Pickard and Shilton receive Backing the Best awards

Two of the GB Para Table Tennis Team’s most promising young players, Felicity Pickard, 21, and 17 year old Billy Shilton, have been selected to receive one of Sport England’s new Backing The Best awards – bursaries of up to £5,000 per year to help cover expensive costs such as travel, accommodation, nutrition and medical bills.

SportsAid, the charity which helps the next generation of British sports stars by giving them financial support and recognition during the critical early stages of their careers, is delivering the scheme which was launched after a new study, carried out by Leeds Beckett University, showed the rising cost of becoming a sports star has led to some of England’s best up-and-coming talent dropping out.

Felicity Pickard action 6 2014Born with cerebral palsy, Felicity started playing table tennis in 2010 when she wanted to find a sport she could play competitively.  She made her international debut at the Czech Open in 2011 and represented GB at the European Championships in 2013. In 2014, Felicity took a break from international competition to focus on her training and she returned in the Belgium Open in October 2015. She showed her improvement and belied her ranking in the round robin women’s class 6 singles event to take the gold medal.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 13Having been diagnosed at the age of five with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) Billy was also  looking for a sport that he could play competitively and started playing table tennis at the age of 12 after watching his dad Michael play in a local league tournament. He was spotted by the GB squad at the UK School Games in 2012 and invited to attend a development camp from which he progressed to the Pathway Squad. He made his international debut in Belgium in 2013 and was selected for his first major championship – the European Championships in Denmark – in 2015 where he exceeded all expectations in taking bronze in the men’s class 7 singles and silver in the team event.

Following the European Championships the ITTF Para Table Tennis Committee made the decision to reclassify him as a class 8 player and he responded with a superb performance to win his first singles gold medal  in Belgium and finished the 2015 season by taking team bronze in the China Open and singles bronze in Costa Rica.

Tim Lawler, chief executive of SportsAid, said: “Backing The Best is exciting. It’s a new initiative never seen before in the environment of talent in sport, being targeted at those young sports people facing the toughest financial challenges.

“Backing The Best will provide the means to give certain talented young sports people the financial help they need to access the talent pathway and develop their sporting potential – not making the journey to success any easier for these athletes, but actually making it possible.

“Without support through Backing The Best, there is a chance some talented young athletes will be lost to their sport; with Backing The Best, they have a chance to reach their full potential. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the first cohort of athletes grow and develop over the next few years – we really think Backing The Best is going to be a game changer for sport in this country.”

Sport England director of sport, Phil Smith, said: “As well as encouraging more people to play sport and be active, Sport England’s job is to help identify and develop talented athletes. But being talented can be expensive, as the cost of travelling to competitions and the essential coaching needed can mount up.

“Backing The Best has been designed to give a helping hand to those who need it – so that ability and attitude are the only criteria for success, and not money. Ultimately, we want our national teams to be truly representative of our country, rather than just those that can afford to reach the top.

“We are incredibly proud of our first group of athletes; they are an inspiring group of young people that deserve to be recognised for their talent and dedication.”

Part of the money will also go towards helping sports bodies to broaden their talent development schemes so that those slipping through the net because of cost are supported.

According to the research carried out by Leeds Beckett University, travel and accommodation are by far the biggest costs for a young athlete trying to fulfil their potential.

Young athletes with a disability also have to travel further – often abroad – because there are fewer sports clubs and teams for disabled sports, which again means the price of making it to the top is higher.

Gorazd Vecko, Performance Director for the GB Para Table Tennis Team, said: “We would like to thank Sportsaid and Sport England for their support of two of our most promising young athletes. Both Billy and Felicity have already shown great potential at international level and these awards will be a great help to them both as they work towards their goal of qualification for Tokyo in 2020.”

GB team to face Paralympic rivals in Slovenia

World champion Will Bayley and European champion Rob Davies head a 16-strong GB squad that will compete in the IPTT Slovenia Open next week (May 4-7). With nearly all the world’s top players set to take part including a strong Chinese team the tournament will provide a valuable opportunity for the GB players to test themselves against the competition ahead of the Paralympic Games in Rio in September.

Bayley, 28, silver medallist in London 2012, is currently world ranked number one in men’s class 7 but is looking to put a below-par performance in February’s Italian Open behind him.

Will Bayley action 7 2014“I can’t wait to play the best players in the world in my class,” said Bayley. “For us all to be at a competition is really exciting and I see it as a great opportunity for me. Training has been great since Italy; I have improved on things and also played many (able bodied) league matches and been successful which has given me great confidence coming in to these massive competitions. I have given it everything in the training hall since Italy – there is no stone left unturned. I’m totally ready to play in Slovenia and can’t wait to get started.”

Rob Davies 2Davies, 31, is also world ranked number one in men’s class 1 and will be making his first international appearance since successfully defending his European crown last October.

