Deborah Davies

last-leg-groupIt is with great sadness that we have learnt of the sudden death of Deborah Davies, the wife of Paul Davies – a member of the GB Para Table Tennis squad who was bronze medallist in men’s class 1 singles in the London 2012 Paralympic Games and men’s class 1 European Team Champion in 2013 with Rob Davies. Deborah accompanied Paul to all his international competitions as his carer and was a valued member of the GB team. She was in Rio with Paul and as always was a great help to all the team with her kindness, good humour and enthusiastic support of all the athletes.

GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko and one of his predecessors Dave Hewitt have both paid tribute to Deborah as a much respected team member who contributed greatly to the overall team ethos; these sentiments have also come from our President Philip Lewis MBE and  Vice-President John Jenkins MBE as well as the British Paralympic Association and all at UK Sport. Our deep sympathy and condolences go to Paul and his family.

A funeral service for Deborah will be held at 2:30pm on Thursday, October 6th at Margam Crematorium, Longland Lane, Port Talbot SA13 2NR.
Karen Tonge MBE
Posted in GB

SportsAid Week raising money to help support the next generation of British sports stars on the road to Tokyo and beyond

SportsAid is encouraging the British public to support the country’s sporting future by undertaking fundraising activities to help the next generation of Olympians and Paralympians targeting Tokyo 2020 and beyond.

sportsaidweek-twitterThe charity’s inaugural SportsAid Week, launched to help mark SportsAid’s 40th anniversary in 2016, takes place from Monday 26 September to Sunday 2 October. The money generated will contribute towards the training and competition costs of young talented British sports stars.

SportsAid alumni were highly successful at the Rio Olympic Games with 46 of the 67 medals won by Team GB coming from athletes previously helped by the charity including Jessica Ennis-Hill, Adam Peaty, Mo Farah, Katherine Grainger, Bradley Wiggins, Max Whitlock, Laura Trott and Giles Scott.

A number of schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, sports clubs and individuals have lined up fundraising activities for SportsAid Week including sponsored bike rides and runs, sports demonstrations, poker tournaments, fancy dress days and bucket collections.

Hollie Webb, who won Olympic gold with Team GB’s women’s hockey in Rio, and Jon Schofield, a silver medallist in the K2 200m canoe sprint, are running Tough Mudder for SportsAid. They’re being joined by fellow SportsAid alumni Louisa Gurski and Lani Belcher, and Rachel Cawthorn.

Gail Emms is taking on Swim Serpentine, Mark Foster will be hosting a sports quiz in Southend, and Keri-anne Payne and David Florence are going to assist staff from MyLotto24 on their ‘Ride, Run and Row to Rio’. Leon Taylor is supporting the ICAP Graduate Charity Day at the London Aquatics Centre.

Royal Bank of Canada will be hosting a number of sporting demonstrations, including gymnastics, boxing and modern pentathlon, at two of its office in London while staff at Hogarth will be taking daily lunchtime walks with SportsAid ambassador Laura Wright joining them on Wednesday.

The Surrey Legs of Steel, marking its 10th anniversary on Saturday 1 October, coincides with SportsAid Week. The event is held to commemorate Dave Aitchison, a rising star in British triathlon, who died suddenly in January 2007 aged 29. All profits go towards the Dave Aitchison SportsAid Fund.

SportsAid Week, which will also look to shine a spotlight on the athletes aiming to reach Tokyo, has received the backing of Team GB gymnast Louis Smith and ParalympicsGB swimmer Ellie Simmonds, both of whom were given support by SportsAid during the early stages of their careers.

“Committing to sport at a high level can be a real challenge when you’re young,” said Louis – who received SportsAid awards in 2007 and 2008. “It’s not just the costs you face, but having the belief in yourself to keep training and competing to fulfil the potential you have.”

SportsAid Week champion Louis added: “The support I received from my family, friends and coaches was crucial, and SportsAid acted as an extra vote of confidence when I needed it. They recognised me for my talent and I felt that somebody else believed I could make it.”

SportsAid alumni also made a big contribution towards the ParalympicsGB medal haul with 44 gold, 28 silver and 32 bronze coming from them. Ellie received her award in 2006 when she was just 11 – two years before she burst onto the scene by winning double gold at Beijing 2008.

“The support SportsAid gave to me when I was younger made a real difference so early on in my career,” said Ellie. “They recognised the potential I had and helped contribute towards covering the costs a young athlete and their family can face when training and competing.

“SportsAid Week is a great way for people across the country to show their support for the next generation of British athletes straight after Rio. There will be lots of fun and exciting activities going on to help increase awareness of SportsAid and raise funds for the sports stars of the future.”

Prior to the arrival of National Lottery support in 1997, SportsAid was the major source of funding for most of the country’s top athletes, including Steve Redgrave and Tanni Grey-Thompson, from 1976 onwards. The charity’s focus turned to the next generation after UK Sport was established.

SportsAid is supporting over 1,000 athletes – the vast majority aged 12 to 18 – in 2016. They are considered to be the country’s brightest prospects and are nominated to the charity by the national governing bodies of more than 60 sports. The typical value of a SportsAid award is £1,000.

