Three team medals for GB in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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McKibbin takes gold in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GB players look for Road to Rio in China

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

Sue Gilroy 1

Sue Gilroy

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

The full list of athletes competing in China is:

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

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GB Team searches for new talent for Tokyo

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

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

Billy Shilton

Billy Shilton

BWeltranglistenturnier in der Oberfrankenhalle Bayreuth;   Fotograf Petra Steyer

Megan Shackleton

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

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

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

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Cippenham Table Tennis Club Player of the Year 2015 Award – Shae Thakker

Cippenham Table Tennis Club celebrated the nineteenth anniversary of the opening of the purpose-built Centre with a party and awards presentation tonight. The evening was organised and presided over by Charles Mitchell who began by presenting chocolate gifts to the Club’s many volunteers.shae

Next was the Alan Farral and Terry Boxall Junior Players of the Year Award. The presentations were made by Club Chairman and Head Coach Ken Phillips. The choices were obvious: Jemma Walker for the great progress she has made in the last year, culminating in a 100% performance during the second half of the Junior British League to steer her team to the divisional title; and Shae Thakker, the youngest ever Club champion and this weekend the Club’s latest internationally recognised player.

Shae goes to many table tennis events and trains hard as part of our BTTAD Development squad.

Congratulations Shae !!!


Shilton and Pickard take gold in Belgium

Gloucestershire teenager Billy Shilton and 21 year old Felicity Pickard, from Burnley, were the stars of the Belgian Open for the GB Para Table Tennis team taking gold in their respective singles events. There were bronze medals in the singles for 17 year old Daniel Bullen (men’s class 5) and 21 year old Martin Perry, who also took silver in the men’s class 6 team event with 18 year old Conor McAdam, and team medals for Will Bayley and Ashley Facey Thompson and the young Welsh pair Lawrence John and Joshua Morgan.

Following the European Championships in Denmark last month, when Shilton took individual bronze and team silver in men’s class 7, the ITTF Para Table Tennis Committee made the decision to look at his classification and the 17 year old, who was classified in class 7 in December 2013, competed here in Belgium in class 8 to allow the international classifier to observe him and make a decision regarding his future classification.

Billy Shilton Belgium 2015 3With two wins from three in his group matches Shilton progressed to the knockout stages and a 3-0 win over the Frenchman Lewis Dalby in the last 16 took him through to the quarter-finals. The withdrawal of Belgian Marc Ledoux gave him a walkover into the semi-finals and a 3-1 win over former European champion Marcin Skrzynecki from Poland took him into his first singles final and a rematch against Fabian Rignell from Sweden, who had beaten Shilton 3-0 in the group stages.

This time it was Shilton who proved the stronger in a 3-2 win to take his first singles gold medal.

“Playing in class 8 was quite difficult to be honest,” admitted Shilton, “but I think I coped with it quite well. I just tried to relax and play my table tennis. In the final I had extra motivation having lost to him in the group stages and I was really happy with how I played. I think I was a bit more focused and had a game plan whereas before I just played table tennis but in the final I had a clear cut idea of what I needed to do.”

Felicity Pickard Belgium 2015Pickard took a break from international competition after the Slovenia Open last year and has since been focusing on training. She showed her improvement and belied her ranking in the round robin women’s class 6 singles event, starting with a 3-2 win over top seed and 2010 World champion Katarzyna Marszal from Poland, holding her nerve to win a very tight match 14-12 in the fifth. She went on to clinch the gold medal with 3-0 wins over Russian World number 11 Svetlana Nesterenko and Tatiana Ledovskaia, also from Russia.

“I’m really happy,” said Pickard. “I just tried to focus on my game and stay more relaxed. I saved seven match points in my first match – I just kept focused and she got a bit tight which helped me and that gave me great confidence for the rest of my matches. Now I know I can handle those situations and stay relaxed it gives me great motivation for the future. The goal here was just to see how I could cope with international competition so to win gold is a bonus and now I can push on with my training.”

Daniel Bullen Belgium 2015 2Bullen, from St Neots, progressed from his group with 3-1 wins over Sem Roelofs from the Netherlands and the Japanese player Kentaro Doi, which earned him a semi-final against home favourite Bart Brands. The Belgian was always in control in a 3-0 win but it was a promising performance by the young GB Pathway player.