“It should be a great tournament,” said the Welshman. “Obviously I want to do well and keep a good seeding for Rio but as long as I perform in September that’s all that really counts. I’m pretty happy to be honest, we’ve had brilliant preparation and it’s more a case of keeping my body together at the moment.”

Eleven of the 12 GB athletes selected for Rio will compete in Slovenia including London 2012 bronze medallist Paul Davies, who will be returning to competition after nearly two years out through injury.

Paul Davies action 7 2014“Getting back to full fitness has been a challenge,” admits Davies, “but I have missed competing so much as I love being under pressure and the atmosphere of the competition hall. Rio is obviously my main focus this year; my progress is on target so Slovenia will be a good chance to see where I am against the best in the world.”

Also competing in Slovenia will be London 2012 medalists Jane Cambell, Sara Head, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson.

Jane Campbell action 8 2014“It’s great going into a really strong competition knowing that we will be able to assess where we are against our strongest competitors,” said Campbell. “My training has really built up since Italy and I’m feeling well prepared. The tournaments coming up are a great opportunity to assess improvements and to fine tune areas to work on in the final few months of preparation for Rio.

“I’m feeling really happy with my game at the moment and am looking forward to the challenge of competing.”

Sara Head Nat Champs 2015“Training has been going well,” said Head. “We have been building on what we learnt in Italy. Slovenia and Slovakia the following week will be very important preparation for Rio. I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to have a constant level of training after two years of broken training due to surgery and illness. I feel I’m playing at a good level at this point in our preparation and I’m really pleased with areas we have worked on so hope to see the improvement in Slovenia and Slovakia when it’s put into match play.”

McKibbin and Wilson won a team bronze in London with Bayley and are also looking forward to testing themselves against the world’s best in Slovenia.

Aaron McKibbin Lignano 2014“It looks as if it is going to be even stronger then Rio potentially as the world’s top 20 will be there so it’s really exciting to be there and see what we can do,” said 24 year old McKibbin. “It’s definitely a stepping stone towards Rio and it will be a fantastic test to see where we are compared to our competition.”

Ross Wilson Vejle 2015 11“I am really looking forward to playing the Chinese players as it will be the first time I have played against any of them for a long time,” said Wilson, 20, who has had to contend with a series of injuries since London . “I’m happy with where my game is at the moment; I have put a lot of work in to the basics of my game and I know I will improve a lot in the lead up to Rio.”

Fellow Paralympians Kim Daybell, Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill will all be looking to lay down a marker ahead of Rio.

Kim Daybell Vejle 2015 3Daybell has taken a year out of his medical studies at Leeds University to prepare for Rio and started the season by taking bronze in the Italian Open in February.

“Training since Italy has been great,” said the 23 year old. “I looked at some things I needed to improve and have made changes. I think my game is coming together nicely. These tournaments are vital for Rio as we can improve our ranking and lay some markers down to the rest of the world.”

Paul Karabardak Vejle 2015 6Swansea’s Paul Karabardak is hoping to build on a good start to the season in Italy in February when he took bronze in the men’s class 6 singles and silver in the team event.

“Slovenia is always a strong competition,” said the 30 year old, “so it will be a good test for me to see where I am at the moment and see what I need to work on before the Paralympics. I am happy with this year so far as I have been training well and my level has been good. I had a good competition in Italy but I feel I can play a bit better, which hopefully I can do in Slovenia and ultimately in Rio.”

David Wetherill Vejle 2015“Rio is still a few months away but it’s a crucial time in the run up to the Games,” said Wetherill, “and may have a direct impact on how things go although I don’t want to be playing my best just yet – it’s all about peaking for Rio.

“I wasn’t playing that well at the start of this year and was disappointed in myself to lose in the final of the Malmo Open and the semi-finals of the Italian Open back in February. But things have picked up a bit since then and hopefully I can make amends out in Slovenia, and in Slovakia the following week.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey 1Jack Hunter-Spivey will compete in his first Paralympic Games in Rio and is looking to build on some good wins in the Italian Open in February, including a victory over the Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug.

“My wins in Italy have filled me with confidence,” said the 20 year old. “I have proved I can really compete against the world’s best players and I also feel I have a lot more to improve on. My motivation has always been very high but this just shows hard work does pay off.”

Ashley Facey Thompson action 2014 (2)Ashley Facey Thompson narrowly missed out on direct qualification for the Games and as first alternate for men’s class 9 is still hopeful of competing in Rio.

“I’m excited to play the Slovenia Open,” said the 21 year old London South Bank University student, “as it is one of the strongest international tournaments on the circuit. I am looking forward to showing the world my ability and just go out and play my best table tennis.”

The squad for Slovenia is completed by Megan Shackleton, Billy Shilton, Felicity Pickard and Martin Perry.

Megan Shackleton France 2014“I’m really looking forward to Slovenia,” said Shackleton, “as it’ll be a chance to play against some of 2016’s Paralympians and I’m hoping I can compete well and show what I’ve been working really hard on in training. I’m finding new confidence in things that I felt were much weaker at the beginning of the year – which is always exciting going into a tournament.”