Most of the athletes supported by SportsAid receive no other funding which means they rely heavily on their parents and the award to help cover the costs associated with their sport such as transportation, accommodation and equipment.

You can make a donation during SportsAid Week to support young British athletes. Text “WEEK40 £5”, “WEEK40 £10” or as much as you would like to donate to 70070. You can also purchase a special edition SportsAid ‘1976’ anniversary headband for £2.50 each. Share a photo of you wearing your headband by tweeting @TeamSportsAid with #SportsAidWeek.

Shae to shine in national TV spotlight !!!

Up-and-coming para player Shae Thakker (class 10) will showcase his talents on a primetime TV show on Saturday night.

The 13-year-old, who recently won team gold and individual silver at the UK School Games, will appear on Go For It at 7pm on ITV.

The show, hosted by Stephen Mulhern, features people with impressive skills and talents performing challenges against the clock.

The nature of Shae’s challenge remains a mystery until the show airs, but the Denham player said filming the programme a few weeks ago was “an amazing experience that I will never forget”.

He added:shaethakker

“During the filming my heart was pounding I was excited and nervous facing the audience

“I was grateful for the opportunity to show my skill to everyone, I enjoyed every bit of the experience from filming the VT at home, having my own greenroom at the studios and meeting the whole cast of the production.

“I’m extremely excited being on TV.”

Don’t forget to tune in from 7pm to 8pm on ITV this Saturday to watch Shae in action.

The Last Leg in Rio

It’s our final day of competition in Rio and we have one last roll of the dice. After the disappointment of losing yesterday’s semi-final to Ukraine, Aaron, Ross and Will must pick themselves up and come back into the hall to fight for a bronze medal but they face the table tennis equivalent of climbing Everest as their opponents are class 8 World team champions China.

We know that the boys will give it everything but it was a tough loss yesterday and the Chinese team includes World number two and double Paralymic champion Zhao Shuai, World number four Ye Chao Qun and the former World number three Sun Churen.

The match is due to start at 12:00 but it is delayed by a great battle for the bronze in men’s class 4-5 between China (who else?) and Turkey. Finally, Ali Ozturk takes the deciding singles against Cao NingNing 3-2 and the Turkish team celebrate a famous victory. Can our boys do the same?

The athletes enter the hall for the men’s class 6-8 medal matches – Sweden and Ukraine are playing for gold and silver but the only match that really matters (if you are a GB supporter) is on table 4 – GB v China.

mc-kibbin-aaron-wilson-ross-williamYesterday Aaron and Ross gave Ukraine a 2-0 start in the doubles but they are clearly determined not to make the same mistake today and make a flying start – taking the first set 11-7 with some clever play. The second is much closer but Aaron and Ross keep their noses in front and edge it 11-9 with a great forehand from Ross which he greets with a roar and a fist pump.

Zhao and Ye are an experienced pair and do what they need to do – take the third set and then the fourth to level at 2-2 – and at 0-2 in the fifth coach Greg calls a time out. With chants of ‘GB! GB!’ ringing out around Riocentro3 Aaron and Ross return to the table and after levelling at 3-3 they pull ahead to 8-5. Time out for China and they then level at 8-8.

mc-kibbin-aaron-wilson-ross-william-5-will-greg-cheerOur hopes of the bronze hinge on winning the doubles but China take the next point to lead 9-8 before GB come back to level at 9-9 after a great rally. Zhao is bouncing on his toes like a boxer but he nets his return off a short serve to give our boys match point and thankfully they take it as Will and Greg leap to their feet in celebration.

So the first part of the climb has been safely negotiated but there is still a long way to go.

wilson-ross-william-gbr-3Ross and Aaron leave the hall for a short break and then Ross starts the first singles against Zhao. Ross has had so many injury problems since he made such an impact in London as a 17 year old but his character and determination have never been in doubt and after losing the first set he pushes Zhao all the way in the second before the Paralympic champion takes it 11-9. Back comes Ross in the third and from 4-4 he moves to 8-4 keeping the ball short and getting the error from Zhao.

The ‘Rossie Posse’ are getting into their stride and begin a chant of ‘Super, Super Ross, Super Rossie Wilson’ and Ross responds by taking the set 11-6. At 3-5 in the third Ross wins a great rally after Zhao nets but the Chinese player uses all his experience to close out the set 11-6 and take the match 3-1.

mc-kibbin-aaron-grb-3So all our hopes now rest on Aaron as he takes on Sun Churen. The two last met in the World Championships in 2014 when Sun won in four close sets so it is going to be tough but Aaron starts well, taking the first set 11-6 when his return catches the edge of the table off a wide serve by Sun. There is never more than a couple of points between the two in the second set but Sun takes it 11-9 after a great rally that ends when Aaron nets: 1-1.

Aaron recovers quickly and as he reaches 6-3 in the third the Chinese coach calls time out but it favours Aaron and he takes the set impressively 11-3: 2-1 to GB.