“I had two good wins in my group,” said Bullen, “and I feel that I have started to play like to play at home – I’m in control of my nerves a lot more which gives me a lot more confidence and I’ve got a new wheelchair which I’ve only been playing in for a week so that gives me confidence for the future as well.”

Perry began his singles competition with a narrow 3-2 loss to Jacobus Meiland from the Netherlands but reached the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Junki Itai from Japan. Another very close match resulted this time in a 3-2 win for the Paisley player against the Australian Trevor Hirth which took him into a semi-final against Michael Azulay. The experienced Swede, who took bronze in the team event at last month’s European Championships, was just too strong in a 3-1 win but Perry was pleased with his performance.

Martin Perry Belgium 2015“I feel I played very well overall,” said Perry. “My first match I lost so closely in the fifth that I knew I had found some rhythm and I felt I really kicked on from that in my next match. My quarter final was so tight and I felt Trevor (Hirth) and I played great table tennis. In the semi against Azulay I feel it’s the best I’ve ever played against him and I feel I really could have won the match.”

Perry then teamed up with fellow Scot McAdam, from Ayr, in the round robin men’s class 6 team event and after a hard-fought 3-2 win over a combined team from Russia and Kazakhstan and a 3-0 win over Belgium they played Azulay and Hirth in their final match to decide the gold medal. The GB pair played well to take the doubles 3-1 but had to be content with silver as the Swedish/Australian pair took the match 3-1.

Conor McAdam 2“In my final match I lost to Hirth 12-10 in the fifth,” said Perry, “which was really quite hard to take as I had fought back from 8-2 down to lead 10-8 but I can only take the positives from that and I kept fighting to the end. I feel that I’m really starting to show the level of discipline that’s needed to be a top player. Conor and I won the doubles in our last match which was a really good performance and I’m happy with silver.”

“This was my first international medal so I’m very happy,” said McAdam. “Hopefully there will be many more to come but it’s good to get my first one. I think I played well and it was nice to win a medal with Martin – we’ve known each other since we both started playing so it’s nice that we’ve both come this far.”

Bayley, 27, the men’s class 7 World champion, was playing here in the team event only with 20 year old Londoner Facey Thompson and they began the round robin men’s class 9 team event with 3-0 wins over a French/Korean combination and Germany. A 3-2 win against Italy meant their final match against Belgium was to decide the gold medal but the GB pair had to settle for silver after a 3-2 loss to the newly crowned men’s class 9 European champions.

“We did well to get silver,” said Bayley. “We had some good wins against Germany and Italy and only lost 3-2 to Belgium so it was close. The doubles was the key match really. The young players have done really well here and it’s been nice to support them – I’ve really enjoyed it.”

“It’s been an up and down tournament for me,” admitted Facey Thompson. “I won all my group matches but lost 3-2 in the quarter finals of the singles after I had fought back from 2-0 down. The team was also a bit up and down although Will and I played well in the doubles so I was happy with that.”

The Welsh partnership of John, 17, from Swansea, and 24 year old Morgan from Cardiff reached the semi-finals of the men’s class 10 team event with a 3-2 win over the Netherlands but found the partnership of Austrian former able bodied player Krisztian Gardos and Igor Misztal from Poland too strong in a 3-0 loss and took the bronze.

“Overall I think the tournament has been a massive success,” said GB Development Coach Shaun Marples, “especially Felicity, not only getting her first win but to win gold, and Billy, who has been able to channel his focus to win class 8 – his first singles’ title as well. They both deserve great credit and have been working hard in training back home. The rest of the Pathway players have all come away with wins and gained valuable experience as well and are great prospects for the future.”

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Young GB players head to Belgium

A squad of 13 players will be representing GB in the Belgium Open in Sint Niklaas this weekend (October 31-November 2). Performance Squad athletes Will Bayley and Ashley Facey Thompson will be joined by six members of the Pathway Squad, including 17 year old Billy Shilton, and three members of the Development Squad.

