Matthews wins Disability Sport Wales Award

GB Pathway athlete Tom Matthews has won the Disability Sport Wales Emerging Athlete Award against strong opposition including wheelchair basketball player Harri Jenkins and skier Menna Fitzpatrick.

The 23 year old from Aberdare was nominated by Jim Munkley after a successful 2015 in which he won team gold in Germany and team gold and individual bronze at the European Championships.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 4“I’m over the moon,” he said. “Obviously to get recognised for my sport and what I’m doing means the hard work is paying off and I’m really happy at the moment. I didn’t expect to win an award this early in my career. I’ll just carry on what I’m doing and hopefully win a few more awards and a few more medals.”

“He never shrinks from anything and he works so hard,” said Munkley, who introduced Matthews to table tennis after an accident while mountain biking left him wheelhair bound at the age of 16. “Tom’s attitude is ‘I want to be the best I can’ and that says it all really. I really do think Tom will be number one in the world. He’s got the attitude and the right approach.”
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Public urged to ‘Supercharge ParalympicsGB’ in major new fundraising campaign

The British Paralympic Association today urged the British public to help ‘Supercharge ParalympicsGB’ and show their support for our athletes over the course of 2016 and beyond.

WILL BAYLEY_landscape_logo_creditSupercharge ParalympicsGB is the first time that the British Paralympic Association (BPA) has launched such a major public facing campaign to generate support and raise funds for ParalympicsGB.

The ParalympicsGB team will face its toughest competition yet in Rio with standards increasing across all sports among other nations and that is likely to become even harder over coming Games. Following a home games in London the team also faces a decade of long haul travel – with upcoming Games in Rio, Pyeongchang, Tokyo and Beijing. It will be more challenging and expensive than ever before for the BPA to support athletes that in turn can inspire real change across society through their performances.

The BPA, a registered charity, has historically received some public fundraising support but the ‘Supercharge ParalympicsGB’ campaign will take this to a whole new level and a major drive to fundraise money to help take ParalympicsGB to Rio and beyond. Alongside the fantastic support already received from the National Lottery and the BPA’s commercial partners, the funds raised will help best prepare the team in the crucial final days before Rio and lay the ground for future success.

Supercharge ParalympicsGB is being supported by the BPA’s blue chip commercial sponsors and by four high-profile Ambassadors:

Paralympic legend and BPA patron Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson expressed her strong support for the campaign, saying:

“The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be the toughest, most competitive Games yet and ParalympicsGB will need to be the best it’s ever been to win the medals the nation craves. The team needs as much support and preparation as possible in the final crucial months of preparation to win those medals and ensure Great Britain continues to be a leading force in Paralympic sport over the next decade. I am delighted to be part of this campaign to ask the British public to give its support.”

Fellow BPA Patron and disability sport supporter Clare Balding is also one of the Supercharge ambassadors. She said: “Paralympic sport goes from strength to strength and we saw in London just how much the British public got behind the ParalympicsGB team. I know that ParalympicsGB will absolutely enthrall and excite the British public again this summer. But to do so they will need to make sure that everything they do is world-class so that they can produce those world class performances.”

Actor and comedian Eddie Izzard is a long-term supporter of diversity and a keen athlete. He commented: “London 2012 showed the nation that the Paralympic Games and the ParalympicsGB team are the most inspiring team in the UK. Their success this summer will inspire the nation, continue to challenge perceptions and ultimately help create a better world for disabled people. But to do that the public needs to get behind the team and help to fund their success through donations and fundraising. ”

Alex Brooker, who has co-presented the Last Leg TV programme on Channel 4 since London 2012, said: “The Paralympics in London were amazing, but the Paralympics in Rio looks set to be even more so. I can’t wait for this summer so that I do my bit to support and promote the ParalympicsGB team on Channel 4, but the public can help support them now.”

