The GB Para Table Tennis Team completed its mini European Tour with four medals in the team events at the Bayreuth Open in Germany including gold for Jane Campbell and Sara Head in the women’s class 1-3 event, gold for Rob Davies in the men’s class 1 and gold for David Wetherill in the men’s class 6. Aaron McKibbin also picked up a bronze in the men’s class 8 team event to add to the bronze he won in the singles earlier in the week.
Wetherill, 23, from Torpoint, was making his first competitive appearance since London 2012 and was understandably a little rusty at the start of the tournament.
“It is good to be back playing competitively again,” he said. ”I was disappointed with my performance in the singles because I won all my group matches but then lost a match that I should have won.”
In the team event Wetherill, ranked number five in the world, was paired with world number three Peter Rosenmeier from Denmark and they came through the group stages despite a 3-1 loss to the Israeli/Romanian combination of Danny Bobrov and Bobi Simion. A 3-0 win over Thailand/Italy in the semi-finals included a singles win for Wetherill over the Paralympic champion Rungroj Thainiyom from Thailand and he and Rosemeier went on to avenge their earlier defeat by Bobrov and Simion in the final, taking the gold medal 3-0.
“I was struggling mentally earlier in the tournament,” admitted Wetherill, “and I lost my head at times but Gorazd (Vecko) has really helped me this week with my mental approach and I have played better as the week has gone on. That was the difference today and this has given me a lot of confidence as I know that if I can get my mental approach to matches right then I can beat anyone.”
Jane Campbell and Sara Head, Paralympic bronze medalists in the women’s class 1-3 team event in London, came through their group with wins against Germany and the second French team. They then defeated Turkey 3-0 in the semi-finals to set up a final against the number one French team of Fanny Bertrand and Marie-Christine Fillou. Campbell beat the higher ranked Bertrand and Head beat Fillou in the first singles rubbers before combining to win the doubles and clinch the gold medal 3-0.
London based Campbell had earlier won a bronze in the singles and lost only one match during the tournament, to the world number one Anna-Carin Ahlquist of Sweden.
“I played better against Ahlquist than ever before,” she said, “and beating Bertrand 3-0 today was definitely the highlight of the tournament for me. It is always amazing playing with Sara and this was the first time we have won a gold medal since the European Championships in 2011 so we can look forward to this year’s Europeans with a lot of confidence.”
Head can also take heart from her performance as she lost only one match – to Hatice Duman of Turkey in the group stages of the singles event. The Welsh player avenged that defeat in the semi-finals of the team event today and feels that she and Campbell have laid down an important marker ahead of the defence of their European title later this year.
“To win gold today was a phenomenal feeling,” said Head. “It is always good to show our opponents how well we are playing and this will send out an important message ahead of the Europeans.”
Davies, from Brecon, teamed up with Silvio Keller from Switzerland, who had partnered Davies’s GB partner and fellow Welshman Paul Davies to gold in the team event in Slovakia the previous week. The pair won all their three matches in the round-robin tournament 3-0 to take the gold in emphatic style and give Davies his second medal of the tournament after a silver in the singles.
“I played quite well,” said Davies, who had been disappointed not to take gold in the singles. “I won all my matches and we got the job done so I’m happy.”
McKibbin, the 21 year old Londoner who is based in Sheffield, is improving all the time and completed a good week with another bronze medal in the team event. The world number 15 was paired with Leonardo Aritonang from Indonesia, ranked 29th in the world, and after winning their group they beat the Brazilian team in the quarter-finals to set up a semi-final against Sweden. Despite losing the tie 3-1 McKibbin recorded a fine singles win over the higher ranked Fabian Rignell and played well in defeat against world number two Emil Andersson.
“I’m quite happy with my performance,” said McKibbin. “I’ve played solidly all week and had a good win today against a player who is ranked above me. Although I lost to Andersson 3-0 I feel I’m getting closer and I can go into the next three months of training with more confidence.”
The GB players now have a three month period of training to prepare for the European Championships in Italy in September and Performance Director Gorazd Vecko is pleased with the team’s results over the past four weeks.
“We have had three good tournaments in Slovenia, Slovakia and now Germany,” said Vecko, “and some good results including singles wins against higher ranked opponents. The young players are improving all the time and that is very encouraging for the future as they will continue to get better with more experience.”
There was further success for Britain at the tournament as Barnsley’s former Commonwealth champion Sue Gilroy, who is not a member of the GB Performance Squad, combined with Joyce Oliveira of Brazil to win the women’s class 4 team event after taking gold in the singles earlier in the week.
For further information, please contact the GB Para Table Tennis Team press officer Francesca Bullock on 07768 515841 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org