European medallists lead British Para Table Tennis Team challenge at US Open

A small but select squad will represent the British Para Table Tennis Team at this week’s PTT US Open in Las Vegas (December 13-15), the final tournament of the 2017 season. Paralympic champion Will Bayley will be joined by fellow European medallists Kim Daybell and Martin Perry and the squad is completed by Rio Paralympian Jack Hunter-Spivey and 17 year old Welshman Josh Stacey, who took team gold and singles bronze on his international debut in Belgium in October.

Bayley won his seventh consecutive major medal when he took European bronze in the men’s class 7 singles in October, Perry was part of the men’s class 6 team that won gold and Daybell produced his best ever result at a major championship by taking silver in the men’s class 10 team event.

“The Europeans was one of my best tournaments,” Kim Daybell and Ash Facey Thompson fist pumpsaid Daybell, who is in the final year of a medical degree at Leeds University, “and it was really good to take a medal there having never taken a major medal before. So I’ll go in feeling good about my game but I know that I need to go through the same process that I did before to try and reproduce that performance again. I just want to finish the year on a high. It has been a really good year for the whole team so it would be nice to finish with a medal and feel that I have played well and round off what has been a really good season.”

Also competing for Britain in Las Vegas will be self-funded athlete and Sydney Paralympian Farrel Anthony in men’s class 7.

Local award for Craig Allen

British Para Table Tennis Development Squad athlete Craig Allen has won the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Sports Partnerships Disabled Sportsperson of the Year.  The 23 year old from Bromsgrove won gold in the class 9 singles at this year’s Romania International Junior Open and recently qualified as a UK/CC Level 2 Table Tennis Coach.

Craig Allen & Kate Richardson-Walsh 23 11 17The ceremony was attended by guest speaker Olympic hockey gold medallist Kate Richardson-Walsh OBE and Craig received his award from Carol Hart, Community Foundation Manager of Warriors Community Foundation, who sponsored the award.

“I feel very honoured to have won the award,” said Craig, “as I was up against very stiff opposition and all would have been worthy winners.  It was a fantastic evening and this award is really a thank you to all the many coaches who have either coached me or continue to coach me on my journey.  A special thanks to Ed Lynn from Colebridge Table Tennis Club, who deals with all my highs and lows and gives me his unwavering support.”

Table tennis provides new sporting challenge for Dame Katherine Grainger

UK Sport Chair and Olympic rowing legend Dame Katherine Grainger paid her first visit to the British Para Table Tennis training base at the EIS in Sheffield and showed that the competitive flame still burns within her as she enjoyed a hit with double Paralympic medallist Ross Wilson and even took part in a training exercise with head coach Greg Baker.

Katherine Grainger with Tom, Megan and Gorazd“I’d heard a lot about the EIS in Sheffield,” said Dame Katherine, “and what an amazing training base it is; the superstars that have trained here – Olympians and Paralympians and World champions. So there are always high expectations when you walk through the door but it was lovely and the team were incredibly welcoming. I think it is a very hard mix to get right but there is a wonderful balance here of completely professional, really high standards of competition and excellence but a very friendly, very open, family feel. I think all sports try and marry those and it is hard to get it right but this sport has got it right. It is an incredible set up and it has been a great first visit but it is definitely just the first of many.”

The London 2012 Olympic champion was quick to take up the challenge of playing and admitted that the table tennis table at UK Sport may now become a destination during any rare spare time in her hectic working day.

Katherine Grainger coached by Greg“Despite having to admit I am not an athlete any more I think the competitive gene is hard to bury underneath my normal working life,” she said. “So when it gets the opportunity to resurface it comes up very quickly. It is a new sport for me so I want to be good at it. It is a hard sport and a punishing sport but it is fun and I could have stayed here and played for hours to be honest. The coaches were lovely and gave me a couple of bits of advice and the athletes did as well – they were very encouraging and you can see yourself making little improvements. I can see the table at UK Sport from my window where my desk is but I haven’t had a spare moment in my day to go down and enjoy it. It is about getting a balance in your daily working day so maybe a bit of escapism to play table tennis could be my way forward.”

Perry strikes gold in Spain

Martin Perry teamed up with Raimondo Alecci from Italy to win gold in the men’s class 6 team event at the PTT Spanish Open in Alicante, having earlier taken bronze in the men’s class 6 singles, and there were also medals for teenagers Billy Shilton and Megan Shackleton.

Perry progressed from his group in the singles with two wins from three matches and defeated the Croatian Vjekoslav Gregorovic 3-1 in the quarter-final, but the 23 year old had to be content with bronze after to a 3-0 loss to Huang Jiaxin from China in the semi-final.