Ashley Facey Thompson

Ashley Facey Thompson

The full list of athletes is:

Performance Squad:
Will Bayley – class 7, from Tunbridge Wells/Sheffield
Ashley Facey Thompson – class 9, from Stratford (London)

Pathway Squad:
Daniel Bullen – class 5, from St Neots
Felicity Pickard – class 6, from Burnley
Martin Perry – class 6, from Paisley
Conor McAdam – class 6, from Ayr
Billy Shilton – class 8, from Stonehouse/Sheffield
Lawrence John – class 10, from Swansea (funded by Disability Sport Wales)

Development Squad:
Craig Allen – class 9, from Birmingham (self-funded)
Josh Morgan – class 10, from Cardiff (funded by Disability Sport Wales)
Shae Thakker – class 10, from Slough

Funded by Disability Sport Wales:
Tamlan Eastwood – class 7, from Swansea

Abisoye Jemiyo – class 2, from West Yorkshire

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Vecko looks to Rio after most successful European Championships for GB

GB Para Table Tennis Team Performance Director Gorazd Vecko has praised his young team’s achievement of taking 11 medals at the ITTF PTT European Championships in Denmark and is confident that the Paralympic Games in Rio next year can provide even greater success than London 2012.

Billy Shilton with Gorazd Vecko Vejle 2015“I think we need to be really happy with the performance,” said Vecko, who took over as Performance Director for GB in 2009, “because we took 11 medals and we were without Paul Davies in men’s class 1 so we might have had even more. We also had some tough draws in the quarter finals and women’s class 4 was combined with women’s class 5 otherwise Sue Gilroy could have taken a medal in the singles as well as the team.

“There were some big surprises with the young Pathway players Billy Shilton and Tom Matthews taking medals in the singles as well as the team and Megan Shackleton taking a team medal. For these young players to be competing in their first major championship and taking medals is a great result for our programme and all these athletes will be medal chances, if not in Rio, then in Tokyo for sure.

“In 2011 we took six medals at the European Championships and we went on to take four medals in London, which was a huge success because in Beijing we didn’t take any. Now with the best performance at a European Championships in history for GB with 11 medals I think we are looking good and we can hope to reach our targets in Rio. I don’t like to talk a lot about medals because there will be tough competition from other countries that are also focused on winning medals but we will be disappointed if we don’t achieve our target in Rio.”

With the qualification period for Rio ending on December 31 this year Vecko and head coach Greg Baker are looking to send players currently on the borderline of qualification to tournaments in Belgium, China and Costa Rica in a bid to achieve a high enough world ranking to secure their qualification for Brazil next year.

“Costa Rica in December will be the last tournament in the calendar,” said Vecko, “and after this we will know how many players are qualified but I expect us to have between 10-12 players qualified for selection to compete for ParalympicsGB in Rio.”

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Davies wins second gold as GB take four medals on last day of European Championships

Rob Davies and Tom Matthews took gold in the men’s class 1 team event on the final day of the ITTF PTT European Championships in Vejle, Denmark today after Germany withdrew from their final match due to injury. There were silver medals for Will Bayley and Billy Shilton (men’s class 7) and Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill (men’s class 6) and Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson took bronze in men’s class 8 to bring the total number of medals won by GB at these championships to 11.

Davies, 31, was delighted to successfully defend the European team title as well as his singles crown and for Matthews it was a first major title in his first major championship.

Rob Davies Vejle 2015“I’m really happy to retain both titles and this team one with Tom is a brilliant experience for him,” said Davies. “I know we didn’t get to play the last match against Germany because they are injured but you can only play who is in front of you. I’m very happy with the way I’m playing. I feel more at ease with myself and a bit more confident at the moment and going into next year that can only be good. I’ve just got to take it to the other continents now and try and beat the Koreans and whoever else comes our way as well as the Europeans.”

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 4“I’m over the moon,” said Matthews, “it’s been a great experience playing with Rob again. If someone had told me before I came out here that I would take two medals I would have bitten their hand off. I’m really happy at the moment. I’ve been in control of my nerves and just enjoyed playing my table tennis instead of getting all worked up about points. I’ve just been playing the way I can play and obviously it works.”

Although unable to defend the team title with Paul Davies, who is recovering from injury, Davies was pleased to win a second European team gold with another fellow Welshman.

“It is obviously good for the guys back home in Wales,” he said, “and good for the development of table tennis in Wales so the future is bright.”

