GB players strike gold in RITTO Junior Open

Conor McAdam, Craig Allen and Shae Thakker all claimed gold today in the Junior Open in Romania and there were two further medals for the GB Pathway squad as Lawrence John took silver and Dan Bullen bronze.

McAdam won all three of his matches in the round robin men’s class 6 singles, securing the gold with an impressive 3-0 win in his final match against the German Thilo Sonnenschein. Thakker also came through the round robin men’s class 10 singles undefeated and his narrow 3-2 win against GB team mate Lawrence John (14-12 in the fifth) proved to be the decisive match as John went on to take the silver.

Allen lost his second match in the men’s class 9 singles to the German Laurenz Fehling 3-2 but with wins against Vladislav Balobanov from Russia and Elias Monden from Germany he took the gold on countback.

Bullen topped his group in the men’s class 2-5 singles with three wins from three before losing a very close semi-final to Sebastian Brandal from Norway 12-10 in the fifth.

New club in Sheffield to offer free sessions for disabled players

A new table tennis club opening in Sheffield this week is offering free sessions for players with a disability and free coaching for all on its opening night.

Matt KennyAdvantage Table Tennis is the brainchild of Sheffield coach Matthew Kenny, who is a former National Junior Champion and represented the England men’s team. He now coaches the GB Para Table Tennis squad which is based at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and has coached at three Paralympic Games – Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.

“The ambitions of Advantage Table Tennis are to attract current and new table tennis enthusiasts, to deliver top-quality coaching and to develop future champions,” said Kenny. “In addition, the club aims to attract more disabled people to the sport of table tennis and to give them an opportunity to have quality coaching – both at the beginner level and for players who have been playing for some time. Table tennis is a fantastic sport and very inclusive as it can also be played in a wheelchair. I’m really proud to be from Sheffield – the city has a great sporting heritage and I am passionate about creating opportunities for more people to play table tennis here.”

The club will open at the English Institute of Sport at 6pm on Thursday, March 9 with a free session for all and the chance to meet two time Paralympic table tennis medallist Ross Wilson.

Further information is available at

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Matthews takes team silver on final day in Italy

Tom Matthews today added a team silver to the singles bronze he won in men’s class 1 on the final day of the Lignano Master Open in Italy while fellow Welshman Paul Karabardak, gold medallist in the men’s class 6 singles, was forced to withdraw from the team event with a foot injury.

Matthews and team partner Endre Major won their first two matches in the round robin men’s class 1 team event against combined teams from Russia/Croatia and Argentina/Romania 2-0 and their final match against Italy decided the gold medal. The Welsh/Hungarian partnership had to settle for silver after the Italian team of Andrea Borgato and Federico Falco won the doubles and Borgato beat Matthews 3-1.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 7“I feel I played better than I did in my singles event,” said Matthews. “I always knew it would be a tough match against Borgato and I feel I played well but didn’t take my chances when I needed to. I have learnt a lot more about my game again this tournament and now know what I need to go back and work on in the training hall. I’m now looking forward to the BPTT Nationals next month and then my next international competition in Slovenia in May.”

Karabardak and partner Martin Perry won their first match against Australia/Ireland but the Swansea player picked up a foot injury during the match and the GB pair were forced to withdraw from the competition.

Although finishing outside the medals in women’s class 6-7 team with Romanian partner Gabriela Constantin, Felicity Pickard had a good 3-0 win over Emelie Endre, the Swedish girl who she lost against in the singles event, and put up a good performance against the Russian class 7 World number five, losing 3-2.

Swansea teenager Lawrence John and his Belgian partner Adonis Mylonas came through their group in men’s class 10 but went out in the quarter-finals to Malaysia/Poland.

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McKibbin, Daybell and Hunter-Spivey take Para classes at English Nationals

Paralympians Aaron McKibbin, Kim Daybell and Jack Hunter-Spivey came out on top in the round robin Para classes at the PG Mutual National Championships today in Nottingham.

The key match in men’s class 6-8 proved to be the clash between class 8 Paralympic team bronze medallist McKibbin and men’s class 7 Paralympic champion Will Bayley. In a high quality match Bayley fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 before McKibbin finally clinched a tense final set 16-14 to win the match. Bayley kept himself in contention by beating Billy Shilton 3-1 and David Wetherill 3-0 but McKibbin, having beaten David Wetherill 3-0, made sure of the gold by beating his 18 year old class 8 team mate Shilton 3-1.