Martin Perry World Team ChampsIn the round-robin men’s class 6 team event Perry and Alecci defeated Sweden and a combined team from Croatia and Japan before clinching gold with a 2-1 defeat of China.

“I feel that I played well,” said Perry. “It was a great test to play against the Chinese and unfortunately I lost my semi-final to Huang but another bronze medal is definitely a proud moment. In the team event it was certainly a new experience playing alongside Raimondo as we’ve only ever been on opposing ends of the table but it was fun and we enjoyed it. I feel our styles of play complimented each other well and we were able to get a really good win over China in the doubles after being 2-1 down. Also it was even more special because that doubles win was crucial and ensured that we won the final and the gold so it was a great match to be part of.”

Shilton took silver in the men’s class 8 team event with the Italian Samuel De Chiara having earlier taken bronze in the men’s class 8 singles.

Billy Shilton World Team ChampsThe 19 year old topped his group in the singles and reached the semi-finals with a 3-1 win against the Russian Konstantin Kislitcin. Chinese former World champion Ye Chao Qun proved just too strong in a 3-1 semi-final win and went on to take the gold.

In the round-robin men’s class 8 team event Shilton and De Chiara defeated Ecuador and a combined team from Russia/Spain but a 2-0 defeat to the powerful Chinese team in their final match left them with silver and China took the gold.

“I’m very pleased to have come away with two medals and moved a step closer to qualifying for the World Championships,” said Shilton. “I feel that my performance in the singles could have been better but overall I am pleased with how I played.”

Megan Shackleton Belgium 2017 2Shackleton took bronze in the women’s class 4 singles against strong opposition from China.

The 18 year old progressed from her group with two wins from three and led Gu Xiaodan 2-0 in their semi-final before the Chinese player came back to take the match 3-2 and went on to win the gold.

“I feel that I’ve had a really good competition,” said Shackleton, “and to compete so well against Chinese opposition and get a medal gives me great confidence going into the 2018 season.”

Four golds in 14 medal haul for British team in Belgium

Gold for Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6 singles), Lucie Bouron (women’s class 1-3 singles), Martin Perry and Conor McAdam (men’s class 6 team) and teenagers Billy Shilton and Joshua Stacey (men’s class 9 team) were the highlights of a successful PTT Belgian Open for the British Para Table Tennis Team from a total of 14 medals won during the three day competition.

Nine medals in the singles events included silver for Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4-5), Paul Davies (men’s class 1) and Perry (men’s class 6) and bronze medals for Megan Shackleton (women’s class 4-5), Fliss Pickard (women’s class 6-7), Shilton (men’s class 8) and 17 year old Stacey (men’s class 9) on his international debut. In the team events Gilroy, Shackleton and Bouron took silver in women’s class 1-5, Marc Bonnar took silver in men’s class 1-2 with the Mexican Victor Reyes Turcio and Pickard picked up bronze in women’s class 6-10 with her partner Aneth Araya Alvarez from Costa Rica.

Singles Events:
Karabardak and Perry both topped their groups in men’s class 6 after winning their three matches 3-0 and won their quarter-finals against Georgios Mouchthis from Greece (3-1) and the talented young German Benedikt Muller (3-0) respectively. Karabardak then won his semi-final 3-0 against Tim Laue from Germany and Perry put up a great performance to beat the European bronze medallist Bobi Simion from Romania 3-2 to produce an all-British final which Karbardak won 3-1.

Paul Karabardak & Martin Perry medal ceremony Belgium 2017“I’m really pleased,” said the 32 year old from Swansea. “I felt in good form and I needed to be at my best to beat Martin who was playing brilliantly – the best I’ve seen him play. It was close and nervy but we both went for it and played well but thankfully I had a little bit more on the day to win.”

“Topping my group filled me with confidence,” said 23 year old Perry. “Simion is just off the back of a good Europeans so I knew he was playing well but I believed in my ability and I played some great table tennis and showed how much I’ve raised my game recently. The final against PK was an absolute battle and we really brought the best out of each other because we had some amazing rallies.”

Lucie Bouron Belgium 2017Bouron won her first two matches in the round-robin women’s class 1-3 singles 3-0 against Eun Hee Kim from Korea and Mayumi Ozawa from Japan and then played top seed Femke Cobben from The Netherlands in the final match which was to decide the gold. The 22 year old from Bracknell played a great match to win 3-0 and secure her first international gold medal.

“It has given me real confidence to get my first international gold medal,” said Bouron, “as it shows that my training is being transferred into match play. It also shows that I am progressing towards being able to compete with the top players in my class.”