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 3Shilton, 17, narrowly missed out on direct qualification for the Games after he was reclassified as a class 8 in October last year, although as first alternate for men’s class 8 he also still has a chance of competing in Rio.

“I’m really looking forward to Slovenia,” he said, “as all the top players will be there and it will be like a mini Paralympics. It will be a great learning curve for me as well as I’m going to be surrounded by all the top players. I’m really excited. Training has really picked up in intensity in the last few weeks. I am feeling much better physically and technically than before the Italian Open (in February) and the majority of sessions now are very match specific.”

Felicity Pickard Belgium 2015Pickard took time away from competition in 2014 to focus on her training rather than trying to qualify for Rio and has shown the benefit of that since returning to international competition in October last year.

“I am really looking forward to competing again against the world class players,” said the 21 year old. “It will be another great experience for me. Training has been going really well as I feel I learnt a lot in Italy and since then I have really focused on the improvements I needed to make. I have been pushing the top players and I would love to convert these close loses into wins but as long as I am constantly learning and enjoying it I know I will play my best table tennis and the wins will come eventually.”

Martin Perry France 4“I am really looking forward to the Slovenia Open,” said 21 year old Perry. “It is quite possibly the strongest tournament I have entered to date and I am going to get a chance to play some of the best players in the world and really try and show the improvement I’ve made.”

GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko said: “The Slovenia Open is always one of the most competitive tournaments of the season and this year it will be stronger than ever. We are preparing the players to peak in September so the results in Slovenia, and in Slovakia the following week, will not necessarily have a bearing on what happens in Rio but it will give us an idea of the progress we are making and what we need to work on over the next four months.”

The full GB squad for Slovenia 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)

Sara Head – women’s class 3 (Beddau)

Jack Hunter-Spivey – men’s class 5 (Liverpool/Sheffield)

Paul Karabardak – men’s class 6 (Swansea)

Aaron McKibbin – men’s class 8 (London/Sheffield)

Martin Perry – men’s class 6 (Paisley/Sheffield)

Felicity Pickard – women’s class 6 (Burnley)

Megan Shackleton – women’s class 4 (Todmorden)

Billy Shilton – men’s class 8 (Stonehouse/Sheffield)

David Wetherill – men’s class 6 (Torpoint)

Ross Wilson – men’s class 8 (Minster/Sheffield)

Posted in GB

GB athletes win inaugural Para events at Table Tennis England Nationals

GB Para Table Tennis team athletes Kim Daybell, Ross Wilson, Sue Gilroy and Jack Hunter-Spivey took the honours in the Para events in the PG Mutual National Championships held at the Hertfordshire Sports Village in Hatfield.

This was the first time that Para events had been included in the ETTA Senior Nationals with four events played in a round-robin style format.

Kim Daybell action 6 2014In men’s class 9-10 Daybell started with 3-0 wins against Craig Allen and Shae Thakker and clinched victory in the event with a 3-0 win over GB team mate Ashley Facey Thompson, who had also recorded 3-0 wins against Allen and Thakker.

Daybell had earlier put up a great performance to reach the quarter-finals of the men’s singles with a battling 4-3 win against England international and 10th seed Helshan Weerasinghe in the last 16.

“I think it has been a good day,” said the 23 year old, who has taken a year out of his medical studies to prepare for Rio. “I’ve shown there is a gap that is being bridged between Para and able bodied table tennis. I played pretty much to the best of my ability, especially in the last 16 match. I had my chances in the quarter final as well and to finish in the top eight in the able bodied Nationals is pretty good. I’m training with able bodied players every day and I’m starting to get up to speed.  I feel like having a year when I can train full time is really good and that has shown today.”

Ross Wilson action 6 2014All four athletes in the men’s class 6-8 event have been named in the ParalympicsGB team for Rio, with 20 year old Wilson beating fellow class 8 athlete Aaron McKibbin, class 7 World number one Will Bayley and class 6 European medalist David Wetherill to finish top.

“I was reasonably pleased,” he said. “I didn’t play that well but it is a case of coming here and getting the job done and I think I did that. This is one of the first competitions I’ve played since I’ve been working on a lot of technical things in training and I tried to incorporate a lot of that into my game. That was quite an important thing for me today and I managed to get the results so I was happy with that.”

Sue Gilroy Germany 2015 3In women’s class 3-5 Gilroy recorded 3-0 wins in both her matches, against class 3 London 2012 medalist Jane Campbell and 16 year old Megan Shackleton.

“I played much better than a couple of weeks ago at the BTTAD Nationals,” said Gilroy, “everything was flowing well today. I’ve been competing every weekend for the last four weeks – I played in the county championships last week for the able bodied team and won a couple of matches 3-0 and only lost in the other two in the fifth so it has been a really good month for me.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey 1Hunter-Spivey began with a 3-1 win against Dan Bullen and was then pushed all the way by the very experienced former National champion Kevin Plowman. The 20 year old from Liverpool was 4-1 down in the final set but fought back to win it 11-9 and the match 3-2. A 3-0 win against Nicko Anderson then secured him first place in the men’s class 3-5 event.

