Song for the GB Para Table Tennis Team launched today

Singer/songwriter Alexander Joseph has a message for the athletes in the GB Para Table Tennis Team – ‘You’re Going to Win’.

Alexander Joseph guitarThe 33 year old, who combines his music career with his work as a strength and conditioning coach, was inspired to write a song for the team after visiting them at their training base at the EIS in Sheffield.

“The first thing that blew my mind away was the phenomenal speed it was played at and the athleticism and movement that were required,” said Alex.  “I was there for the day and saw a couple of training sessions and I could see the commitment – there was a real focus and sense of professionalism around the place. They obviously love what they do and they were awesome. Everyone likes to have a knockabout in table tennis and the wheelchair tennis players who I work with now love to play but then I saw it done properly and it was a completely different level. The speed and accuracy were incredible to watch.”

Having started writing songs while at University, Alex found a real sense of direction when he started working with the women’s wheelchair basketball squad in 2013.

“I had taken a year out from working in sport because I wanted to take music more seriously,” he explained. “I signed with an Australian record label and was mentored by a fantastic friend and musician Terence Ryan, who helped me learn how to produce music and write better songs.

“When I started working with the women’s wheelchair basketball squad it was a really inspirational time for me. I hadn’t worked with Paralympic sport before and I learnt a lot about how you can still maximise someone’s physical capabilities. The athletes have overcome some really tough times and they are making the most of everything they can, representing their country, travelling the world – it is a cool environment. Now I am writing with real purpose about specific topics, which I think is so important in song writing. Paralympic sport is my passion and it is easy to be inspired by these sports. I’m now working with Resound Media, which is run by Andy Baker in Gloucestershire – they mentor musicians and help them with song writing and production.”

The women’s wheelchair basketball squad inspired his first Paralympic song – ‘GB365’ – and he has recently written a song for the ITF ‘A Racket in Hand’ to celebrate 40 years of wheelchair tennis. Alex donates all the profits from downloads of his songs to the sport – money from the downloads of ‘GB365’ go to Sports Traider, a charity that changes lives through sport, downloads of ‘A Racket in Hand’ will help the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Development Fund and money raised by ‘You’re Going to Win’ will go to the GB Para Table Tennis Team.

“The lyrics of the GB Para Table Tennis Team song were inspired by the values board that was up in the training hall in Sheffield,” said Alex. “Looking through some of the key words in there got me thinking. Any athlete trying to achieve their goal needs to have self-belief that they can do it so the title is ‘You’re Going to Win’ because if you don’t tell yourself that and you don’t believe you stand a chance of doing that you’re probably not going to do it.

“So I wanted to put a song out there that reflects the belief and the values that the guys have but also encourages them when there is any moment of doubt to keep remembering that self-belief is key. ‘Trust in all the work you have done’ is the first line and that is about the training over the last four years and everything you have done – all those tough days. They all count and they accumulate and hopefully come through at the right time – in Rio.”

To download ‘You’re Going to Win’ go to: www.itunes.com/alexanderjoseph

You can find out more about Alexander Joseph at http://www.ajosephmusic.com/

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Young GB squad takes 11 medals in Romania

GB Pathway athletes Lawrence John, Martin Perry and Daniel Bullen took three medals each in the RITTO Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania and there were also medals for Billy Shilton, who took gold in the junior men’s class 8 singles, Conor McAdam, Josh Morgan and Lucie Bouron.

Lawrence John Nat Champs2015 2John took silver in the junior men’s class 10 singles and then topped his group in the men’s class 9-10 singles, reaching the semi-finals with a 3-1 win against the Russian Aleksei Slashcilin before finding the junior gold medalist Igor Misztal from Poland too strong again in a 3-0 loss. The 17 year old from Swansea then combined with fellow Welshman Josh Morgan to take bronze in the men’s class 10 team event.