Paul Davies Belgium 2017In the round-robin men’s class 1 event Davies was a 3-0 winner against the Italian Antonio Piva, the American Michael Godfey and Sylvio Keller from Switzerland but a narrow 3-2 loss to Hyeon Uk Kim proved decisive and the Korean took the gold and Davies the silver.

“I really enjoyed this tournament,” said the Welshman. “I played some good table tennis and it is nice to finish the year in the top seven of the World rankings. I’ll reflect on my results from this season and I’m looking forward to the World Championships next year.”

Sue Gilroy Belgium 2017Gilroy topped her group with 3-0 wins against the German Lisa Hentig and Tamara Leonelli Leonelli from Chile before reaching the final with a 3-1 win against her team partner Shackleton. She found World number four Sandra Mikolasheck too strong in the final and had to be content with silver.

“I played well yesterday,” said Gilroy, “but I hurt my shoulder on the bus to the venue today and I didn’t think that it would be possible to get through to the final. It is always hard to play against your team partner – Megan is playing really well at the moment and I couldn’t get my game together in the first set but thankfully started to play better in the next three. I didn’t manage to focus as well as I needed to against Sandra, which was disappointing.”

Megan Shackleton Belgium 2017 2After a 3-1 loss to Mikolaschek in her first group match Shackleton secured her semi-final place with a 3-0 win against Sabine Femtehjel from Norway.

“I’ve played well so far in this tournament,” said the 18 year old from Todmorden, “and to come away with a bronze medal in the singles gives me confidence. Playing Sue was a great experience as I’ve never had to play a team mate in an international before and I feel that I really challenged her.”

Fliss Pickard Belgium 2017Pickard started with a 3-0 win against Kimberley Schaetsaert from Belgium and after a narrow 3-2 loss to World number five Stephanie Grebe the 23 year old from Burnley progressed to the semi-finals with a hard-fought 3-2 win against the German Bente Harenberg. In her semi-final she played well to level at 1-1 against Katarzyna Marszal from Poland but the World number six went on to take the match 13-11 in the fourth.

“I feel that it has been a tough singles event,” said Pickard, “and I don’t think I have played my best table tennis but this happens sometimes and you have to fight to get through. I thought I showed good resilience to get the bronze and this will only make me stronger in my journey to become a world class athlete.”

Shilton was impressive in winning his three group matches 3-0 which gave him a bye in the quarter-finals in which he was a comfortable 3-0 winner against Curtis Caron from Canada. That took him through to a semi-final against Mathieu Loicq and the Belgian former World and Paralympic champion edged a close match 11-9 in the fifth.

“I felt that I played a good level,” said 19 year old Shilton. “All the things I’ve been working on in training are coming together but it is a slow process. I’m happy to win a medal but I’m disappointed to have lost so narrowly in the semi-final.”

Joshua Stacey Belgium 2017Stacey made an immediate impact on his international debut with a 3-0 win against Pawel Konstantyn from Poland and topped his group with 3-0 wins against Daniel Dinca from Romania and the German Tom Terkuhlen. A 3-0 win in the quarter-final against Pawel Jablonski from Poland earned him a semi-final against the Paralympic champion and World number one Laurens Devos and although the Belgian was understandably too good in a 3-0 win it was a very promising debut by the young Welshman from St Mellons.

Craig Allen also progressed from his group in men’s class 9 with a 3-0 win against the Belgian Erwin De Cort but lost in the quarter-final to Devos 3-0.

McAdam reached the quarter-finals of men’s class 6 with a 3-1 win against Petrus Du Plooy from South Africa but found the experienced Laue just too strong in a 3-1 loss.

Marc Bonnar (class 2), Dan Bullen (class 5), Cellan Hall (class 5), Alex Bland (class 7), Ryan Henry (class 8), Tamlan Eastwood (class 9), Jack Stockdale (class 10) and Shae Thakker (class 10) all went out of their respective events at the group stage.

Team Events:
Perry and McAdam topped their group in men’s class 6 with two wins from two and then came through a great battle in the semi-final against Germany, fighting back well from 2-0 down to take the doubles 3-2. Laue levelled for Germany by beating McAdam 3-0 but Perry recovered from losing the first set to Muller to win the deciding singles 3-1.

In the final against the Romanian/Greek combination of Simion and Mouchthis they took the doubles 3-2 and Perry clinched the gold by taking the first singles match 3-1 against Mouchthis.

“It’s a great feeling to win gold,” said Perry. “Playing with Conor was fun. It’s something we’ve not done for a while and I think that showed at the beginning as our doubles play wasn’t so strong but in the final we played some good, clever table tennis and Conor was vital in that. His service in the final doubles match could not have been better and at times put us on the front foot when we needed a point. I’m really pleased we won the team event together.”