Aaron & Will presentation English Nationals“Obviously we play each other all the time and it is always close,” said McKibbin. “Will and I always have big battles and although I was leading 2-0 I wasn’t leading comfortably. I nicked the first two sets which I shouldn’t have and then Will completely changed and for two sets he didn’t miss and I couldn’t do a single thing.  In the fifth set I thought I’ve got to try something different because I had lost the last two sets 3 and 4 so I tried to change it and at deuce I tried to be sensible. In the end it was two points either way. I feel more comfortable in tight situations now; playing these events used to make me nervous but now I am used to a playing in front of a crowd.  But it is always difficult playing against someone like Will and it is always going to be tight. It keeps me calm knowing it is expected to be close.”

Daybell’s task in men’s class 9-10 was made easier by the withdrawal of Ashley Facey Thompson, who picked up a back injury playing in the Lignano Master Open in Italy earlier this week. After a 3-0 win against Craig Allen he beat 13 year old Pathway athlete Shae Thakker 3-1 in his final match.

The 24 year old medical student is now back at Leeds University having taken a year off to train for Rio.

Kim Daybell & Shae Thakker presentation English Nationals“I’m very busy now – studying a lot but still finding time to train and still enjoying it,” said Daybell, who also reached the last 16 in the (able bodied) men’s singles before losing to England number two Liam Pitchford 4-1. “I was pleased with the men’s singles – the last 16 is always a good place for a Para athlete to be in the Nationals. I came up against a very strong opponent in Liam and I was pleased I could give him a game – take a set and keep it competitive. I think it is good for Para sport as it shows we are not far off some of the best players in England.

“When I first started just after Beijing 2008 there were no young players coming through and it is nice now that some of the younger players are pushing some of the better players and it is a good feeling to be looking over your shoulder a bit because it shows we are progressing as a country and as a team.”

Hunter-Spivey began with a 3-0 win against Nicko Anderson and then beat Pathway athlete Dan Bullen 3-1. He had to show all his determination to beat the experienced former National champion Kevin Plowman 3-2 in his final match to secure the gold with Bullen taking the silver after beating both Plowman and Anderson  3-1.

Jack and Dan presentation English Nationals“It is a really good win for me,” said Hunter-Spivey, who has been on a fitness programme since returning from Rio. “At the start of my season this is a good stepping stone for me to progress to the BPTT (British Para Table Tennis) Nationals in April. Kevin is very consistent so I had to be at the top of my game and I’ve proved that I can win when I am not at my best so it was a good result. It is good to be back and nice to be in a competitive environment and playing the sport I love in front of one of the biggest crowds so I am looking forward to playing more this season. I’m feeling fitter, stronger and can move quicker around the table and I’m feeling good so the process of doing this gym programme is definitely working and I’m going in the right direction.”

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Bayley heads Para athletes at English National Championships

Paralympic and World champion Will Bayley heads the list of athletes who will compete in the Para classes at the English National Championships in Nottingham tomorrow. The 29 year old men’s class 7 World number one will take on his British team mates Aaron McKibbin (class 8), Billy Shilton (class 8) and David Wetherill (class 6) in the men’s 6-8 event and has already been in winning form this season, completing a clean sweep in the class 7 singles, open standing singles and open standing doubles in the Draycott Para Open earlier this month.

will-bayley-with-medal-on-podium“It was really good to get some match practice in as I’ve been doing a lot of training but haven’t played many matches,” said Bayley. “I’ve been working on trying to change my game a little bit and I was pleased with the way I played. I’m working really hard on my weaknesses so it is going in the right direction.

“I’m really looking forward to playing in front of a home crowd at the Nationals and it will be good to play well and try and impress them so I’m looking to win if I can. It is hard to compete against my team mates – we all know each other’s styles of play inside out which makes the games closer so you have to play as well as you can but you know it can go either way – you just have to try and do what you can to win the match.”

This is the second year that Table Tennis England has included events for Para athletes in the National Championships, which will also feature classes 3-5 and 9-10 with some of England’s most promising young Pathway athletes taking on the more experienced Performance squad.