Full results are available at http://tabletennisengland.co.uk/pg-mutual-nationals/

Posted in GB

LimbPower engagement in physical activity survey

Please help us to help you by taking part in this LimbPower survey to find out which activities amputees and people with physical impairments are taking part in. The results of the survey will help LimbPower to:

a) Find out which activities amputees and people with limb impairments are currently taking part in, as well what they would like to take part in the future.

b) Gain an understanding of the impact wearing a prosthesis (false limb) has on an individual’s likelihood to take part in sport and physical activity.

 We want all amputees and people with limb impairments living in the UK to complete this survey, whether you take part in sport and physical activity currently or not.

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2483725/011ed7c79797?platform=hootsuite

Many thanks for your help.

 

Paralympic stars support Talent-ID Days

Following the announcement of the team that will represent ParalympicsGB in the table tennis events at this year’s Paralympic Games two of the athletes selected for Rio are supporting the GB Para Table Tennis Team’s search for new talent this weekend.

Sara Head Nat Champs 2015

London 2012 medalist Sara Head

London 2012 medalist Sara Head will be joined by GB Pathway athlete Tom Matthews at the Talent Recruitment Day in Cardiff on Saturday, March 12 and Torpoint’s David Wetherill, who will be competing in his third Paralympic Games in Rio, will be the star attraction in Plymouth on Sunday, March 13.

With a series of Talent-ID events around the UK the GB team is actively working in partnership with each respective Home Nation Governing body in searching for talented players who could be part of the team in Tokyo and beyond. The Home Nations are instrumental in grass roots development and work hard to get potential athletes involved in the sport.

David Wetherill Slovenia 2014 1

European bronze medalist David Wetherill

These events provide a free opportunity for any disabled person to come 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, as well as those with learning difficulties and is one of the most inclusive of the Paralympic sports.

Since taking four medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games the GB team has gone from strength to strength. It enjoyed its most successful ever European Championships last year with 11 medals and now boasts two current World number ones in World champion Will Bayley and double European champion Rob Davies among its brightest prospects for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 5

GB Pathway athlete Tom Matthews

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. In addition to Matthews, who won European team gold and singles bronze in 2015, other players to come through the Pathway Squad are 17 year old Billy Shilton and 16 year old Megan Shackleton, who also won European medals in their first major championship last year.

“We have a very talented GB squad,” said GB Pathway and Development Coach Shaun Marples, “but we are always planning for the future. 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 Cardiff runs from 11.00am – 3.00pm on Saturday, March 12 at the Welsh Institute of Sport and the event in Plymouth runs from 11.00am – 2.00pm at Eggbuckland College. Anyone wanting further information should call 0114 261 8681.

Selection for the Paralympics means everything to GB athletes

Following the announcement of the table tennis team selected to represent ParalympicsGB in Rio in September, this is what it means to the athletes:

Will Bayley (men’s class 7)

20160307 Copyright onEdition 2016© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition British Table Tennis Player Will Bayley from Poole who has been named as a member of ParalympicsGB. ParalympicsGB is the name for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Paralympic Team that competes at the summer and winter Paralympic Games. The Team is selected and managed by the British Paralympic Association, in conjunction with the national governing bodies,  and is made up of the best sportsmen and women who compete in the 22 summer and 4 winter sports on the Paralympic Programme. Media enquiries for ParalympicsGB should be addressed to the ParalympicsGB Press Office T: 07717 587 055 E: press@paralympics.org.uk If you require a higher resolution image or you have any other onEdition photographic enquiries, please contact onEdition on 0845 900 2 900 or email info@onEdition.com This image is copyright onEdition 2016©. This image has been supplied by onEdition and must be credited onEdition. The author is asserting his full Moral rights in relation to the publication of this image. Rights for onward transmission of any image or file is not granted or implied. Changing or deleting Copyright information is illegal as specified in the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. If you are in any way unsure of your right to publish this image please contact onEdition on 0845 900 2 900 or email info@onEdition.com

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The 28 year old from Tunbridge Wells, who is based at the EIS in Sheffield, took silver in the singles in London after losing an emotional final to double Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert from Germany. He has since become World champion in China in 2014, defeating Wollmert along the way, and is the current World number one in men’s class 7.

“Being selected for another Paralympic Games means everything to me – it’s my life. I love table tennis and to be selected to compete for your country at a Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of any table tennis player’s career.

“London was special. It sometimes felt like an out of body experience. But I performed well under tremendous pressure. I learnt so much and feel stronger mentally because of it.

“Preparation for Rio is going great. I’m on the right road, working hard and staying focused.
I want to be the best prepared in the world and perform to the best of my ability. If I can do that then I’ll be happy.”