Conor McAdam Belgium 2017“It was a tough singles event for me, losing in the quarters,” said 20 year old McAdam from Dundonald, “but I took the positives from it and implemented that into my game for the team event. I feel that I played well and that was shown by the gold medal – it was great to win gold with Martin and hopefully there will be more to come.”

Billy Shilton and Joshua Stacey Belgium 2017The new teenage combination of Shilton and Stacey combined well in the doubles and reached the semi-finals with 2-0 wins against Germany and Belgium/Korea. A 2-1 win against Japan took them through to the final against the Romanian/French partnership of Daniel Dinca and Lucas Didier and after winning the doubles 3-1, Shilton won the gold for his team with a 3-0 win in the singles against Didier.

“I’m really pleased to come away with the gold in the team event with Josh,” said Shilton, “as we haven’t played together before. Our doubles was very good and that gave us confidence for the singles matches.”

“I feel that I’ve played very well considering it was my first time experiencing international Para table tennis,” said Stacey. “Winning a medal in singles and gold in team gives me a lot of confidence for other tournaments going forwards and I hope to continue performing well and pushing myself to improve in each performance.”

Marc BonnarBonnar and Reyes Turcio won their first match in the round robin men’s class 1-2 event against Germany/The Netherlands 2-0 and followed that with a 2-1 win against Korea/USA. Their final match against France was to decide the gold and World number one Lamirault and his partner Benoit Besset were too strong in a 2-0 win.

“I had a disappointing singles competition,” said the 28 year old from Ingleby, “although having the chance to play the World number one showed me the level I need to be at in the future. I played a lot better in the team event and I’m happy with silver after some tough doubles matches. I’ll look forward to developing my game more and hopefully improving my form in singles.”

 After 2-0 wins against Chile/Netherlands and Norway/Japan in the round robin women’s class 1-5 team event Gilroy, Shackleton and Bouron played Germany in the final match to decide the gold medal but had to be content with silver after a 2-0 loss to Mikolaschek and Hentig.

Pickard and Araya Alvarez progressed from their group in women’s class 6-10 with a 2-0 win against Poland/Belgium and took the bronze after losing a tough semi-final against two class 10 players from Japan.

In men’s class 8 Ryan Henry and Alex Bland narrowly failed to progress to the quarter-finals, losing their second group match to Slovakia/Czech Republic 2-1. Dan Bullen and Cellan Hall also narrowly failed to register a win in men’s class 4-5; Craig Allen and Tamlan Eastwood went out of men’s class 9 at the group stage and Jack Stockdale and Shae Thakker lost their three round robin matches in men’s class 10.

Posted in GB

European champions included in squad for Belgian Open

Martin and PK with team medalsThe British Para Table Tennis Team is sending a 19-strong squad to the PTT Belgian Open that takes place in Sint-Niklaas from October 28-30.

Newly crowned European team gold medalists Paul Karabardak and Martin Perry are among six players from the Performance Squad together with London 2012 bronze medalist Paul Davies, five time Paralympian Sue Gilroy and teenagers Megan Shackleton and Billy Shilton.

The 13 players from the Pathway and Development squads include Craig Allen, Conor McAdam and Shae Thakker, who all won gold in their respective classes at the Romania Junior (U23) Open in March; Jack Stockdale, gold medallist in this year’s Italian Junior (U23) Open and Alex Bland, gold medallist in the men’s class 7 team event at the Spanish Open in June.

“Automatic qualification places for next year’s World Championships will be decided at the end of this year,” said BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “and the players we are sending to Belgium from the Performance Squad either need tournament credits or ranking points to secure qualification. It will also be exciting to see how the young players from the Pathway and Development squads are progressing and they will all benefit from the experience of another international competition.”

The full list of players competing in the Belgian Open is:

Craig Allen – Bromsgrove, class 9
Alex Bland – Rotherham, class 7
Marc Bonnar – Ingleby, class 2
Lucie Bouron – Bracknell, class 3
Daniel Bullen – St Neots, class 5
Paul Davies – North Cornelly, class 1
Tamlan Eastwood – Swansea, class 9
Susan Gilroy – Barnsley, class 4
Cellan Hall – Bridgend, class 5
Ryan Henry – Ardrossan, class 8
Paul Karabardak – Swansea, class 6
Conor McAdam – Dundonald, class 6
Martin Perry – Paisley/Sheffield, class 6
Felicity Pickard – Burnley, class 6
Megan Shackleton – Todmorden, class 4
Billy Shilton – Stonehouse (Gloucestershire)/Sheffield, class 8
Josh Stacey – St Mellons, class 9 (TBC)
Jack Stockdale – Romford, class 10
Shae Thakker – Slough, class 10

Follow the British Para Table Tennis Team on Twitter @BritishParaTT

Vecko looks to Tokyo after successful European Championships for British team

One year after winning two gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games the British Para Table Tennis Team has enjoyed its most successful European Championships in the modern era with seven medals in the singles events and three team medals including gold in men’s class 6. Paralympic champion Rob Davies won his third consecutive European singles title and led a historic one, two, three for Britain in men’s class one – the first time that Britain has won all three medals in one class.