McKibbin, Shilton and Wetherill will fly back from the Italian Open to compete in Nottingham.

David Wetherill Vejle 2015 4“I’m really looking forward to the Nationals,” said Wetherill. “People in the UK hear what we are doing but they don’t get the opportunity to see us play too often. I really want to go there in good shape and try and play my best because I think that is important. I’m looking to try and win because I know on my day I can compete but it is going to be difficult so we’ll see what happens. First and foremost it will be nice to put on a good show for the public.”

The PG Mutual National Championships are taking place at the David Ross Sports Village in Nottingham from March 3-5. Further information is available here:

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Karabardak takes gold in Italy

Lignano Master Open medalistsWelshman Paul Karabardak won gold in the men’s class 6 singles at the Lignano Master Open in Italy today and there were further medals for the British Para Table Tennis Team as Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4-5), Martin Perry (men’s class 6) and David Wetherill (men’s class 6) all took bronze in their respective classes.

Karabardak won his opening match against the Australian Trevor Hirth 3-0 but progressed from his group as runner-up after losing his second to Vjekoslav Gregorovic from Croatia 3-1. A 3-0 quarter-final win against Georgios Mouchthis from Greece and a 3-1 semi-final win over his GB team mate Wetherill set up a second encounter with Gregorovic in the final. The 31 year old three-time Paralympian from Swansea avenged his earlier defeat by the Croatian former World number one in a 3-1 win and was delighted to start the season with his first singles gold since the Slovenia Open in 2015.

Paul Karabardak Vejle 2015 5“It’s a really good start to the season,” he said. “It was difficult in the group games – I was feeling a bit under the weather and I was nervous which I always am in the first competition of the season but I managed to fight and get out of the group and then I started playing my best table tennis. I knew the final was going to be tough because I’d already lost to him but I managed to play my best and win the game. I think I played with a bit more energy and kept the momentum when I was in a winning position because he is a great player and if I had let him back in it would have made life hard for me and thankfully I won in the end. I’ve played well here but I also think I can play better so hopefully there’ll be better things to come this year.”

WETHERILL DavidWetherill topped his group with 3-1 wins over the German Tim Laue and Michael Azulay from Sweden and came through a tough quarter-final match against Pavao Jozic from Croatia 3-2 before losing to Karabardak in the semi-final.

“I’m very satisfied with how it has gone,” said the 27 year old from Torpoint. “We’re all at different points in our training pre-season and in a way there wasn’t a lot of pressure this week and if I was going to lose to anyone it was a pleasure to lose to Paul because results between us don’t matter so much. It would have been great if Martin had won his semi and played Paul in the final but I’m really pleased for him because he’s played really well. For all three of us to medal was really good so it’s been a good tournament.”

Martin Perry celebrates Slovakia 2015Perry was seeded only third in his group but came through in first place after 3-2 wins against the World number nine Pavao Jozic from Croatia, the Italian Matteo Parenzan and Valentin Kneuss from Switzerland. A 3-1 win against the former World number one from France, Bastien Grundeler, took him into the semi-finals where he lost to Gregorovic 3-0.

“It was a good test for the start of the season to see how everyone is playing,” said the 22 year old from Paisley. “I think I played well and got some good wins and I’m quite happy with my level. I wasn’t seeded to get out of my group so to win it and beat two really good players was great. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t meet Paul in the final and secure a 123 for GB but it’s been a very good experience and I’ve got the team event with Paul to look forward to now.”

Sue Gilroy Vejle 2015Gilroy began with a 3-0 win against the German Lisa Hentig and after a 3-1 loss to her old rival Borislava Peric-Rankovic, the World number two from Serbia, she progressed to the knockout stages with a 3-2 win against Aleksandra Vasileva from Russia. The schoolteacher from Barnsley had to settle for the bronze after losing her semi-final 3-1 to the talented young German Sandra Mikolaschek.

“For the first tournament of the season I was quite pleased because we haven’t been back in training long,” said Gilroy. “I can go away now and I know what I need to work on in training and sharpen up for the rest of the season. Today was disappointing because I was playing well and I felt that I could have beaten her (Mikolaschek) but the umpire kept calling me on my serves and it put me off my game. But that is how it goes.”