Jane Campbell (women’s class 3)

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The 47 year old Londoner, who combines her table tennis with her job as a research director for a market research company, won a Paralympic team bronze with Sara Head in the women’s class 1-3 team event in 2012 and reached the quarter-finals of the women’s class 3 singles in the World Championships in 2014.

“It is a huge honour and a privilege to be a part of ParalympicsGB once more and nothing could make me feel happier.

“Competing in London and winning a bronze medal with Sara is the highlight of my life so far. It was a truly incredible feeling competing with the whole home crowd supporting us.

“We have an intensive training programme in place leading up to Rio and I feel confident that this will get me to the best possible level when the competition starts. It would be fantastic to get another medal but the standard is extremely high and I know that it will only be possible if I put in all the hard work needed between now and Rio.”

Kim Daybell (men’s class 10)

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The 23 year old from Sheffield has taken a year out of his medical studies at Leeds University to prepare for Rio and has been dividing his time between training with the GB squad in Sheffield and with the national squad in Slovenia.

“Being selected for the Paralympic Games means everything. It’s the culmination of four years hard work. To be selected to be a part of the ParalympicsGB team is the ultimate goal in our sport and I am honoured to be competing in a GB shirt.

“London was like nothing I have experienced before. To play in front of a home crowd at a home Games was something that can never be replicated. Four years on I am a much wiser and technically better player. As a squad we have become much more professional and grown closer as a team and it is showing in our results.

“Preparation for Rio is going well. My time in Slovenia has helped to develop my game and play at a faster pace. Being a full time athlete has made a big difference to my game. I am sharper and quicker and will be in the best shape possible in September.”

Paul Davies (men’s class 1)

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The 49 year old from North Cornelly was one of the stars of the GB team in London, winning a bronze in the men’s class 1 singles. The following year he took silver in the European Championships, losing in the final to his great friend and team mate Rob Davies, and then combined with his fellow Welshman to take gold in the team event. After missing two years of competition due to injury he is back in training and fully focused on Rio.

“It means the world to me to be selected and compete for ParalympicsGB after a long injury out, but this has made me even more determined to achieve higher results.

“London 2012 was massive for me as I won a bronze medal in the singles. Experiencing the support around me was fantastic, that experience from London 2012 gives me more focus to be ready for Rio.

“My preparation is going really well since I’ve come back from injury and I feel that I will be even stronger and more focused than ever before, so the next six months is all about work on my training and fitness.

“My hope for Rio is to defend my bronze medal or go one step further for a silver or even gold; but just to be selected is an achievement to me.”

Rob Davies (men’s class 1)

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The 31 year old former rugby player from Brecon was disappointed to be knocked out of the singles competition in London in the group stages but has since fought back to become double European champion and is the current World number one in men’s class 1.

“Being selected by ParalympicsGB is a relief and it’s another chance for me to prove that I can produce my best on the biggest stage. Not many people get to put that GB kit on and I want to do that ‘lion head logo’ proud.

“London was phenomenal. I’ve never experienced anything like it before; it was breath-taking coming out into that home crowd, the roar when they announced the GB athletes you just can’t describe. I’d never have thought I’d be playing table tennis in front of thousands of people screaming their support for you; it was just an incredible feeling.

“I’ve improved so much since then and it was London that definitely inspired me. Before London I was an outside chance but in Brazil I will go in as one of the favourites. A lot of people have helped me get to this position and I’m going to keep putting the work in to try and make those people proud. Like every athlete I want the gold medal but the competition will be really tough and I know that any medal in Paralympic table tennis is an achievement.

“Preparation is going well; I’m excited to be going to Brazil and I’m confident after a good solid spell of training that I can now go there and perform at my best injury-free. I’ve been hitting the gym consistently now and getting plenty of table time too so I’m happy with the way my preparation is going.”

Sue Gilroy MBE (women’s class 4)

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The 43 year old primary school teacher from Barnsley will be competing in her fifth Paralympic Games. A former Commonwealth and European champion she took silver in the World Championships in China in 2014 and is world ranked number four in women’s class 4.

“Being selected to play for GB in my fifth Paralympic Games makes me incredibly proud. To represent your country on so many occasions is something you can only dream of and to win a Paralympic medal would be the icing on the cake.

“London was a fantastic experience. The support from our country was incredible and that really boosts you as an athlete when you are competing. It will be very difficult to improve on London but I am really looking forward to seeing how Rio can build on the success of London.

“My preparation for Rio has been going really well. My game is going from strength to strength and competing in the able bodied league has really helped my match play. My coaches Neil Robinson, Mick Travis, Brian Barrett, Greg Baker, Farrel Anthony and Matt Kenny have helped me improve my game so much. I am really looking forward to competing in Rio in September.

“After missing out on medals in my previous Paralympic Games, my dream would be to win a Paralympic medal and become Paralympic champion.”

Sara Head (women’s class 3)

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The 35 year old from Beddau won a bronze medal with Jane Campbell in the women’s class 1-3 team event in London 2012 and has been working hard to recover that form after two years hampered by illness and injury.