“I am very happy that we had 10 medals and seven in singles,” said British team Performance Director, Gorazd Vecko, “which is showing that we are going in the right direction towards Tokyo. It was a tough championship and a long seven days of competition and I am very proud of all the players. For Kim Daybell in his 13th time in a major quarter-final to finally get a medal and for he and our class 9 player Ashley Facey Thompson to take silver in men’s class 10 was one of the big points for us and to take all three medals in men’s class 1 was definitely the highlight.

Gorazd Vecko interview Euros 2017“Our men’s class 6 team became European champions and beat the World silver medallists Croatia who they lost to in the semi-finals in the World Championships and we had a lot of good results in the singles events as well. The performance of our young players like Tom Matthews, Martin Perry, Billy Shilton and Megan Shackleton shows the strength of our development programme since London 2012 – they have all come through the Pathway programme and are now part of the Performance Squad, competing in major championships and winning medals.

“All the players showed great character – they were really engaged, believing in themselves and fighting for every point. None of the players disappointed me. Winning and losing is part of sport but they all tried their best. We had close matches like the men’s class 6 final and it is always good to win these matches. In the team event the players on the bench were really supporting the team which shows we have the right culture in place and it is not about who will play, it is about how to make the team win, so I was really proud of everyone.

“In March next year we start the qualification period for Tokyo and hopefully we can continue to progress and have the chance to win medals in 2020. I always say that you need to qualify first then everything is possible.”

Gold for Britain on final day of European Championships

TM6 Gold medal winning team with coach Andrew RushtonIt was a golden end to the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Slovenia for the British team today as Paul Karabardak, David Wetherill and Martin Perry took gold in the men’s class 6 team event beating World silver medallists Croatia in the final.

Karabardak and Wetherill got off to a flying start in the opening doubles match and were quickly 2-0 up but the Croatian combination of Pavao Jozic and the former World number one Vjekoslav Gregorovic came back to level at 2-2 before the GB pair asserted themselves again to win the match 11-4 in the fifth. In the first singles Karabardak looked to be in trouble at 2-0 down against Jozic but the Welshman, who celebrated his 32nd birthday yesterday, drew on all his experience and showed tremendous character to level at 2-2. At 3-0 down in the fifth GB coach Andrew Rushton called time out and it proved to be a good decision as Karabardak quickly levelled and then moved ahead, taking the match 11-7 in the fifth and securing gold for Britain.

GREAT BRITAIN (Paul Arif KARABARDAK, David Paul WETHERILL, Martin Robert PERRY) 0111“I was frustrated because I know I can stay in the game with him,” said Karabardak, “so to be 2-0 down and him to be dictating the game and me trying to force the play, I knew I had to change things and try and control the game, which I did. I started getting the ball on the table and I think he started to get a bit nervous and I was able to capitalise on that. When I was 3-0 down at the start of the fifth Andrew said ‘move the ball around’ which I did and I managed to get back into it and I’m over the moon with the way I played against a top opponent who has had a good competition. It’s very special – my first major gold – and I’m so pleased that I could play my best table tennis and help the team to become European champions.”

It was a second medal at these championships for 27 year old Wetherill from Torpoint, who had taken silver in the men’s class 6 singles.

“We knew from the start that the doubles would be really important,” he said, “and if we could go into the singles 1-0 up then Paul could play relaxed and we would be in a very strong position to take the victory. At 2-0 up were playing really well and very positive but in the third set we lost a string of points and my confidence dropped a little bit and all of a sudden they were back at 2-2. I’ve got to pay big credit to Tim Pitt our psychologist because he has really helped me for the past few years – that part of table tennis is massive especially in the finals and the major medal matches and I think we played the important points well today. I was so glad Paul won because I was a nervous wreck watching from the bench. He played amazingly and I’m really proud of him.”

“It’s been great being part of this team,” said 23 year old Perry, from Paisley. “These guys have a bank of knowledge and experience that I can feed on and it has been incredible being able to help and support them in any way I can – both in the training hall and by being supportive on the bench. Hopefully that energy transfers onto the table because we are in this together and I think the guys have played amazing throughout. I was down to play in the first match but I wasn’t needed so it shows that we have strength in depth in this team and going forward I’m sure there is much more success to come for us.”