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of the British Paralympic Association, said of the launch: “We want to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to win medals and make the nation proud in Rio and beyond. That means getting the public and our partners involved to help to Supercharge the team to make the ParalympicsGB team as successful and inspiring to others as possible.

“We have incredible support already from the National Lottery and UK Sport, but the crucial final part of the journey to Rio requires as much funding as possible to ensure the team are ready for success. That is why we are launching this campaign and asking the public for its support. How far all our athletes go depends on you!”

The Supercharge ParalympicsGB campaign launch includes the release of a new inspiring campaign film and some iconic imagery of ParalympicsGB stars including Jonnie Peacock, Ali Jawad, Jordanne Whiley, Libby Clegg and Will Bayley.

The campaign also offers the public a Text to Donate facility – TEXT “SUPER” to 70700 – and a wide range of fundraising tools and equipment.

All the above can be found at the Supercharge campaign website:

The campaign has been developed from the start with the fantastic pro bono support of major London creative agency RKCR/Y&R. Their strategic and creative expertise is central to the campaign’s delivery in 2016.

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Three team medals for GB in Costa Rica

The GB Para Table Tennis Team finished the Copa Costa Rica – the final international tournament of 2015 – with a total of seven medals, adding three team medals to the four singles medals won earlier in the week. Thomas Matthews took silver with Switzerland’s Silvio Keller in men’s class 1, Martin Perry combined with men’s class 7 European champion Jean-paul Montanus from The Netherlands and the Belgian Ben Despineux to take silver in men’s class 6-7 and Ashley Facey Thompson picked up a bronze in men’s class 10 with his Costa Rican partners Alejandro Hidalgo Herrera and Jose Angel Quesada Rojas.

Matthews and Keller began their round robin men’s class 1 team event with a 3-1 win over the top seeds Korea. Matthews, currently World ranked 19, had been forced to retire from his singles final against Young Dae Joo due to heat exhaustion and in their rematch he came back from 2-1 down to beat the Korean World number five 11-9 in the fifth and then clinched the tie with a 3-2 win over World number seven Jae-Kwan Cho.

A narrow 3-2 loss for the 23 year old Welshman against World number nine Yunier Fernandez Izquierdo gave the advantage in their second match to the Cuban/Russian combination and although Matthews and Keller fought back to take the doubles 3-0 Fernandez Izquierdo beat Keller 3-0 to secure the tie for his team. In their final match against a combined team from Finland and USA Matthews beat Matti Launonen 3-0 and combined with Keller to win a close doubles 3-2 and the tie 3-0 which secured the silver medal.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 4“I feel I played well in the team event,” said Matthews. “We knew Korea would be a tough match and I played really well against Joo and it was a battle right to the very end where I clinched the win in the fifth set. It was an overwhelming feeling knowing I’d just beaten a top 10 player. Against Cho I started out a little slow – I was still overwhelmed with my win beforehand – but when I started getting settled I became composed and had a positive attitude. Overall this tournament has been one of my best performances all year; I’m so proud to be part of a great team and can’t wait to get back training in the New Year to get stronger and more consistent.”

Perry lost a very close match to Danny Bobrov in the opening tie against Israel/South Africa but the GB/Netherlands/Belgium combination went on to win the tie 3-1 and followed up with a 3-2 win over Japan2, Perry clinching the tie with a 3-0 win over Junki Itai. That set up a semi-final against Japan1 and a 3-1 win took them through to the final against France in which Perry did not play and Montanus and Despineux were beaten 3-1 by Kevin Dourbecker and Stephane Messi.

Martin Perry France 4“I feel that my performance in team wasn’t quite as strong as in the singles,” said Perry. “As the tournament has progressed I’ve really felt it take its toll on my body. However, I’m very happy with my mental strength because even though my body was struggling I still fought for every point in every match for my team and I’m incredibly happy with our final position. To come away from a strong Factor 40 tournament with two medals is a great achievement personally and to get my biggest ever win over the world number nine makes me really excited for the year ahead in 2016.”