“It’s a very emotional feeling to be selected for my second Paralympic Games. I’m so incredibly proud to have another amazing chance to represent my country and showcase how brilliant and exhilarating table tennis is. Competing in London at a home Games was such a huge experience – it’s one that will never leave me. The emotions, the support – it was overwhelming and it really does inspire me in my training.

“Preparation for Rio is going well. The next few months are all mapped out to help us peak as we arrive in Rio, to be match ready and to be at our very best. I’m confident with the plans we have in place and believe they will help me reach my full potential by the time the competition starts. I know I will be very ready when Rio arrives.

“Winning team bronze in London has given me the hunger to want to achieve another medal. Most of all I want to play extremely well and come away saying I gave it my all.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5)

20160307 Copyright onEdition 2016© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition British Table Tennis Player Jack Hunter-Spivey from Liverpool who has been named as a member of ParalympicsGB. ParalympicsGB is the name for the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Paralympic Team that competes at the summer and winter Paralympic Games. The Team is selected and managed by the British Paralympic Association, in conjunction with the national governing bodies,  and is made up of the best sportsmen and women who compete in the 22 summer and 4 winter sports on the Paralympic Programme. Media enquiries for ParalympicsGB should be addressed to the ParalympicsGB Press Office T: 07717 587 055 E: press@paralympics.org.uk If you require a higher resolution image or you have any other onEdition photographic enquiries, please contact onEdition on 0845 900 2 900 or email info@onEdition.com This image is copyright onEdition 2016©. This image has been supplied by onEdition and must be credited onEdition. The author is asserting his full Moral rights in relation to the publication of this image. Rights for onward transmission of any image or file is not granted or implied. Changing or deleting Copyright information is illegal as specified in the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. If you are in any way unsure of your right to publish this image please contact onEdition on 0845 900 2 900 or email info@onEdition.com

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The 20 year old from Liverpool was part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme in 2012 and secured qualification for his first Paralympic Games by taking silver in the China Open last November. Now based with the GB team in Sheffield he is world ranked number six in men’s class 5 after some good results in last month’s Italian Open.

“Being selected to represent GB in a Paralympic Games means everything to me. To represent my country at the highest level is something I’ve dreamt about for as long as I can remember, and for it to become a reality is unbelievably special for me.

“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is the overall experience of a Paralympic Games; to be part of one of the biggest sporting events in the world is something not many people can say they have done and something I am incredibly proud of.

“I feel my preparation for Rio is going really well. I have an amazing team around me helping me improve every day and I feel I am playing the best table tennis I’ve ever played. I’ve had some big results already this season and I’m really excited to compete in my first Paralympic Games.

“With Rio being my first games my biggest hope is to just go out there and show what I can do. On my day I know I can beat anyone in the world but I just want to take every game as it comes and take it from there.”

Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6)

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20160307 Copyright onEdition 2016©

The 30 year old Swansea City fan will be competing in his third Paralympic Games and last year proved himself to be one of the best players in the world in class 6, taking bronze in the singles and silver in the team at the European Championships.

“Being selected to represent GB in a Paralympic Games means a lot – it’s such a privilege and an honour to be able to compete for my country and competing in a Paralympics is an indescribable experience and gives you a lot of pride. It is such a fantastic thing to be a part of.

“Since London I have been training really hard and have developed different aspects of my game so I think I have improved a lot and that, coupled with more experience and maybe more maturity as a player, has made me a lot better since London.

“My preparation is going really well for Rio – I am training hard and feeling good. I had a good competition in the Italian Open last month and I think I will be in good form and shape come Rio.”

Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 8)

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20160307 Copyright onEdition 2016©

The Sheffield based 24 year old from Wandsworth won a team bronze medal with Will Bayley and Ross Wilson in London and secured his qualification for Rio by winning the China Open last November, beating the Chinese world number two Ye Chao Qun in the final.

“It’s a massive privilege to be selected for GB and to be representing my country in probably the biggest event in the world. I have worked hard for this and I’m very pleased the BPA have shown faith in my ability to select me. Now it’s time to push on from here and repay their faith by performing at my best in Rio.

“London was magical, to have your family and friends there supporting you was a special feeling. It will be hard for another Games to live up to something as special as London but I think Rio is still going to be a very special Games. I feel I have improved a lot since London – physically and in my overall ability and maturity as a person. I’m really looking forward to the event.

“Rio preparation has been going brilliantly; as a team we are in a great position at the moment and we have the support of a great team behind us who are making sure we are covering every base to be our best by the time the Rio 2016 Games begin.

“I would like to improve on London; as a team we are looking to better our results and I feel on my day I can beat any opponent I come across. This being said every player who qualifies for a Paralympic Games is world class so every match will be like a final.”

David Wetherill (men’s class 6)

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20160307 Copyright onEdition 2016©

The 26 year old from Torpoint will be competing in his third Paralympic Games and produced some great performances at the European Championships in Denmark last year to take bronze in the men’s class 6 singles and silver in the team event.

