to beat Croatia here – they are European champions and we got close to them in Italy and we beat them here so we need to keep working on what we are doing and look forward to competing against them in Rio.”

Unbeaten China took the gold and with three teams level on two wins each the medals were decided on countback. Croatia took silver and Italy/Slovakia the bronze leaving the GB pair in fourth place.

GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko was very satisfied with his team’s performance: “I think we must be really happy with the tournament. This is like a small Rio Games before the Paralympics in September. We had 90% of the top players here who will compete in Rio and in some classes we had all the top players here – like in men’s class 7 where Will Bayley took the gold medal. It was also a great achievement to have an all GB final in men’s class 1 with Rob Davies and Paul Davies.

“To take four singles medals and one team medal in a class that is a Paralympic event (men’s class 8) – that is a big success for us. It is also good to know that we can beat all the top players, for example Kim Daybell beating the top Chinese player in men’s class 10. This is showing me where we are and what we need to do for the next four months and it is good to know we are on the right track.”

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