Facey Thompson and his Costa Rican team mates began with a 3-1 loss to the combined team of the Austrian Krisztian Gardos and Marcin Skrzynecki from Poland. However, after beating Skrzynecki the 20 year old London South Bank University student, a class 9 player, put up a great performance against Gardos, pushing the class 10 World number ten all the way in a 3-2 loss.

Ash Facey Thompson Vejle 2015The withdrawal of Poland and the combined Hungarian/Japanese team put GB/Costa Rica through to the semi-finals and although the Russian team proved too strong Facey Thompson, who was beaten 3-0 by Iurii Nozdrunov twice in the singles competition, gave the World number two a much tougher match which the Russian eventually won 13-11 in the fourth.

“Against Gardos I believed I could win the match,” said Facey Thompson. “I was fighting for every point and I took him close but his experience came out in the end and he proved that he was the better player in the fifth. I think I played very good table tennis – the best I could have done. Against Nozdrunov I played my hardest – I moved well and wasn’t nervous but played very aggressive with my shots. I came up short against him but I played my best.”

Billy Shilton also teamed up with two players from Costa Rica in the round robin men’s class 9 team event and the 17 year old from Stonehouse got his team off to a great start against Netherlands/Japan with a 3-1 win over Arufuahirokazu Tateishi. However, the experienced class 9 Dutchman Tonnie Heijnen won the tie for his team with a 3-1 win over class 8 Shilton.

The second match against a combined team from Finland and Chile resulted in a 3-1 loss and although Shilton won the first singles of their final match against Shaquille Joel Rivera Vicente 3-0 the Puerta Rican and his Nigerian partner Francis Chukwuemeka won a competitive doubles 3-2 and eventually took the tie 3-1 to leave GB/Costa Rica out of the medals.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 8“I thought I played well in the team event,” said Shilton, “but I just found my nerves got the better of me in certain big matches. But overall I feel like I performed well against some top players in class 9. I was 1-1, 10-8 up against a top player in class 9 from the Netherlands so I was pleased with the way I performed in that match and my others. Playing team in class 9 was very challenging but I really enjoyed playing a different variation of players – it was a great experience for me.”

“It has been a good competition,” said GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “and all four GB players have performed well and beaten higher ranked players. We will now have to wait until the updated world rankings are published in January to see how many of our players have qualified to compete in Rio next year.”

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Silver lining for GB in Costa Rica

Three GB players reached the finals of their respective singles events at the Copa Costa Rica Para Table Tennis competition in San Jose with Ashley Facey Thompson, Thomas Matthews and Martin Perry all winning silver medals and Billy Shilton taking bronze.

Ashley Facey Thompson Vejle 2015Facey Thompson progressed from his group in men’s class 9 with a 3-0 win over the higher ranked Nigerian Francis Chukwuemeka and a 3-0 win over the French World number 13 Frederic Bellais took him into the semi-final against Dezso Bereczki. The 20 year old Londoner received a walkover into the final when the Hungarian withdrew and he found the World number two Iurii Nozdrunov from Russia on top form in a 3-0 loss.

“I feel I played well,” said Facey Thompson. “To beat Bellais in the quarters was very good and I’m proud of that. In the final my level was not as good and I need to be one step higher but my opponent was very good. I just have to play my table tennis, fight for every point and see what happens in the team event now.”

Matthews topped his group in men’s class 1 and received a bye into the semi-finals. A 3-1 defeat of the Russian Dmitry Lavrov took him into the final against the World number five Young Dae Joo but after winning the first set 11-2 the 23 year old Welshman began to feel the effects of the heat and was forced to retire with the Korean leading 2-1.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 5“I had a slow start to the competition but when I started playing my game I felt in control,” said Matthews. “I played well to fight back from 2-0 down against Keller in the group and I felt I played well in the semi-final and came out with a good win over Lavrov. In the final I started off really well, forcing my game on to Joo, but unfortunately as the game went on I over-heated and had to forfeit the match under doctor’s orders. But in a way I’m glad it happened because I’ve learnt a lot about myself again at this tournament and can now work on this to come back stronger in 2016.”