“Being selected for another Paralympic Games means everything to me. Rio is all that I have been working towards. I am a very different player than I was in London and it will be interesting to see the effects of the improvements I’ve made.

“My preparation is going okay; I haven’t hit my top form yet this year but it’s all about peaking for September and I am hoping to do myself justice in Rio.”

Ross Wilson (men’s class 8)

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The Sheffield based 20 year old from Minster reached the semi-finals of the singles and won a team bronze in London when just 17 years old. Ranked World number two in men’s class 8 at the end of 2012 he has since had to overcome a series of injuries but came back to take a team bronze medal in the European Championships last October – his first major championship and only his fourth competition since London.

“Being selected for the Paralympic Games means everything to me. It’s been a very tough couple of years and I am so pleased to have come out of it being qualified for Rio.

“Competing in London was incredible. The support from the public was out of this world and it was an honour to be a part of something so special.

“My preparation for Rio is going very well. Training has been very tough and I have loved every second of it. With the main goal being Rio a lot of work has been put into preparation before this year so it will be nice to see all my hard work put to the test.

“I hope to get out there and do myself, my family and the rest of Great Britain proud. I’m looking to better my results from London and try to get in the medals in the singles. I’d also like us to come back stronger as a team and do well in the team event after a bronze medal in London.”

Posted in GB

Twelve athletes selected to take on World’s best in Rio

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) today announced that ParalympicsGB will field 12 table tennis players at the Rio 2016 Games, confirming the athletes selected to compete in one of the most fast-paced sports on the programme.

640x347_table_tennis_Rio_2016_teamThe line-up of athletes includes current World number ones Will Bayley and Rob Davies, with the team brimming with experience gained from London 2012.

Current Paralympic bronze medallists Paul Davies, Sara Head, Jane Campbell, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson return for their second Games, while Sue Gilroy MBE, Paul Karabardak, David Wetherill and Kim Daybell proved their case in a competitive selection process and earn their place on the team.

Liverpool’s Jack Hunter-Spivey also impressed during selection and is now set to make his Paralympic debut in Rio.

Will Bayley, the 28 year old from Tunbridge Wells now based at the EIS in Sheffield, took silver in the singles in London after losing an emotional final to double Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert from Germany.

He has since become World champion in China in 2014, defeating Wollmert along the way, and is the current World number one in men’s class 7.

“Being selected for another Paralympic Games means everything to me – it’s my life. I love table tennis and to be selected to compete for your country at a Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of any player’s career.

“London was special. It sometimes felt like an out of body experience, but I performed well under tremendous pressure. I learnt so much and feel stronger mentally because of it.”

Rob Davies, the 31 year old former rugby player from Brecon, was disappointed to be knocked out of the singles competition at London 2012 in the group stages but has since fought back to become double European champion and is the current World number one in men’s class 1.

“After working so hard, it’s a relief to be selected and I’m really excited to be part of the team for Rio, it’s another chance for me to prove that I can produce my best on the biggest stage. Not many people get to put that GB kit on and I want to do everyone proud.

“It was London that definitely inspired me and I’ve improved so much since then. Before London I was an outside chance but in Brazil I will go in as one of the favourites. Like every athlete I want the gold medal but the competition will be really tough.”

Penny Briscoe MBE, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Rio 2016, said:

“These talented players have put a huge amount of hard graft in to earn their selection, and I’m delighted to announce that they’re now part of the ParalympicsGB team for Rio.

“Paralympic table tennis is fiercely competitive and huge credit should go to Performance Director Gorazd Vecko and his team who have continued to build on the work that resulted in four medals at London 2012. These players are very bright prospects for Rio, and behind them are the next generation of athletes for Tokyo 2020, so it’s a hugely exciting time for this sport.”

Performance Director Gorazd Vecko said:

“Four years ago we had nine players qualified for London and we now have 12 players qualified for Rio so we are in a better position than we were in 2012 when we won four medals.

“Our target is four to six medals and we are on track to achieve that. For the first time we have two athletes who are World number one in their class – Rob Davies in men’s class 1 and Will Bayley in men’s class 7 – and we have three other players in the top five in the World.

“The players are working hard and have also been training abroad which will bring them to a higher level but we should not forget that other countries are also working hard and it will be a massive challenge for us. We are doing everything we can to ensure our players are ready in September and we hope the results will be there.”

Today’s announcement brings the number of selected athletes to a total of 22, across the sports of sailing, judo and table tennis.

Selected athletes (table tennis):

Will Bayley (class 7)

Jane Campbell (class 3)

Paul Davies (class 1)

Rob Davies (class 1)

Kim Daybell (class 10)

Sue Gilroy (class 4)

Sara Head (class 3)

Jack Hunter-Spivey (class 5)

Paul Karabardak (class 6)

Aaron McKibbin (class 8)

David Wetherill (class 6)

Ross Wilson (class 8)

GB stars shine at National Championships

The GB Para Table Tennis Team dominated the Butterfly Michael Hawkesworth Championships (BTTAD National Championships) in Grantham this weekend with Kim Daybell (Men’s Open Standing), Jack Hunter-Spivey (Men’s Open wheelchair) and Sue Gilroy (Ladies Open Wheelchair) all winning National Open titles.