GREAT BRITAIN (GILROY Susan and SHACKLETON Megan) 0010After both producing good performances in the singles here Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton had high hopes of a medal in the team event but they completed a disappointing competition with a 2-0 loss to World champions Serbia in their final match in the round-robin women’s class 4-5 event. European bronze two years ago and bronze in the World Team Championships earlier this year are testament to their potential as a team and 18 year old Shackleton is improving all the time.

“It has been a nightmare competition for us,” admitted Gilroy, whose preparation for these championships had been hindered by her recovery from major surgery on her arm in the summer. “That is the worst we have played in the team event – we have never done this badly before which is a shame but we just need the right preparation next time. I haven’t played anywhere near my best and it is just one of those things.”

“It has been a disappointing team event,” said Shackleton, “but Sue and me know the potential we have as a good strong team partnership and in the future, as long as we can make sure our preparation is as ideal as possible, I think that this situation won’t happen again. I feel that I have had a good singles competition and moving on to the World Championships next year that shows good promise.”

Posted in GB

Silver lining for Daybell and Facey Thompson in Slovenia

The British team won two medals today in the team events at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Lasko, Slovenia with Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson winning a superb silver medal in men’s class 10 and Aaron McKibbin, Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton taking bronze in men’s class 8. Paul Karabardak, David Wetherill and Martin Perry, already assured of a medal, came through their semi-final and will play Croatia for gold in the final of men’s class 6 tomorrow.

Kim & Ash with Mat after winning SFLeeds University medical student Daybell and 22 year old Facey Thompson reached the final of men’s class 10 with a magnificent performance against the Rio Paralympic silver medallists Spain in the semi-final, getting off to a perfect start with an impressive 3-0 win in the doubles. Class 9 Facey Thompson then played one of the matches of his life to push the class 10 former World and European champion Jose Ruiz Reyes to five sets, saving two match points in the fourth to level at 2-2 before the experienced Spaniard closed out the match 11-6 in the fifth.

Just as he did in the quarter-final yesterday 25 year old Daybell needed to win the deciding singles and at 2-0 up seemed to be in control of the match against Jorge Cardona. When the Spaniard came back to level at 2-2 the momentum appeared to have shifted but Daybell has showed an indomitable fighting spirit to match his talent at these championships and he proved the stronger in the closing stages, taking the set 11-6 and the match 3-2 to take his side into the final.

Kim and Ash v LatviaAgainst World champions Poland in the final they started well, taking the first set in the doubles before the World number one Patryk Chojnowski and Igor Misztal came back to take the match 3-1. Facey Thompson again fought hard against Misztal in the first singles but the 20 year old Polish class 10 player was just too strong and took the match 3-1 and secured the gold for Poland.

“We played really good doubles against Spain,” said Daybell. “They are such a strong team and have been World and European champions in the past. We have never beaten them before so to go out and do that in our first ever semi-final as a pair was really something special. I’ve been involved in so many close matches and at 2-2 against Cardona I just used the experience that I have had and I was able to come through it. It is what I’ve been doing for the whole tournament – just grinding out matches and doing it the hard way but it has worked out well.

“It would have been quite easy for us to sit back after winning the quarter finals and feel that we had done it after medalling and I was so pleased that we could go a step further. It really did mean a lot to win silver, and to win it with Ash and share that experience – it is something we have both been working for a long, long time so it is good. I think Ash is playing great now and I am hopefully going to be able to improve my level a bit more and if we can keep going with that there is no reason we can’t become one of the best teams in the world.”

“We could easily have been happy with the bronze,” agreed Facey Thompson, “but we pushed on and beat a quality team and I’m really happy with that. Our doubles was good and in my match against Ruiz I played my hardest and believed in myself – it was a really good match. His quality took over in the fifth set but I’m really happy with how I played. Class 10 is not my class but I feel that I am in the mix and playing strong against them – they are having to battle against me and that is giving me more belief to go and perform like that against the players in my class.”

Wilson and McKibbin came through a tough quarter-final match against World team bronze medallists France in the morning, losing the doubles 3-2 after failing to convert two match points in the fourth set. Wilson levelled the tie with a determined 3-2 win against World number five Thomas Bouvais, holding his nerve to take the fifth 11-7 after the Frenchman had levelled by taking a close fourth set 11-9. McKibbin then secured a place in the semi-finals for his team with a 3-0 win against Elias Debeyssac.

Ross and Aaron v NorwayIn their semi-final they faced World silver medallists Ukraine and although they fought back well to take the first set of the doubles they lost the match 3-1 and the tie 2-0 when Wilson was beaten 3-1 by World champion and World number one Viktor Didukh.