In men’s class 6 Martin Perry progressed to the knockout stages with two wins from three in his group including a 3-2 win over Danny Bobrov the World ranked number 11 from Israel. After a 3-1 win over Junki Itai from Japan he put up a great performance to beat the French World number nine Bastien Grundeler 3-1 in the semi-final. Despite finding the experienced Italian Raimondo Alecci too good in the final the 21 year old from Paisley could be proud of his efforts.

Martin Perry France 4“I’m extremely happy with my performance,” said Perry. “To get the competition off to a fantastic start against Bobrov really spurred me on and gave me a big confidence boost. In the quarter-final I felt that my standard had slipped from the previous day but I dug deep to win 3-1 and although I lost the first set against Grundeler in the semi-final 12-10 I knew I was using the right tactics so I dug really deep and battled for a 3-1 victory, which was my biggest ever win. I was disappointed to lose the final 3-0 to Alecci but I feel I played well and despite the score I feel it was a good match. I think I’ve shown the level of player I can be and I am pleased with my results and really looking forward to the team event now.”

Shilton topped his group in men’s class 8 with two wins from two including a 3-2 win over the former World and Paralympic champion Mathieu Loicq from Belgium and he put up another fighting performance in the quarter-final to beat Fabian Rignell from Sweden 11-9 in the fifth. A 3-1 defeat by another very experienced Belgian Marc Ledoux in the semi-final meant that the Gloucestershire teenager had to be content with a bronze medal.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 3“Overall I’m really happy with the way I performed,” said Shilton. “I knew it was going to be difficult but the main thing for me was to keep fighting and not lose my head. In my group I was really happy to beat the Belgian player as he is a top player and was Paralympic champion and to win my quarter final was massive for me after being 8-4 down in the fifth. Now my focus is on the team event and I’m hoping I can keep up my form.”

The competition continues with the team events which conclude on Saturday.

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Costa Rica last stop for GB on Road to Rio

The final competition that will count towards qualification for the table tennis events at next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio takes place this week in Costa Rica from December 16-19.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 2

Tom Matthews

The GB Para Table Tennis Team is sending four players to compete in the Copa Costa Rica in San Jose including Ashley Facey Thompson, Billy Shilton and Tom Matthews, who all still have a chance of qualifying for Rio.

“It will be very tough competition in Costa Rica,” said GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “as there are a number of very good players from other countries who will also be looking to achieve the results that will secure qualification for the 2016 Paralympic Games.”

The full list of athletes competing for GB in Costa Rica is:

Ashley Facey Thompson – class 9, from London
Thomas Matthews – class 1, from Aberdare
Martin Perry – class 6, from Paisley
Billy Shilton – class 8, from Stonehouse (Gloucestershire)/Sheffield

Davies regains World number one ranking

European champion Rob Davies has regained the ITTF PTT world number one ranking in men’s class 1. The 31 year old Welshman first held the position in October 2013 after winning gold at the European Championships and his successful defence of his European title in Denmark in October this year, in which he beat the then world number one Jean-Francois Ducay in the final, has taken him back to the top of the rankings.

Rob Davies Vejle 2015“I’m really happy to be back at World number one,” said Davies, “it’s like an early Christmas present. I was number two before so it doesn’t make that much difference it terms of seeding for competitions but it will give me confidence and spur me on to prove that I am top of my class and give me motivation to train harder to try and stay there.”

The new rankings mean that the GB Para Table Tennis Team will go into Paralympic year with two of its athletes at World number one as World champion Will Bayley also currently heads the world rankings for men’s class 7.