Having beaten the World champions Spain earlier in the championships Bayley and Shilton were hoping to take out the double European champions Ukraine in today’s final. But World number two Maksym Nikolenko and World number three Mykhaylo Popov are a formidable team with years of experience playing together while Bayley and his 17 year old partner Shilton were playing together here for only the third time.

With the new team format the doubles is even more crucial and although the GB pair levelled the match at 1-1 Ukraine took the next two sets to win the match 3-1 and take a 1-0 lead. Bayley then played a superb match to beat the former European champion Popov 3-0 which left Shilton with the huge task of beating World silver medalist Nikolenko to take the gold.

Understandably the importance of the match proved too much for the Gloucestershire teenager at this stage of his young career and Nikolenko used all his experience to win 3-0 and secure the gold for Ukraine. It was nevertheless a great performance by Bayley and Shilton to take silver in their first major championship together.

Will Bayley Vejle 2015 3“The doubles was massive,” said Bayley, “and we were always behind. I didn’t play so well in the doubles and it was a shame because if we had taken that we would have won the match but – next time! I thought I produced my top play against Popov – I was using the table so well and playing really clever so I’m pleased with that. I’m really proud of what Billy has done. We’re disappointed to walk away with the silver medal and that shows you what a good team we are – we’re disappointed with coming second in the European Championships – that’s not bad is it for a few months playing together? It’s been a real pleasure to play with him.”

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 3“I think it was a good final,” said Shilton, “but I was a bit nervous especially in the last match against Nikolenko. I felt like I was really under pressure but I think we did really well to beat Spain and Germany on the way so I’m really happy with silver. I’m really enjoying playing team with Will as he is the best player in the world and to get experience with someone like that is really good – the pressure in the big matches and how he copes with it is something I need to bring into my game.
My motivation is really high now after losing that match and the semi-final in the singles. Playing in a major final is not something I am used to so to get the experience at such a young age is really good for me.”

Karabardak and Wetherill had to battle the home crowd as well as the might of former World, Paralympic and European champion Peter Rosenmeier and his team partner Michael Jensen. The Danish pair is an experienced doubles partnership and although Karabardak and Wetherill started well the Danes took the doubles 3-1.

In the first singles 30-year-old Karabardak from Swansea took on Rosenmeier in a repeat of their singles semi-final which the Danish world number two won in five sets. Rosenmeier, who was beaten in the final of the men’s class 6 singles by Alvaro Valera of Spain, was determined to give his home crowd something to cheer about and winning a tense second set 14-12 gave him a 2-0 advantage. Although Karabardak fought back to win the third 11-6 some inspired play from Rosenmeier took the fourth set 11-5 and clinched the gold for Denmark to the delight of the crowd.

Paul Karabardak Vejle 2015 6“I need to stop giving him the initiative and 2-0 leads,” said Karabardak. “At 2-0 down it is always hard. But it was a good match and he played really well so credit to him. He is a great player and he seems to play his best at the tight situations when it is most important. But I can take confidence because I think I have gone toe-to-toe with him and I was matching him so I’ll take confidence from that ready for next year if I play him in Rio.

“I’ve had some good wins here and I’ve been playing quite well so it is nice to know that I am one of the top players and if I play well I can beat anyone really so that will give me the confidence to try and take a medal in Rio.”

David Wetherill Vejle 2015 4“We got off to a pretty good start,” said Wetherill, “but they won two or three points and the crowd got behind them and you could feel the momentum building and to be fair to Peter, in particular, when it was close he played some unbelievable shots. We had some great support from our teammates and the people back home so we can’t complain in terms of our support. We did our best and although it is obviously disappointing to lose it is really encouraging because we haven’t really played together before and we can only get stronger. I’ve been carrying a bit of an injury and I’ve still come away with a bronze and silver so it’s quite pleasing really.”

Despite his obvious ability 25 year old Wetherill has struggled in the past to show his best form at major championships but with Rio less than a year away he has proved with two medals here that he can compete with the best on the biggest stage.

“It hasn’t been a mental problem really,” he explained, “it’s been more of a technical thing. My game has probably been a little too risky in the past and now I feel I’m getting more and more solid and when you’ve got that much confidence in your game you don’t feel as tight in the big situations no matter what stage it is. I’m pretty comfortable with my game and I know I’ve done the training and I know I can compete with these guys no matter what stage it is and I’m looking forward to it.”