“I’m happy with my performances and results in Romania,” said John. “I had a good junior tournament then had a tough match to win my group and progressed to the semi-finals, losing to Misztal in three close sets that could have gone either way. It was good to pull it back in the team event to get another bronze with Josh, finishing second in our group and losing a difficult match against Bulgaria who went on to take the gold.”

“In the singles I don’t feel that I played as well as I can,” said Morgan, “and I was disappointed to lose in the quarter-finals. I felt that I played a lot better in the team event and am happy to come away with a bronze medal. Overall there are a lot of positives to take from this tournament and to work on back home to move my game forward.”

After taking bronze in the junior event Perry recorded one of the best wins of his career in the men’s class 6 singles, beating World number ten Bobi Simion from Romania 3-1 in the quarter-finals. The 22 year old from Paisley reached the finals with a 3-1 win against Junki Itai from Japan but had to be content with silver after losing in three close sets to Cristian Dettoni from Chile. Perry added another medal to his tally by taking bronze in the men’s class 6 team event with 18 year old fellow Scot Conor McAdam, the pair combining well to win the doubles in the semi-finals against eventual gold medalists Slovakia but losing both singles to Gabriel Csemy and Alexander Nagy respectively.

PERRY Martin Robert“I didn’t get off to a great start and was disappointed not to win back-to-back junior competitions,” said Perry, who won gold in the Junior Italian Open in February. “However, to come away with a bronze was a good confidence booster going into the senior event and I am really pleased with my mental performance in the senior event – I felt that at times I really tapped into my potential and played some great table tennis, especially in the quarter-final against the World number ten. I was of course disappointed to lose in the final, but I’m very happy moving forward. Playing team with Conor was fantastic – we had great fun and our friendship has been there for years so we gelled right from the beginning and I felt that our communication and fight really pulled us through at times. Overall, I’m pleased to end these two weeks on a high and with plenty of positives.”

“I’m happy with how I played in certain areas,” said McAdam, “but there is still a lot to work on. I’m also happy to win another team medal with Martin and hopefully there is more to come.”

Daniel Bullen Belgium 2015 2Bullen took bronze in the men’s class 3-5 junior event and after topping his group to reach the semi-finals of the men’s class 5 singles he picked up another bronze after a 3-0 loss to the Russian Grigorii Isakov, who went on to take the gold. The 18 year old from St Neots and his American partner Eric Pattison progressed from their group in the men’s class 5 team event and after a walkover in the semi-final  they took the silver medal after a 2-0 loss in the final to Isakov and his fellow Russian Aleksandr Sokolov.

“I had some good matches in Spain against higher ranked opponents,” said Bullen, “but I found it hard in Romania and didn’t perform my best in some matches. It’s been a learning curve and I have got things that I can work on for next time.”

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 3Shilton dropped only one set on the way to winning gold in the under 23 junior event and then topped his group in the men’s class 8 singles with three wins from three.  A 3-0 win against Yoshihisa Takeda took him into the quarter-finals and the 17 year old was unlucky to come up against the former World champion Richard Csejtey in top form and the Slovakian World number nine used all his experience to win in four close sets.

“Overall I feel the competition was good and I came out with a lot of positives – both for my table tennis and mentally,” said Shilton. “I was really pleased to win the junior event as it was my first time competing in a junior international competition. In the singles and team event I took the top players really close but struggled to finish the matches off. Playing in the class 9 team event was a challenging but enjoyable experience and I am looking forward to getting back into training and making as many improvements as I can.”

Lucie Bouron 2Bouron, from Bracknell, was teamed with the former European champion and World and Paralympic medalist Ingela Lundback from Sweden in the women’s class 2-5 team event and they reached the semi-finals but despite winning the doubles against Thailand had to settle for a bronze medal after Lundback lost 3-2 to Wijittra Jaion and Bouron was beaten 3-1 by Dararat Asayut.

“I’m pleased with my performance here in Romania,” said 21 year old Bouron. “Throughout the tournament my performance increased and I ended on a high in terms of quality of play so I’m really happy with that. I’m really pleased to have won a bronze medal in the team event after losing a close and tough semi-final.”

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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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