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.”

Para ace Craig Allen shortlisted for sports award

ALLEN Craig Mark Lignano Junior Open

British Para table tennis player Craig Allen has been shortlisted as Herefordshire and Worcestershire Sports Partnership Disabled Sportsperson of the Year.

It comes at the end of a 12-month period in which he has achieved a number of accolades, including a gold medal at the Romanian Para Open (Under-23) in March and silver at the Spanish Para Open (Under-23) in June.

In the UK he won silver in Class 9 at the British Para Table Tennis National Championships, along with bronze in the doubles (Classes 6-10).

There was also a double gold at the Draycott Para Table Tennis Championships – in Class 9/10 and in the Men’s Standing Band A Open (Class 6-10).

At a local level, he was presented with the Meritorious Award by Bromsgrove and Redditch Table Tennis Association for his commitment to table tennis. He won the Men’s Doubles in the league’s championships, alongside Russell Duncan.

A part-time member of Grantham Table Tennis Academy, Craig has also recently passed his Level 2 table tennis coaching award, as well as graduating from the University of Bedfordshire with a Foundation degree in Sports Coaching, and has passed the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze and Silver Awards.

The ceremony is on Thursday and Craig is one of three on the shortlist.

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.”

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

Tribute to two Welsh Paralympians

It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the deaths of Jim Munkley MBE – Honorary Life Member of BPTT and former Paralympian –and Claire Robertson – also a former Paralympian player for GB .   We offer our condolences to Christine and Scott respectively.

Jim was one of the pioneers of disability sport in Wales, in 1980 he decided to concentrate on table tennis which became a huge part of his life for the next 37 years. He was a five-time Paralympian, competed in three World Championships and multiple European Championships. After nearly 40 years competing, in 2008 Jim retired and began his very successful coaching career. He has influenced many of our current and recent members of  our World Class Performance Para Squad who have been based in Wales..

Claire was also a GB Paralympic table tennis player who made her debut at the 2008 Beijing Games and was married to Scott Robertson who played in four consecutive Paralympic Games before retiring after London 2012. They will be sadly missed by all who knew them

Karen Tonge MBE   Chairman

October 2017

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.”

Davies retains European crown as British team takes seven singles medals

Paralympic champion Rob Davies retained his men’s class one singles title at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Slovenia today but Will Bayley had to settle for bronze in his bid to add the European crown to his World and Paralympic titles.

Davies led a historic British clean sweep of the medals in men’s class one with Tom Matthews taking silver and Paul Davies bronze. David Wetherill took silver in men’s class 6 and there were bronze medals for Sue Gilroy in women’s class 4-5 and Ross Wilson in men’s class 8.

Full report
DAVIS Rob and MATTHEWS Thomas 0908In the semi-final Rob Davies had to take on his great friend and fellow Welshman Paul Davies in what was a repeat of their final in the European Championships in 2013. It went to a deciding set and the 33 year old from Brecon proved just too strong for the 50 year old from North Cornelly in taking the match 11-5 in the fifth. He then had to take on another fellow Welshman in Matthews in the final and used all his experience to close out the match 11-9 in the third to secure his third consecutive European title.

“It feels pretty amazing,” said Davies. “It was a very emotional semi-final playing Paul. To say he has been through a hell of lot in the last 12 months is an understatement and for him to come back and perform like that shows what he is made of and the character of him.  For Tom as well to win the semi-final shows how much GB Para table tennis is coming on and the young players are improving all the time. The World title next year would be nice. That is definitely my aim – I didn’t think I would be in the finals here to be honest but I’ve done it, dug deep and battled through every match and got there. That gives me a lot of confidence. I’ll be better prepared next year, lose some weight and get back in the gym and hopefully I’ll be in better shape again for the Worlds next year.”

Matthews faced Federico Falco, the Italian who had taken Rob Davies to five sets in the group stages, in his semi-final and showed great character and fight to come back from 2-1 down to take the final two sets 11-8. The 25 year old from Aberdare was not quite able to reproduce that form in the final but having taken bronze two years ago was happy to take the silver this time.

“Rob is a true champion and a great guy,” said Matthews. “I’m happy for Rob, happy for myself and happy for the team. We have had a one, two, three and made history so I can’t really complain. To be honest I was really nervous going in to the fifth set against Falco and Neil (coach) really calmed me down and said ‘fight for it – you want it’. So I put everything in to it and came out on top. I’ve got to give Rob a bit more of a challenge next time; I didn’t play my best in the final but he deserves it and bring on the next Europeans.”

London 2012 bronze medallist Paul Davies was also delighted to be back in the medals at a major championship.