After a close opening game Matthews was a comfortable 3-0 winner against the Romanian Alexandru Imbuzan and secured first place in the group with another 3-0 win against the Russian Dmity Lavrov. The 24 year old from Aberdare came through his quarter-final against Daniel Lazov from Croatia 3-1 but found the experienced Endre Major on his best form in the semi-final, the Hungarian Rio semi-finalist recording a 3-0 win.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 5“I could have played better,” admitted Matthews, “but fair play to Major he bought his A game and played really well to win that match. After my win in Vegas last year I put a lot of expectation on myself and I did well to get to the semi-finals. Major is a great player and went on to win the gold so I have to congratulate him. We’re playing in the team event together and I’m looking forward to that.”

All three GB players in men’s class 8 reached the knockout stages but Aaron McKibbin, having beaten his team mate Billy Shilton in the last 16, was beaten by the Ukrainian World number one Viktor Didukh in the quarter-finals and Ross Wilson, after coming through his group unbeaten, lost his last 16 match to the 18 year old Frenchman Elias Debeyssac 3-1.

Ashley Facey Thompson was impressive in winning all three of his men’s class 9 group matches 3-0, defeating Ali Alsanea from Kuwait, Koyo Iwabuchi from Japan and the Russian Vladislav Balobanov, but the 22 year old Londoner had to withdraw from his quarter-final with a back injury.

Swansea teenager Lawrence John had a tough opening match in men’s class 10 against Mateo Boheas and lost 3-0 to the World number four from France. A 3-0 win against Takumi Tsujimura from Japan kept him in contention but a 3-0 loss in his final match to the Brazilian Claudio Massad left him in third place in the group and he did not progress to the knockout stages.

In women’s class 6 Felicity Pickard began with an impressive 3-0 win over the World number two Raisa Chebanika from Russia but 3-1 losses to Emelie Endre from Sweden and the Ukrainian Maryna Lytovchenko put her out of the competition.

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Newcomer Stockdale takes gold in Lignano Junior Open

Romford teenager Jack Stockdale made a winning start to his international career in Para table tennis by taking gold in the men’s class 10 singles at the Lignano Junior (U23) Open in Italy today.

STOCKDALE Jack Lignano Junior OpenThe 16 year old came through his group with three wins from three and after 3-1 wins over Alexandros Diakoymakos from Greece and Lorenzo Cordua from Italy he defeated his GB team mate Lawrence John in the final 3-2.

“I really enjoyed my first ever international tournament representing GB,” said Stockdale, “especially getting the chance to play in the final. I feel like I have learned a lot already. I played well throughout the tournament and got even better towards the end. It was very nice to come away with gold and I can’t wait to play another international tournament. I was nervous at the start but with the support of the team and the right attitude I was able to bring it together and keep the same high intensity throughout. Overall, it was a very good experience.”

JOHN Lawrence Lignano Junior OpenWelshman John, 18, is hoping to take this experience into the Lignano Master Open that starts tomorrow.

“I enjoyed my first international tournament back this year,” he said. “I felt I played well throughout the tournament – keeping a good intensity from the first match to the last. My game felt stronger as I progressed and it was a good experience to play against a teammate in the final. I’m looking forward to now playing the senior event and I’m going in having learnt from the U23s event and taking on board how I played.”

The young GB Pathway squad picked up a further two medals with 18 year old Dan Bullen from St Neots taking bronze in the men’s class 4-5 singles after losing his semi-final to the Dutchman Sem Roelofs and Tamlan Eastwood picking up bronze in the round robin men’s class 9 event thanks to a 3-0 win over the Russian Vladislav Balobanov.

“I have enjoyed the first international of the year,” said Bullen. “I played well in parts and I have learnt a lot that I can work on going forward before the Romania Open in a few weeks. I’ll go back to training now feeling motivated to get better.”

“I have learnt a lot from my time in Italy and it has been a good experience,” said 15 year old Eastwood, from Swansea. “I feel that I played well throughout the tournament and have a lot of things to improve on.”

Photos courtesy of ITTF.