In their semi-final McKibbin and Wilson faced the number one seeds Ukraine and the GB pair never really recovered from a slow start in the opening doubles match that they lost 3-0. Wilson, 20, then needed to beat the World and European champion Viktor Didukh in the first singles and although he competed well and had chances to win all three sets the Ukrainian World number one, who was a good able bodied player before losing a leg to cancer, just had the edge in a 3-0 win.

Aaron McKibbin Lignano 2014Although disappointed both McKibbin and Wilson can take plenty of positives away from these championships as well as a first European team medal.

“We knew the doubles was obviously going to be quite vital with Didukh playing,” said 24 year old Londoner McKibbin, “and we were quite confident we could do it but I feel like we just forced it a bit much knowing they are a good side and to be fair even when we got the balls into play they played very well. But it is our first major together since London and with Ross being injured we haven’t practiced any doubles and we can only go up from here.”

Ross Wilson Vejle 2015 8“Obviously playing against the World number one is always going to be difficult,” said Wilson, “but I think I am on quite a similar level to him and that is the biggest positive I can take from it. It is always nice to get a major medal and we have had some good results to get it. I would definitely have liked to have challenged them (Ukraine) a bit more. In doubles we could maybe have done a bit better and I just don’t like giving away a match that is not going to make the other person fight for their life for it as well so I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t play as well as I hoped I could. But it is still good to get a medal in the end. Rio has always been the main aim and hopefully the lead up to Rio can be good. I’m putting a lot of work in off the table to make sure that happens and I’ll work my hardest for Rio.”

Jane Campbell & Sara Head doubles Vejle 2015 2London 2012 bronze medalists Jane Campbell and Sara Head were bitterly disappointed to lose out on a medal in the women’s class 1-3 team event after losing their final match in the round-robin event to Croatia. They played well in the doubles despite losing in four close sets and Head put up a battling performance against Andela Muzinic, taking the second set against the World number four and pushing her all the way in a 3-1 loss.

The result meant that Croatia took the gold and with Italy beating France GB were one of three teams with two wins and lost out on a medal on countback.

“We came out fighting,” said Head. “We knew it was going to be on countback or we were going for gold. We fought as hard as we could it just wasn’t our day today.”

Campbell was able to take some positives from her performance here.

“I think I have been consistent under pressure when it mattered in the singles, particularly in the team event, and I can get a little bit of confidence from that. We need to put ourselves in a stronger position in the doubles and we know what we need to work on.”

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GB hoping for golden finish to European Championships

Rob Davies and Thomas Matthews (men’s class 1), Will Bayley and Billy Shilton (men’s class 7) and Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill (men’s class 6) are all one match away from winning team gold medals in the European PTT Championships in Vejle, Denmark tomorrow. The GB team could also reach the final of the men’s class 8 team event if Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson can win their semi-final in the morning and Sue Gilroy and 16 year old Megan Shackleton secured a bronze medal today in women’s class 4-5.

Rob Davies & Tom Matthews doubles Vejle 2015In the round robin men’s class 1 team Davies and Matthews had to fight hard for a 3-0 win in the doubles against Hungary. In the first singles Endre Major as always proved a tough opponent but having retained his European singles title Davies is playing with great confidence again and after losing the second set he took the next two for a 3-1 win.

“It was another tough match against him,” admitted Davies. “He is an awkward player and to beat him again in the singles – I’m really pleased. In the doubles Tom and I are just getting better and better through the tournament. We lost to them in Germany earlier in the year so to beat them 3-0 in the doubles shows just how far we have come on. So I’m really chuffed with the way things are going.”

Davies and Matthews will retain the European team title for GB if they beat Germany in their final match tomorrow.

“I’m staying more composed and just playing my table tennis,” said Matthews. “Germany tomorrow will be a really tough match so we’ve got to prepare for that in the same way as we’ve prepared for our other matches and just carry on doing what we’re doing.”