DAVIES Paul 0747“It was a really good game,” he said. “I’ve got to give the guy (Rob) credit, he is a talented player and I’m the master who taught him! He deserved to win but I think I pushed him to get that win today. We got the one, two, three and that has never happened before so happy days. A lot of people questioned if I would come back after last year and of course I wanted to come back. To perform here like I have done – I never thought I could do that – so it would be silly to stop now. I’m not finished yet – no way.”

Wetherill once again showed all his battling qualities with a 3-2 win in the quarter-final against the World team gold medallist Alberto Seoane Alcazar from Spain and reached the final of men’s class 6 with a four set win against the Romanian Bobi Simion, who was a surprise winner against the Paralympic and defending European champion Peter Rosenmeier. The final against the World number one Alvaro Valera proved to be one match too many for the 27 year old from Torpoint and although he kept fighting and took the third set the Spaniard took the match 11-5 in the fourth.

WETHERILL David Paul 0559“Even in the set I won I didn’t feel comfortable,” said Wetherill, “and he made it really difficult for me today. I wanted to make it difficult for him and I didn’t really do that to be honest. I just had nothing left in the tank. I tried my best but in hindsight I should have taken my chances a bit more in the previous rounds as I made it more difficult for myself than it could have been. At the end of the day I got the wins but sometimes over the course of a tournament you have your ups and downs and you need to conserve your body a little bit. It was disappointing not to go into the final feeling fresh because I would have been a lot more confident than I was but take nothing away from Alvaro – he did the business.”

After a 3-0 win against the Frenchman Kevin Dourbecker, Bayley faced Mykhaylo Popov in his semi-final in a repeat of the European Championship final in 2013 that the Ukrainian won. The 29 year old from Tunbridge Wells started slowly and although he fought back from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 he could not close out the match against an in-form Popov.

BAYLEY William John 017“He is number three in the World and he has been European champion before so he is a great player,” said a disappointed Bayley. “But that is sport and that is table tennis and anything can happen on the day. He got on top of me and deserved to win today for sure. I knew when I was 2-0 down it would be a mountain to climb but I started to climb it and come back but I just couldn’t get to the top. I gave it everything and it was close in the end. I reached the final in every major from 2011 to 2016 and although the bronze is not what I wanted, to get another major medal makes me proud. I need to look forward now towards the World championships and try and improve again.”

Wilson was European silver medallist in 2011 at the age of 16 and despite a series of injuries which have hampered his career since London 2012 has won team bronze medals in London and Rio. After edging a close first set against the World, Paralympic and European team gold medallist from Poland, Piotr Grudzien, 12-10 the 22 year old from Minster showed his class to secure a 3-0 win. His reward was a semi-final against the World champion and World number one Viktor Didukh and he pushed the Ukrainian all the way, coming back from 2-1 down to force a decider which Didukh won 11-7.

Ross Wilson action 1“I’m happy with how I played,” said Wilson, “but I wish I could have reversed the result and got a 3-2 win. So it is really hard at the moment but I am sure that when I get back to training it will be something to spur me on to do better in the World Championships next year and eventually Tokyo. I think last year I wasn’t really pushing the top guys very much – I was always a level down and now I have really upped my level and my game again and I think I am competing with the top three guys in the world now. I just want to keep improving next time and come back even stronger.”

Gilroy came through her quarter-final against Zorica Popadic 3-0 to face another Serbian Borislava Peric-Rankovic.  The Paralympic champion and World number one has so often been her nemesis in the past and so it proved again today with Gilroy unable to produce her best form in a 3-0 loss.

GILROY Susan 362“I’m really disappointed with how I played against Peric,” said the 44 year old from Barnsley. “Normally I give her a really good game and unfortunately I didn’t do that today. I’ve been out for the last three months after having surgery on my arm and I’ve only been back playing for six weeks so I didn’t expect to get a medal and it is brilliant to get a bronze. Fingers crossed I can turn it round in the team event and play the standard I know I can play.”

Gilroy will be partnered in the team event by Megan Shackleton who also faced Peric-Rankovic in her quarter-final.  She took the first set before the Serbian showed her experience in taking the next three but it was a promising performance by the 18 year old from Todmorden.

“I’m really proud of how I competed today,” said Shackleton. “It was obviously going to be a tough draw in the quarter finals against the Paralympic champion but I am showing I can compete and that gives me great confidence going into future matches. I’m gaining more experience every time but one thing that is going to be crucial for me is sticking to the same mind-set throughout a match – so that whether I’m up or down in sets I can keep the same approach in the games – and that will be the big change for me. I’m really looking forward to the team event – we have both had a good singles competition and that shows promise for the team event here.”