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Paralympic medalists head British squad for Italy

Paralympic medalists Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson, who took bronze in the men’s class 6-8 team event in Rio last September, head a squad of 12 athletes representing the British Para Table Tennis Team in the Lignano Master Open in Italy next week (March 1-4).

mc-kibbin-aaron-grb-3McKibbin won the deciding singles tie against World champions China that secured the bronze medal in Rio and is hoping to carry that form into the start of the new season.

“It was big for me to win that last match in the team event in Rio and prove that I deserved to be there,” he admits. “I definitely feel more relaxed going in to this season as although I still want to improve and perform well I feel more confident now – I’ve done it before so hopefully I can do it again. We are ready for some matches and it will be exciting to compete again. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off in Rio.”

Ross Wilson YESWilson has had to contend with a series of injuries since taking a bronze medal in London 2012 at the age of just 17 and won bronze in Rio despite a preparation hampered again by injury.

“Preparation has been going really well,” said the 21 year old from Minster. “Italy will be my first competition since Rio so I really can’t wait to get out there and see where I am compared to the other players in the world. The plan is to make sure that I get on top of my recovery work and hopefully have fewer injuries so I can train more. If I can get results like I did in Rio even when I am struggling with injuries then hopefully I can do even better if I can stay fit.”

Also competing in Italy will be five time Paralympian Sue Gilroy who came agonisingly close to winning her first Paralympic medal in Rio, losing a very close match for the bronze medal to the Serbian Nada Matic 3-2.

Sue Gilroy Day 1 v Zhang“Training has been going well,” said Gilroy. “I’ve been playing a lot of able bodied county tournaments and in two leagues so most of my preparation has been playing against able bodied players but I’ve been on a GB training camp in Sheffield this week and playing against wheelchair players and I’ve been playing really well. I played well in Rio – the last match was disappointing but it is a new season now so I’m really looking forward to Italy.”

The full squad for the Lignano Master Open is:

Ashley Facey Thompson (Class 9 – London)
Sue Gilroy MBE (Class 4 – Barnsley)
Lawrence John (Class 10 – Swansea)
Paul Karabardak (Class 6 – Swansea)
Aaron McKibbin (Class 8 – London/Sheffield)
Tom Matthews (Class 1 – Aberdare)
Martin Perry (Class 6 – Paisley)
Felicity Pickard (Class 6 – Burnley)
Megan Shackleton (Class 4 – Todmorden)
Billy Shilton (Class 8 – Stonehouse/Sheffield)
David Wetherill (Class 6 – Torpoint)
Ross Wilson (Class 8 – Minster/Sheffield)

The following members of the Pathway Squad will be competing in the Lignano Junior Open (February 27-28):

Craig Allen (Class 9 – Birmingham)
Daniel Bullen (Class 5 – St Neotts)
Tamlan Eastwood (Class 9 – Swansea)
Ryan Henry (Class 8 – Ardrossan)
Lawrence John (Class 10 – Swansea)
Conor McAdam (Class 6 – Troon)
Jack Stockdale (TBC – Romford)
Shae Thakker (Class 10 – Slough)

Follow the British Para Table Tennis Team on Twitter @gbparatt

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Bayley dominates Draycott Para Open

Will Bayley & Dave Cochrane Draycott Para OpenParalympic champion Will Bayley dominated the Draycott Para Open today – taking the class 7 singles, combining with Martin Perry to win the open standing doubles and completing a clean sweep in his three events by defeating Perry 3-0 to win the open standing singles.

Men’s class 1 Paralympic champion Rob Davies also started his season in style by winning all his three matches in the round robin class 1-2 singles. The Welshman had to settle for runners-up spot in the open wheelchair doubles after he and Noel Thomas lost the decisive match to Dan Bullen and Lucie Bouron and after a great fight back from 0-2 to beat Bouron in the semi-finals of the open wheelchair singles Davies was defeated 3-1 by class 5 player Bullen in the final.

Perry secured victory in the round robin class 6 singles with a 3-1 win against fellow GB Pathway squad member Fliss Pickard and Bullen won the class 3-5 singles with a 3-1 win against Bouron in the final. Ryan Henry took the round robin class 8 event after winning all three of his matches and Adam Thompson took the round robin class 11 singles.

Craig Allen’s 3-2 victory over Shae Thakker proved to be the decisive result in the round robin class 9-10 singles but Thakker won the Junior standing singles, beating Alex Bland 3-0 in the final.