“Obviously our doubles performance against France was much better than against Poland in the group,” said McKibbin, “and that is what we were trying to do – bring our level to where it should be and I think we did that. It was tough to lose the match but I had a lot of faith in Ross that he could win against Bouvais. The experience of Rio helped me in the last match against Debeyssac and I had full belief in myself that I was going to cross the line. It was a team effort – Billy’s support was amazing and Greg (coach) on the bench and I think that also made the difference in the end. Ukraine won gold and silver in the singles here so they are obviously a really strong team but we know that there are things we can improve and the positive is that we are competing with them.  I think this major has been one of the hardest for me as I’ve had a few niggling injuries coming in so it has been a bit of a mental battle but I’m really happy to come away with a medal.”

“The France match was really difficult,” said Wilson. “That is the first time we have played them so it was nice to play a new team. We had a great game in the doubles and I had a great game against Bouvais and then Aaron came through really well in the third singles so there were a lot of positives this morning and it was great to get through it. It is nice to know that I am competing with the top guys but I really do so badly want to start beating them and that is what I’ll be working towards next year. It is fantastic to get two medals and great to get a medal with the boys again – we have Billy in the team now and that is his first major medal with us and I am sure he will get plenty more in the future.”

For 18 year old Shilton the experience of being on the bench in the high pressure environment of a major championship will be a great benefit for the future.

“It is massive for me to learn from Aaron and Ross,” he said. “They are such a great team and have done it before in major competitions and have done it again here. I’m really pleased with another major medal.”

Dave Wetherill and Paul KarabardakIn their men’s class 6 semi-final Wetherill and Karabardak recovered from dropping the first set to win the doubles against Israel 3-1 and Wetherill fought hard against an in-form Danny Bobrov but the Israeli eventually took the match 11-5 in the fifth to level the tie at 1-1. Karabardak then had to win the deciding singles against Asaf Gofer and after getting the better of a titanic battle in the second set 19-17 the Welshman was able to celebrate his 32nd birthday with a 3-0 win to take his team into tomorrow’s final where they will play World silver medallists Croatia.

“The second set was really intense,” said Karabardak. “It was crucial in the game because I think it broke his confidence a little bit and took away maybe how much he thought he could win and I think I knew after that I had a great chance to go on and win. Not that is wasn’t difficult because he still had some resilience in the third set but it made it a little bit easier which I’m very thankful for. It’s a very nice way to celebrate my birthday – I couldn’t ask for more.”

Wetherill has come through some long matches in these championships and although he dug deep he was unable to find a way past Bobrov today.

“I’ve always struggled against him for some reason,” admitted Wetherill. “I haven’t played him that many times and today I was trying to find my reserves and I tried my hardest. I had every confidence in Paul in the third singles and it is really good that either Paul or Martin or any of us can win if the other one loses a match. Thankfully we managed to get the 2-1 victory and we are confident for tomorrow now. Paul and me have been playing really well in the doubles all week and I think I let him down a little bit today – we didn’t play as well as we have been but Paul’s given himself his birthday present today and I’m really pleased.”

“Watching Paul’s second set I am just glad that I don’t have my hair already because it would have been gone,” said Perry, who was cheering his team mates on from the bench. “That was such a tense set and I can only praise these guys’ performance. It was such an electric bench – the energy on the bench was just feeding off these guys on the table. They were putting so much into it and myself and Andrew (coach) felt we were in the match. We’ve got the final to look forward to tomorrow and I think with these two guys we’ve got a fantastic opportunity.”

Sue Gilroy and Megan ShackletonAfter taking bronze in the World Team Championships earlier this year Sue Gilroy and Megan Shackleton have not found their best form here and they lost their third match today in the round-robin women’s class 4-5 team event to Germany. They fought hard to win the first set of the doubles 13-11 from 8-4 down but Sandra Mikolaschek and Lisa Hentig came back to take the match 3-1. Shackleton then showed glimpses of her potential against Mikolaschek, particularly in a deuce third set but the World number four took the match 3-0 to secure the tie for Germany 2-0.

“They certainly played a lot better than us,” admitted Gilroy, “we need to do a lot more work on our doubles. It is coming – we had some really good rallies particularly in the first couple of games so that is a real positive and we just need to build on that now.”

“It is disappointing regardless of how good the player is,” said Shackleton. “With how hard I work in training and the things that I am capable of, it is disappointing, but I think with experience eventually these things will hopefully turn round for me and in the last set I do think I showed promise of what I can bring out in the future.”

Gilroy and Shackleton play their final match against World champions Serbia tomorrow.