After beating class 7 World number one Will Bayley in the semi-finals Daybell recovered from losing the first set of the final to beat Ross Wilson 3-1 and win the National Men’s Open Standing title for the sixth time.

Kim Daybell France 2The 23 year old from Sheffield, who has taken a year out of his medical studies at Leeds University to focus on preparing for Rio, had earlier retained his men’s class 10 title and is unbeaten in all matches at the BTTAD National Championships.

“I was pleased to win today with the level going up and up all the time,” he said. “It’s a good thing for the sport that every year it is becoming more and more difficult for me to retain my title. I know the other GB players very well – we train together so they know how I play and they are all fantastic players in their own right. It is always difficult to play against your friends and people you know well so I was pleased today that I was able to pull it out of the bag.”

Daybell has been spending time training with the national squad in Slovenia and is clearly benefiting from being able to train full time.

“I think I am a lot sharper than last year when I was studying and training,” said Daybell. “Just having more matches and table time has helped me to tighten up my game and make less mistakes than I used to and I feel now that in crucial points when it is close at the end of sets I can rely on my shots whereas maybe last year it was a bit hit and miss. I am also getting used to playing at a higher pace, training in Slovenia with some really strong able bodied players, so that has helped me to improve.”

Wilson had the consolation of winning the men’s class 8 title, beating his GB team partner Aaron McKibbin 3-2 in the final, and then combined with McKibbin to beat Will Bayley and Billy Shilton in the final of the Men’s Open Standing Doubles.

Gilroy was winning the Ladies Open Wheelchair title for the 21st time and clinched the title in the round-robin event with a battling 3-2 win over defending champion and GB team mate Sara Head, coming back from 9-3 down in the fifth to win 14-12.

Sue Gilroy Vejle 2015“I was really pleased that I managed to come back because normally I struggle with a match like that,” said Gilroy. “I slowed things down and took my time a bit more than I normally do. I didn’t play so well yesterday but today was a lot better – a lot more controlled – so things are coming together. I would rather play the number one in the world than my own teammates. I always find the Nationals hard when you are playing people you practice and train with all the time. It is one of the hardest tournaments for me. I’d like to say a big thank you to Mick Travis, Brian Barrett, Farrel Anthony and Neil Robinson who have been training with me while Arnie (Chan) has been out and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey Nat Champs 2015 2Hunter-Spivey won the class 4-5 title on Saturday and followed that up by retaining his Men’s Open Wheelchair title, beating Kevin Plowman 3-0 in the final. The 20 year old from Liverpool is now ranked number six in the World in class 5 and is improving all the time.

“It’s amazing to retain my title,” he said, “and it means a lot to me to be National champion. Kevin and I have had a lot of close matches in the past so I was really pleased to win. I think I have improved a lot in the past year – I’m playing my shots a lot more so I’m really happy.”

Hunter-Spivey was denied a clean sweep of titles when he and Megan Shackleton were beaten 3-1 in the final of the Open Wheelchair Doubles by London 2012 medalists Jane Campbell and Sara Head.

Also among the winners were Rob Davies (Class 1-2), Kevin Plowman (Class 3), Paul Karabardak (Class 6), Will Bayley (Class 7), Ashley Facey Thompson (Class 9), Adam Thompson (Class 11), Zoe Castle (Class 11B), Andrew Green (Junior Wheelchair), Fliss Pickard (Ladies Open Standing) and Lawrence John (Junior Open Standing).

Player of the Tournament was awarded to Zoe Castle and Junior Player of the Tournament went to Jack Stockdale.

Posted in GB

GB Team continues Talent for Tokyo search

The GB Para Table Tennis Team is preparing for this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio but is already looking towards the 2020 Games in Tokyo with two Talent Recruitment Days next month in Cardiff (March 12) and Plymouth (March 13).

These events provide a free opportunity for any disabled person to come 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, as well as those with learning difficulties and is one of the most inclusive of the Paralympic sports.

Rob Davies Vejle 2015

Current men’s class 1 World number one and double European champion Rob Davies

Since taking four medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games the GB team has gone from strength to strength. It enjoyed its most successful ever European Championships last year with 11 medals and now boasts two current World number ones in World champion Will Bayley and double European champion 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 won European medals in their first major championship last year.

“We have a very talented GB squad,” said GB Pathway and Development Coach Shaun Marples, “but we are always planning for the future. 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 Cardiff runs from 11.00am – 3.00pm on Saturday, March 12 at the Welsh Institute of Sport and the event in Plymouth runs from 11.00am – 2.00pm at Eggbuckland College. Anyone wanting further information should call 0114 261 8681.

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