Players at Draycott Para OpenFinal Results
Class 1-2 Singles RR
Winner: Rob Davies
Runner-up: Oye Jemiyo

Class 3-5 Singles
Final: Daniel Bullen beat Lucie Bouron 3-1

Class 6 Singles RR
Winner: Martin Perry
Runner-up: Fliss Pickard

Class 7 Singles
Final: Will Bayley beat Alex Bland 3-0

Class 8 Singles RR
Winner: Ryan Henry
Runner-up: Nick Dibben

Class 9-10 Singles RR
Winner: Craig Allen
Runner-up: Shae Thakker

Class 11 Singles RR
Winner: Adam Thompson
Runner-up: Peter Millar

Junior Standing Singles
Final: Shae Thakker beat Alex Bland 3-0

Open Standing Doubles
Final: Will Bayley/Martin Perry beat Craig Allen/Tam Eastwood 3-0

Open Wheelchair Doubles RR
Winners: Lucie Bouron/Dan Bullen
Runners-up: Rob Davies/Noel Thomas

Open Standing Singles A
Final: Will Bayley beat Martin Perry 3-0

Open Standing Singles B
Final: Tamar Packford beat Nick Dibben 3-1

Open Standing Singles C
Final: Peter Millar beat Jaiden Caldeira 3-0

Open Wheelchair Singles A
Final: Dan Bullen beat Rob Davies 3-1

Open Wheelchair Singles B/C RR
Winner: Raul Popat
Runner-up: Paul Ledward

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Matthews and Shilton selected for Performance Squad

European medalists Tom Matthews and Billy Shilton have been named in the British Para Table Tennis Performance squad for 2017.

Tom Matthews Slovenia medalMatthews, 24, joined the British Pathway squad in 2013 and partnered Paralympic champion and fellow Welshman Rob Davies to win the men’s class 1 European team title in 2015, having also taken bronze in the singles event. After narrowly missing out on qualification for Rio 2016 he missed most of last year after breaking his leg in the spring but returned in December to take gold in the US Open, beating the Korean World number five and Rio bronze medalist KiWon Nam in the final.

Shilton, 18, also joined the Pathway squad in 2013 and made rapid progress to take bronze in the men’s class 7 singles and silver in the men’s class 7 teams at the European Championships in 2015. The Gloucestershire teenager missed out on Paralympic qualification after being reclassified as a class 8 athlete but went to Rio as part of ParalympicsGB’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme.

“Both Tom and Billy have been selected for the Performance Squad because of the potential they have shown over the last two years,” said BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko.

“Tom just missed qualification for Rio and then lost eight months away from the table following an accident but before that he had beaten top 10 players in the world and was starting to beat top five players in the world. His performance in winning gold in Las Vegas in December showed that he will soon become a World top 10 athlete.  I believe that Tom will be a future medalist for GB in major championships and he is a great prospect for Tokyo 2020.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 3“Billy has been part of the programme now for the last four years and he has shown consistent improvement. He moved to Sheffield last year, which was the first big step for him towards joining the Performance squad, and now he has shown that he is a performance athlete and he understands what he needs to do to be a future medalist at the major competitions.  He also played really well in the US Open at the end of last year and it is looking strong for the programme that we can take players from the Pathway squad to the Performance squad and this is how it should work.”

The full BPTT Performance Squad for 2017 is:

Will Bayley MBE (class 7) – Tunbridge Wells/Sheffield
Paul Davies (class 1) – North Cornelly
Rob Davies MBE (class 1) – Brecon
Kim Daybell (class 10) – Leeds/Sheffield
Ashley Facey Thompson (class 9) – London
Sue Gilroy MBE (class 4) – Barnsley
Jack Hunter-Spivey (class 5) – Liverpool/Sheffield
Paul Karabardak (class 6) – Swansea
Tom Matthews (class 1) – Aberdare
Aaron McKibbin (class 8) – London/Sheffield
Megan Shackleton (class 4) – Todmorden
Billy Shilton (class 8) – Stonehouse/Sheffield
David Wetherill (class 6) – Torpoint
Ross Wilson (class 8) – Minster/Sheffield