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Three team medals for GB in China

Team photo China 2015The GB Para Table Tennis Team picked up three medals in the team events on the final day of the PTT China Open in Beijing today. Sue Gilroy and her partner Bhavina Patel from India took silver in the women’s class 4-5 team, Aaron McKibbin, with team partners Kim Daybell and Billy Shilton, added a bronze in men’s class 8-10 team to the gold he won in men’s class 8 singles and Jack Hunter-Spivey, partnered by Rafal Lis from Poland, added a bronze in men’s class 5 team to the silver he won in the singles.

Sue Gilroy 1Gilroy and Patel started their round robin team event with a 3-1 win over Brazil followed by a 3-2 victory over Chinese Taipei but a 3-0 defeat by the very strong Chinese team meant they had to be content with the silver medal. Nevertheless it was a good performance by four-time Paralympian Gilroy, who had been disappointed with her performance in the singles.

“I’m really pleased with how I played against the Chinese today,” said the class 4 Barnsley athlete. “Losing 13-10 in the fifth against the class 5 World number one shows I can compete with the Chinese which is positive for the future.”

Aaron McKibbin 2McKibbin, Daybell and Shilton progressed from their group with wins over combined teams from Brazil/Portugal and Poland/Japan and understandably found a very experienced Chinese team too strong in the semi-finals in a 3-0 defeat.

“I came here with a job to do and I feel that I was successful in achieving that,” said 24 year old McKibbin. “I’m very happy to have performed to a good level under these circumstances and I’ve shown that I can beat the best players in the world. It’s now time to kick on in training for next year.”

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 13For 17 year old class 8 player Shilton it was a first experience of both playing in China and competing against class 10 players.

“I’m really pleased with the way I have played,” said the Gloucestershire teenager. “I was very happy to beat the Polish class 8 player in the singles as he has won gold medals in Paralympic Games. I’ve enjoyed playing team event in class 10 which has given me the opportunity to play against top players and I have learnt a lot. It’s been really exciting to play for the first time in China and I hope I will return in the future.”

Kim Daybell 4Daybell, who has taken a year off from his medical studies at Leeds University to focus on training for Rio, said: “It has been a challenging experience knowing that I came here to do a job under high pressure situations. I have been pleased that I have come through some tight matches and I’m happy to win a team medal which is always great when you’re representing your country.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey 1Hunter-Spivey and Lis lost a very tight match with China 3-2 but progressed from their group with a 3-1 win over a combined team from Korea and Spain. They also had to be content with a bronze medal when Hunter-Spivey’s Polish partner withdrew from the semi-final which gave their opponents from Chinese Taipei a walkover into the final.

“I feel like I’ve played really well throughout the competition,” said Hunter-Spivey. “I’ve had some very good wins under the circumstances and it gives me a good chance of qualification for Rio.”

GB head coach Greg Baker commented: “Overall this competition has been a huge success for us. We came here with a mission and I can honestly say we exceeded what we set out to do. We had athletes competing and gaining valuable experience against Chinese athletes and others who won matches under the pressure of qualification for Rio. The athletes who competed here are now in a strong position to qualify for Rio and also, to have a singles winner here in Aaron McKibbin shows that we are in a strong position and ready to push on for next year.”

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McKibbin takes gold in China

Paralympic medalist Aaron McKibbin beat the Chinese World number two Ye Chao Qun to win gold in the men’s class 8 singles at the PTT China Open in Bejing today and there was further success for the GB Para Table Tennis team as Jack Hunter-Spivey took silver in men’s class 5.

Aaron McKibbin 4McKibbin, who won team bronze in London 2012, reached the semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Arufuahirokazu Tateishi from Japan and a 3-1 defeat of the former European champion Marcin Skrzynecki from Poland took him through to the final against Ye. The 24 year old Sheffield based Londoner produced a great performance to beat the former World champion 3-1 and help to secure his qualification for Rio next year.