Bayley and Shilton had earlier assured themselves of a medal with a 2-0 win over Denmark in their final group match, winning the doubles 3-0 before Bayley beat Patrick Otte 3-0 to secure top position in their group and a semi-final against Germany. They made a good start in the doubles taking the first set before the experienced German pair of Jochen Wollmert and Thorsten Schwinn came back to take the second. Bayley and Shilton then pulled away and took the next two to secure a 3-1 win.

Bayley against Wollmert is always box office and the three time World and Paralympic champion is still a formidable opponent but 27 year old Bayley was in command today and a 3-1 win clinched the tie 2-0 and took GB into tomorrow’s final against Ukraine.

Will Bayley Vejle 2015“I’m very pleased,” said Bayley. “We have had some tough matches particularly against Spain and Germany so I’m pleased to come through. It wasn’t our best – I still think we have more to give in terms of ability but we’ll see what happens in the final. I can’t wait to play Ukraine – we are going to be really up for it. We haven’t beaten them for a long time so I’ll be giving it everything I’ve got to win that first European team title.”

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 2“We played a really good doubles against Germany,” said Shilton, “and Will finished it off with a good singles performance so I’m really looking forward to the final tomorrow. In the first set against Germany we didn’t know what to expect as I haven’t played them before with Will and it was a good win in the end. Hopefully me and Will can get revenge for Germany earlier this year when we lost in the final to Ukraine so I’m looking forward to it.”

Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill are playing in a team event together for the first time in 10 years but they have formed a good partnership already and came through a tough semi-final against Sweden 2-0, combining to win the doubles in four close sets before Karabardak clinched their place in tomorrow’s final with a 3-0 win over Michael Azulay.

They will play Denmark in tomorrow’s final after the home team overcame Russia 2-1 in their semi-final to the delight of the crowd.

Paul Karabardak & David Wetherill doubles Vejle 2015“Sweden are quite a good side and are in good form as they had beaten Germany so I knew it would be tough,” said Karabardak. “We struggled a bit in the doubles but we came through and then I had a bit of confidence from that which meant I went into the singles and played well. It was tough in the third set but I knew that if I just kept to my game plan I’d eventually sneak it.”

“I think we’ve played well considering we haven’t played together for so long,” said Wetherill. “It’s quite encouraging really as we’re in the final and we can only get better. We’ve got to take massive confidence from that and hopefully we can get the job done tomorrow.”

After their superb win against Poland yesterday Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson needed to beat Denmark to win their group. They got off to a slow start in the doubles but after losing the first set 11-4 they came back to win the next two. The fourth was point by point from 4-4 but Denmark finally took it 17-15 and when they reduced a 5-9 deficit in the final set to 9-9 the match was in the balance. But McKibbin and Wilson held their nerve to take the next two points and win the match 3-2. Wilson then completed a 2-0 win for GB with a 3-0 win over Kenneth Bech that put them through to the quarter-finals and they received a walkover when their intended opponents Hungary withdrew.

Aaron McKibbin & Ross Wilson doubles Vejle 2015“I think we always felt we were going to come through in the doubles but they played a really good game,” said McKibbin. “We didn’t get going straight away and managed to pull ourselves into the game slowly. They are up and coming young players and they also had the home crowd behind them so the pressure was on us. We were happy that we could hold our nerve and pull through.”

“It was quite difficult in the doubles,” agreed Wilson, “but we are just getting back to how we used to be in doubles and really trying to work on that. The singles was an expected win for me but against the home nation is always difficult as they have a lot of support here. I’d loved to have played Hungary as I was looking to try and get revenge on Csonka from the singles so I’m quite disappointed not to play. You want to earn your medal but I think because of the results we’ve had to top our group we maybe deserve to be in the semi-final.”

The GB pair play the number one seeds Ukraine tomorrow for a place in the final.

“We played them in Italy earlier this year and lost to them in the final,” said McKibbin, “but we’re feeling confident so we’ll go out there and see what we can do.”

Gilroy and Shackleton took on Germany in their final group match with a place in the semi-finals awaiting the winners. In the doubles the GB pair combined well to win the first two sets 11-9, 12-10 and then recovered from losing the third to take the fourth 11-6 and the match 3-1. Gilroy made a good start against Sandra Mikolaschek winning the first set 11-5 but the 18 year old World number five from Germany levelled at 1-1 and again at 2-2 after Gilroy had taken the third 11-9. With all to play for Gilroy used all her experience and determination to race into an 8-0 lead in the final set and a great forehand winner followed by a cry of ‘Come On!’ took her to 10-2. She only needed one of her eight match points to clinch the match 3-2 and take GB into a semi-final against Sweden.

