GB Team – Billy Shilton

Billy Shilton portrait

Date and place of birth: 09/10/1998, Gloucester
Home town: Stonehouse
Lives: Sheffield
Family: mum Lisa, dad Michael, brothers Jacob and Stanley
TT Class: 8
Current world ranking: 19
TT Style: fast offensive player
International debut: 2013, Belgian Open

 

 

Billy’s story:
Billy started playing table tennis at the age of 12 after watching his dad Michael play in a local league tournament. Having been diagnosed at the age of five with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), a group of inherited conditions that damage nerves outside the brain and spine and also affects his father and grandfather, he was looking for a sport that he could play competitively.

“I used to play football before the problems with my legs got worse and I couldn’t play anymore,” he recalls. “I find it difficult to move around and in terms of table tennis it affects my speed around the table, movement and power but I loved table tennis from day one. It is fast and exciting and you really have to concentrate.”

After playing the local league Billy was spotted by the GB Para squad at the UK School Games in 2012 and invited to attend a development camp from which he progressed to the Pathway Squad. He made his international debut in Belgium in 2013 where he was initially classified in class 8 but two months later he went to the US Open in San Diego where, at the request of the GB team, he was assessed again by the classifiers, who overturned the original decision and confirmed him as a class 7 player.

“It was disappointing to have to compete in class 8 in Belgium,” he admitted, “so when I was reclassified as class 7 in San Diego I then relaxed as I didn’t have to worry anymore and could play with more freedom. Winning a medal in the team event was very exciting and it has given me an idea of what I need to do in future tournaments.”

In 2014 Billy continued to progress and won his first gold medal at the Slovenia Open in May, combining with Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak to win the men’s class 7 team event. He followed that with his first individual medal – a bronze in the Spanish Open – and finished the season on a high by taking gold in the men’s class 7 team event in the Cote d’Azur International with Swedish partner Nicklas Westerberg.

“This gold medal means a lot more,” he said afterwards, “because when I won gold in Slovenia I was watching Will and Paul and getting inspiration from what they were doing so to do it on my own with Nicklas is fantastic.”

Billy began 2015 by taking gold in the men’s teams and bronze in the singles in Hungary and he continued to improve, teaming up with Will Bayley to beat World champions Spain and take gold in Slovenia and then beating the powerful Chinese team in Germany. Having been selected for his first major championship – the European Championships in Denmark – he exceeded all expectations in reaching the semi-finals of the singles, beating the reigning European champion and World number three Mykhaylo Popov in the quarter-finals.

“I set myself the target of getting to the quarter finals,” he said, “so anything beyond that was a bonus really so I’m very happy. I can’t quite believe it to be honest – it’s like a dream come true.”

Billy then combined with Will Bayley to take silver in the men’s class 7 team event – beating World champions Spain again and only losing to the very strong Ukraine team in the final.

“My motivation is really high now after losing that match and the semi-final in the singles,” said Billy. “Playing in a major final is not something I am used to so to get the experience at such a young age is really good for me.”

Following the European Championships the ITTF Para Table Tennis Committee made the decision to look at his classification and he competed in Belgium in class 8 to allow the international classifier to observe him and make a decision regarding his future classification. He responded with a superb performance to win his first singles gold medal and was subsequently confirmed as a class 8 player.

“Playing in class 8 was quite difficult to be honest,” he admitted, “but I think I coped with it quite well. I just tried to relax and play my table tennis.”

Billy finished the 2015 season by taking team bronze in the China Open and singles bronze in Costa Rica. He finished just outside a qualification place for the 2016 Paralympic Games but went to Rio as part of ParalympicsGB’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme.
“I was really honoured to be selected for the programme and going to Rio was an amazing experience,” he said. “It’s really motivated me to go on now and get to Tokyo. That’s always been my long-term aim, to qualify for a Paralympics, so hopefully I can do that.”
A former pupil at Maidenhill School in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire he moved to Sheffield in July 2015 to train full time with the GB Performance Squad and is studying for a level 2 BTec diploma in sport at Hillsborough College.

Take 5 with Billy:
If you had to appear in a reality TV show which would it be – I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
Three famous people you would most like to have a drink with – Usain Bolt, Muhammad Ali, Mo Farah
Alternative occupation – sports psychologist
Sporting event you would most like a ticket for – Olympic table tennis final
Three words that describe you best – funny, self-confident, hard working
and finally – Billy’s superstition involves shutting all the cupboard doors in his room before he goes to bed

2017 Results:
World Team Championships, Slovakia – 7th, men’s class 8
Slovenia Open – bronze, men’s teams (class 8); last 16, men’s singles (class 8)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – last 16, men’s singles (class 8)

2016 Results:
US Open, Las Vegas – silver, men’s teams (class 8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)
Romania International Open – QF, men’s singles (class 8); 4th, men’s RR team (class 9)
Romania Junior Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
PTT Spanish Open – QF, men’s singles (class 8); QF, men’s teams (class 8)
Slovakia Open – last 16, men’s singles (class 8); QF, men’s teams (class 8)
Slovenia Open – last 16, men’s singles (class 8); group stages, men’s teams (class 8)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – group stages, men’s singles (class 8); group stages, men’s singles (class 8)

2015 Results:
Copa Costa Rica – bronze, men’s singles (class 8)
China Open – bronze, men’s teams (class 8-10); group stages, men’s singles (class 8)
Belgian Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
European Championships, Vejle, Denmark – bronze, men’s singles (class 7); silver, men’s teams (class 7)
Czech Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 7); bronze, men’s teams (class 6-7)
Bayreuth Open, Germany – silver, men’s teams (class 7); group stages, men’s singles (class 7)
Slovenia Open – gold, men’s teams (class 7); last 16 men’s singles (class 7)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – group stages, men’s singles (class 7); QF men’s teams (class 7)
Hungarian Open – gold, men’s teams (class 6-7); bronze, men’s singles (class 7)

2014 Results:
Cote d’Azur International, France – gold, men’s teams (class 7); QF men’s singles (class 7)
Spanish Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 7); silver, men’s teams (class 6-7)
Romania Open – bronze, men’s teams (class 6-7)
Slovenia Open – gold, men’s teams (class 7); group stages, men’s singles (class 7)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – group stages, men’s singles (class 7); group stages, men’s teams (class 6-7)

Career Highlights:
2016: US Open, Las Vegas – silver, men’s teams (class 8)
Romania Junior Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
2015: Belgian Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
European Championships, Vejle, Denmark – bronze, men’s singles (class 7); silver, men’s teams (class 7)
Bayreuth Open, Germany – silver, men’s teams (class 7)
Slovenia Open – gold, men’s teams (class 7)
Hungarian Open – gold, men’s teams (class 6-7); bronze, men’s singles (class 7)
2014: Cote d’Azur International, France – gold, men’s teams (class 7); QF men’s singles (class 7)
Spanish Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 7); silver, men’s teams (class 6-7)
Romania Open – bronze, men’s teams (class 6-7)
Slovenia Open – gold, men’s teams (class 7)
2013: US Open, San Diego – bronze, men’s team (class 10)
Further results are available at: http://www.ipttc.org/players/men/shilton_billy/index.htm