“I’m very happy to get my first big result of the season,” said McKibbin. “Beating the Chinese in China is never easy but I think I played well and positively and I’m just happy to get the victory.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey 2Hunter-Spivey topped his group and a 3-1 win over the Spaniard Bilal El Baqqali Talibi in the quarter-finals took him through to a semi-final against the World number eight from Chinese Taipei Yen-Hung Lin. After losing a close first set the 20 year old from Liverpool took the next three 9, 10 and 13 to take him through to the final against Lin’s compatriot Ming Chih Cheng but the World number five was just too strong in a 3-1 win.

“I feel that my training is paying off and under pressure I feel like I’ve played very well,” said Hunter-Spivey. “I want to carry this form on into the team event now.”

In men’s class 10 Kim Daybell won all three of his group matches, including a 3-1 win over Kong Weijie from China, but was disappointed to lose a very close quarter final to the Sri Lankan Dinesh Deshappriya Pitiyage Don Silva 12-10 in the fifth after having two match points.

Gloucestershire teenager Billy Shilton was unlucky to lose out on countback in the group stages of men’s class 8 despite a battling 3-2 win over Skrzynecki while Sue Gilroy was unable to find her best form and finished fourth in the round robin women’s class 4 event with one win from her four matches.

The event continues with the team event that concludes on Tuesday.

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GB players look for Road to Rio in China

The GB Para Table Tennis Team is sending five players to compete in the PTT China Open in Beijing this week (November 20-24) one of the last events that will count towards qualification for next year’s Paralympic Games. World silver medalist Sue Gilroy will be joined by London 2012 team bronze medalist Aaron McKibbin, Kim Daybell, Jack Hunter-Spivey and Billy Shilton.

Sue Gilroy 1

Sue Gilroy

“Qualification for the 2016 Paralympic Games finishes at the end of this year,” said GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “and competing in China will give the athletes valuable experience as well as providing them with an opportunity to improve their world ranking and their chances of competing in Rio.”

The full list of athletes competing in China is:

Kim Daybell – class 10, from Sheffield
Sue Gilroy – class 4, from Barnsley
Jack Hunter-Spivey – class 5, from Liverpool/Sheffield
Aaron McKibbin – class 8, from London/Sheffield
Billy Shilton – class 8, from Stonehouse (Gloucestershire)/Sheffield

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GB Team searches for new talent for Tokyo

The GB Para Table Tennis Team, which enjoyed its most successful ever European Championships last month with 11 medals, is hosting the first of a series of Talent Recruitment Days at its team base, the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, on Saturday, November 28, 2015.

This is a free opportunity for any disabled person to come to Sheffield to meet the GB team and take part in an introduction to table tennis session. Para table tennis includes classes for a wide range of disabilities, both ambulant and wheelchair-bound athletes, and is one of the most inclusive of the Paralympic sports.

Billy Shilton

Billy Shilton

BWeltranglistenturnier in der Oberfrankenhalle Bayreuth;   Fotograf Petra Steyer

Megan Shackleton

Since taking four medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games the GB team has gone from strength to strength and now boasts a World champion in Will Bayley and a double European champion in Rob Davies among its brightest prospects for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. In addition to a 14-strong Performance Squad the team now has thriving Pathway and Development Squads bringing on young players and introducing them to International competition. Among the athletes that have come through the Pathway Squad are 17 year old Billy Shilton and 16 year old Megan Shackleton, who both recently won European medals in their first major championship.

“While the team is now focused on Rio we are already planning for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo,” said GB Pathway and Development Coach Shaun Marples. “At these Talent Recruitment Days we are looking for anybody who shows potential to be the next Paralympic star and once they have been identified we can assist in signposting them to their nearest club and begin their training.”

The event in Sheffield runs from 10am – 2pm on Saturday, November 28 at the EIS Sheffield, Coleridge Road, Sheffield, S9 5DA. Anyone wanting further information should call 0114 261 8681.

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