Megan Shackleton & Sue Gilroy doubles Vejle 2015 2The combined talent of class 3 World number one and Paralympic champion Anna-carin Ahlquist and three time class 5 European champion Ingela Lundback proved too strong in the semi-final, although Gilroy and Shackleton competed well in the doubles in a 3-1 loss before Ahlquist showed all her class in a 3-0 win over Gilroy to win the tie for Sweden 2-0.

However, it was a good performance from the GB pair and they can be proud of their bronze medal.

“I lost to Mikolaschek twice in Germany earlier this year so to beat her here is a really good win,” said Gilroy. “To be honest once we knew we were playing Sweden we were so happy to beat Germany and Israel and get through to the semi-final we just wanted to relax and enjoy it. They are two such high class players and we are a very new team. She (Ahlquist) was too strong for me today but it’s great to have a team partner again and hopefully we’ll go onwards and upwards now and get stronger as we go on.”

“I’m so happy to come away with a medal at my first major championships,” said Shackleton. “It means a lot to me – I always come out to tournaments hoping to win things. I’ve gained a lot of experience through the pressure of the situations I’m in and I think I’ve handled it quite well.”

Daybell and Facey Thompson reached the quarter-finals with a thrilling 2-0 win against the Czech Republic in their final group match. At 2-0 and 9-5 down in the opening doubles match it did not look good for the GB pair but they came storming back to win the third set 11-9 and took the next two 11-4 and 11-7 to win the match 3-2.

Daybell was bitterly disappointed to lose in the quarter-final of the singles to the Czech Republic’s Ivan Karabec and he faced the former World and European champion again in the first singles match. After winning the first set Daybell was 10-6 up in the second only for Karabec to come back and win it 14-12 and take the next 11-9 for a 2-1 lead. But the 23 year old, who has taken a year out from his medical studies at Leeds University to prepare for Rio, responded with some great play to win the fourth set 11-4 and held his nerve superbly to win the fifth 11-7 for a memorable victory over the World number six.

Ashley Facey Thompson and Kim Daybell doubles Vejle 2015In the quarter-finals they came agonisingly close to beating France in the doubles – twice fighting back to level the scores but eventually losing 3-2. Facey Thompson, a class 9 player, made a great start against the class 10 World number 10 Mateo Boheas taking the first set 11-6 but the young Frenchman came back strongly to take the next three and win the match 3-1 and take France into the semi-finals.

“We’ve pushed all the best teams in doubles,” said Daybell, “and we’ve proved we can compete with the best teams in the world. I think the match against Karabec was a great match to watch – we both played really well and I was pleased that I was able to pick myself up after not having the best singles competition here. I was really pleased to win because he is still one of the top players and I proved to myself that I am still up there with him. I definitely feel that I’m up there and competing – I just need to bring it to the tournaments and I feel confident that I’ll be able to do that.”

“We are improving step by step,” said Facey Thompson. “Me and Kim are working well together and we are getting there. My backhand let me down a bit against Boheas and I think after the first set he was more on top of games and I was always trying to get myself back into it. To be fair he played well.”

The women’s class 1-3 team event is being played in a round robin format and Jane Campbell and Sara Head kept their medal hopes alive with a gutsy 2-1 win over Italy. After the GB pair lost the doubles 3-0 Head produced her best singles form of the tournament to beat World number six Michela Brunelli 3-1 and Campbell then won the deciding singles against Giada Rossi 3-1.

Jane Campbell & Sara Head doubles Vejle 2015“I think the fact that we lost the doubles inspired me on,” said Head. “We had nothing to lose at that point. She was getting nervous and I was getting more confident and that is what I’ve lacked in this competition so far. At least I’ve managed to bring some confidence back in to my game.”

“It was a must win match for us,” said Campbell, “and I was nervous but once Sara has done something so amazing I can’t not do it can I? We are in a countback position for a medal so we just have to go out tomorrow and try our best.”

The GB pair are still in with a chance of a medal and play their final match against the number one seeds Croatia tomorrow.

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