After some impressive performances over the first two days Kim Daybell could not quite find his best form in his men’s class 10 quarter-final against the European bronze medallist in 2015 Filip Radovic. The 17 year old from Montenegro was quick out of the blocks and took the first set 11-1 before Daybell levelled at 1-1. The third set was crucial and Radovic edged it 12-10 and went on to take the fourth 11-8 and the match 3-1.

Kim Daybell action 1Daybell has been focusing on his medical studies since Rio and was competing in only his second international tournament since the 2016 Paralympic Games but was still disappointed to go out at the quarter-final stage.

“It was tough,” said the 25 year old from Sheffield. “He came out flying and I felt under pressure for the whole game and I never really settled. I think the match hinged on the third set – whoever went 2-1 up there was probably going to take it. But it was close all the way and he played a really good game today. I always play well in majors and I’ve reached quarter finals before but it is a shame that today it wasn’t quite the result I wanted. I’m looking forward to the team event now with Ash (Facey Thompson). There are lots of strong teams and it will be tough but we will do our best and see what we can do.”

Facey Thompson put up a good performance against the men’s class 9 Paralympic champion and World number one Laurens Devos, losing in three close sets to the 17 year old Belgian.

“The set scores were really tight,” said Facey Thompson. “I was believing in myself the whole way – it was 5-5 6-6 and I didn’t let it slip. I felt that I was competing with the best player in the world at the moment in my class and I did well to make him a bit nervous.  I kept fighting but there were just a few points that let me down – the quality and the placement of the balls. Kim is playing really well and I’m looking forward to playing with my team partner again. I am in full time training now so I might have more to give to the team but we will give it our all.”

Liverpool’s Jack Hunter-Spivey led the men’s class 5 World number two Ali Ozturk 2-1 in their quarter-final but the fourth set proved crucial and after edging that 11-9 the Turkish player ran away with the fifth set to clinch the match 3-2.

“I’ve had a good tournament and applied what I was doing in training,” said Hunter-Spivey, “but I’m very disappointed as I feel I could have won that match and a medal was mine at some point. That’s just the way it goes. I played a good level of table tennis but he is World number two and he was better than me on the day. I’m up there but I want to be winning – as an athlete you always criticise yourself and at the moment I’m just really disappointed that I lost but when I look back I’ll probably feel it was a good performance.”

The Championships continue with the team events that start tomorrow and conclude on Wednesday.

Two team medals for Britain in Czech Open

There were two medals for the squad of young British Pathway and Development athletes in the team events on the final day at the PTT Czech Open in Ostrava, with teenagers Jack Stockdale and Shae Thakker taking bronze in the men’s class 9-10 team and 22 year old Lucie Bouron picking up bronze in the women’s class 1-5 team with her Chilean partner Tamara Leonelli Leonelli.

Lucie Bouron Nat Champs 2017Bouron and Leonelli Leonelli came through their group with 2-0 wins against combined teams from Argentina/Netherlands and Israel/Greece. That set up a semi-final against the class 3 World number four Andela Muzinic and World number 10 Helena Dretar and the Croatian pair proved too experienced for the young British/Chilean combination, winning the doubles 3-0 before Muzinic clinched their place in the final with a 3-0 win against Leonelli Leonelli.

“I’m feeling pleased with this tournament,” said Bouron. “I feel that I’ve played some good table tennis here and that has been shown by my medal in the team event. There are definitely some positives coming through in my matches and some areas to take home and work on.”

Stockdale, 17, from Romford and 14 year old Thakker from Slough lost their opening group match to Czech Republic but progressed to the semi-finals after a 2-0 win against Craig Allen and his Hungarian partner Barnabas Retter, with Stockdale defeating Retter 3-0 in the first singles to clinch the tie.

The young British pair were no match for Poland in their semi-finJack Stockdale v Misztal (POL) Czech Openal, losing the doubles to the more experienced Pawel Konstantyn and Pawel Jablonski before Stockdale was beaten by Igor Misztal in the first singles.

“Being able to play in my first senior tournament was a great opportunity for me,” said Stockdale. “Even though I didn’t play my best I came away with a lot of things to work on. Overall it was a good learning curve for me and I was very happy to win a medal in the team event with Shae.”

“This tournament has been extremely challenging for me,” said Thakker. “I haven’t been at my best but it has shown me the areas that I need to work on and start to develop. I will learn from the experience and reflect on it in order to improve. I’m very happy to win a medal in the team event with Jack.”

Dan Bullen and Philippe Durieux from France lost their four matches in the round-robin men’s class 5 event while in men’s class 6-7 Conor McAdam and Assaf Gofer from Israel went out after losses to Croatia, Slovakia and Japan, and Ryan Henry and Alex Bland also went out of men’s class 8 at the group stage after losses to Poland and a combined team from Hungary and Thailand.