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Lucky 13 for Daybell in Lasko

Kim Daybell has come so close to winning a major medal, losing in 12 quarter-finals, and it proved to be lucky 13 today as he and Ashley Facey Thompson put up a brilliant performance to beat the World team silver medallists Russia 2-1 to reach the semi-finals of men’s class 10 team at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Lasko, Slovenia. On a good day for the British team Paul Karabardak, David Wetherill and Martin Perry also reached the semi-finals of men’s class 6.

GREAT BRITAIN (DAYBELL Kim and THOMPSON Ashley Facey) 0193After topping their group Daybell and Facey Thompson were unlucky to be drawn against the experienced Russian team of Pavel Lukyanov and Iurii Nozdrunov but they played superbly to win the vital opening doubles match 14-12 in the fourth. Facey Thompson fought hard against Nozdrunov but the World number three had just too much experience for the 22 year old Londoner and levelled the tie with a 3-1 win in the first singles.

That left Daybell to play the deciding singles against Lukyanov and he made a great start taking the first set 11-5 before the Russian came back to edge the second 12-10. Daybell’s spectacular defence can so often frustrate opponents and so it proved in the third set. The Russian coach called time out with Lukyanov leading 10-9 but Daybell levelled at 10-10 and then hung on tenaciously, saving several game points before clinching the set 14-12. It proved to be the pivotal point in the match as the 25 year old Leeds University medical student ran away with the fourth set 11-1 for an emotional win.

Kim v Lukyanov Team QF“The doubles was massively important,” admitted Daybell. “We’ve played better here than we have ever played before – really working well together – and it goes to show that if you do win that one you really put yourself in with a massive shot. They were the number three seeds and we were unlucky to draw them so it was a really nice way to win. The third set against Lukyanov was a difficult set; it wasn’t pretty and I think we were both quite nervous and I just had to find a way to crawl over the line and it was nice to be able to come through. I think it settled me; I knew I had stolen it away from him a little bit and I think that was in his mind as well. I just thought as long as I put in a solid performance here then I think I will be able to take it and that is what I did.

“I’ve been part of a lot of quarter finals and it has been a real hard struggle. Class 10 is such a tough class but it means even more to win it in team because Ash and me have been trying for a long time to win a medal together and I think when you share something like that it just makes it all the better.”

Facey Thompson is also assured of his first major medal and the class 9 player is starting to fulfil his potential since moving to Sheffield to train full time with the British squad in the summer.

“We played very good doubles against France and Russia,” he said, “better than we have ever played together. Training full time has improved me a lot as a player and to be with Kim and to feel that we have an equal partnership now is great. I felt really good against Nozdrunov and was buzzing from the doubles. I tried my hardest but he came through at the end with quality and experience but I’m happy. Words can’t describe how it feels to win a major medal – we have been close four times but we’ve worked hard and the outcome is at least a bronze so I’m really happy. I’m looking forward to tomorrow now – we have nothing to lose and we can give it our all.”

Daybell and Facey Thompson will face Spain in the semi-finals tomorrow.

Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill came through their final group match in men’s class 6 against Greece, using their experience to good effect in the doubles to win 3-0 before Wetherill overcame a spirited challenge from Mario Chatzikyriakos in the first singles 3-1 after dropping the first set.

GREAT BRITAIN (WETHERILL David Paul, KARABARDAK Paul Arif and PERRY Martin Robert) 0126“It was one of those matches where we just needed to get the job done,” said Wetherill, “and we managed to do that. I think we will be a lot fresher tomorrow. Paul and me have just been analysing how much risk we need to take and doing enough to make sure we get the win. But if we get put under a bit more pressure we know we can up it several levels so we have that confidence in each other. I think today we played really clever and we did nothing apart from place the ball in the right places so I am very pleased with that.”

“I think we can improve a bit more,” agreed Karabardak, “but I was really pleased with the doubles again because we are playing some of our best doubles and the doubles is really important in team. I think we can get better but we will have to because there will be tougher tests in the semi-finals. We’re guaranteed a medal but I’d like to get the gold and I think we are more than capable of getting the gold.”

Martin Perry looked on from the bench and was always confident that his team partners would get the win.

“These two guys have got a lot of experience,” he said, “and really drew on that today and I always thought they were going to win. They both put in really good performances, especially in the doubles, and then Dave had to work hard in his singles but he got the win so I was in more than capable hands on the bench.”

The British trio will play Israel tomorrow for a place in Wednesday’s final.

In the last round of group matches in men’s class 8 Poland beat Norway to win their group which meant that the British team of Aaron McKibbin, Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton, who did not play today, took second place and will progress to the quarter-finals tomorrow where they will face France.

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