The fourth is another close affair but at 7-7 Aaron goes long and then nets a service return to hand the initiative to Sun and the left-hander takes the set 11-9 to level at 2-2.

After so many great matches over the past 10 days it is perhaps fitting that this one goes down to the wire as well but if you are a GB supporter it is stretching the nerves to breaking point. This has been such a great performance by the boys – can Aaron hold his nerve and bring home a third medal for GB?

He starts well and at 4-0 the ‘Rossie Possie’ are now chanting ‘Go Aaron McKibbin’. Sun blocks the ball and Aaron goes long and Sun reduces the deficit to 4-3 but Aaron keeps a slight advantage and an edge takes him to 8-5. He goes long on the next point and again on the next and with the score at 9-9 we can hardly bear to watch.

aaron-after-winning-final-point10-9 and Aaron has match point but he misses with his forehand: 10-10. Come on Aaron – you deserve this. Another match point and this time Aaron wins the rally and he drops his bat and turns to Ross, Will and Greg scarcely able to believe that he has done it.

Afterwards Aaron reveals: “I went to bed last night and said it would be great if I won 12-10 in the fifth tomorrow, so when it came to 10-10 in the fifth I thought maybe it was meant to be.”

If only we had known that we had nothing to worry about.

A delighted Martine is here from Channel 4 again to interview the boys and it is a much easier task than after yesterday’s semi-final when they had been so despondent. What a difference a day makes.

Prize giving over Aaron and Ross head off to spend time with their very proud families while Will and Rob have a date with Channel 4’s The Last Leg. They are accompanied by Jack, David, Paul Davies and Sue who are in the audience while Will and Rob are interviewed. It’s a fun end to an emotional day and a successful finish to the Paralympic table tennis for GB. The boys have conquered their Everest and can now look to Tokyo.


Posted in GB

GB beat China to take team bronze in Rio

gbr-mens-team-class-6-8-bronze-8The ParalympicsGB table tennis team finished Rio 2016 on a high as Aaron McKibbin, Ross Wilson and Will Bayley took the bronze medal in men’s class 6-8 team, beating the class 8 World team champions China 2-1.

McKibbin and Wilson had pushed Zhao Shuai and Ye Chao Qun to five sets in the Slovenia Open team event in May and, having made a slow start to the doubles in their semi-final against Ukraine yesterday, they immediately took the initiative against the Chinese pair by taking the first set 11-7.

The second set was closer but a great forehand from Wilson secured the set 11-9 and GB led 2-0.

mc-kibbin-aaron-wilson-ross-william-4Zhao and Ye hit back to take the next two sets and at 0-3 in the fifth it appeared as if China now had the momentum. But McKibbin and Wilson came back to level and then moved ahead and at 8-6 down China called a time out. It worked initially as they took the next three points but GB levelled at 9-9 and then a short serve from McKibbin was netted by Zhao to set up match point. They only needed one as another short serve was netted by Ye and McKibbin and Wilson had taken the doubles 3-2 for a 1-0 lead in the match.

In the first singles Wilson faced Zhao, who earlier in the week had retained his men’s class 8 Paralympic singles title. The 21 year old was always playing catch-up in the first set which Zhao took 11-7 but matched the World number two all the way through the second, which he lost narrowly 9-11, and then took the third 11-6 with some clever play. Although Zhao took the fourth 11-6 and the match 3-1 Wilson can be proud of his effort.

That left McKibbin needing to beat Sun Churen in the deciding singles to take the bronze. The 25 year old made the perfect start, taking the first set 11-6, but the Chinese former World number three came back to edge the second 11-9. The third set was all McKibbin and a time out for Sun at 6-3 down did not prevent the GB player from taking the set 11-3.

Sun took an early lead in the fourth set and although McKibbin levelled at 7-7 the Chinese player pulled away to take the set 11-9 and level the match.

mc-kibbin-aaron-grb-2There can be no greater pressure than playing a deciding set in the deciding singles against China to win a Paralympic medal but McKibbin began positively and raced into a 4-0 lead and although Sun reduced the deficit to 4-3 McKibbin kept inching ahead and at 8-5 was within sight of a famous victory. However, Sun was not done yet and levelled at 9-9 but McKibbin set up a match point only to go long with his forehand. An error by Sun gave him another match point and this time he made no mistake to win the set 12-10, the match 3-2 and the bronze medal for GB 2-1.

“To be honest I think the fifth game was down to nerves,” said McKibbin. “I was so nervous but I could see in his face that he was praying for me to miss and at the end I thought I just need to go for this and play to win and if I lose playing to win then fair enough. He was playing for me to miss and I was going to make sure that I played to win because I believe that if I play to win I have a better chance. Thankfully it paid off and it is just phenomenal.

“We have a special belief about us and we believed we were going to do this today. It was a hard loss yesterday and we came back and we believed genuinely that we could do this if we performed to our level and we showed it out there. I’m over the moon for the boys – we won a bronze medal in London but I personally think this is a greater achievement. We have had such hard opponents all the way through and the competition is getting stronger and stronger. I’m just so thrilled for the boys that we’ve done it.”

Wilson has endured a series of injuries in the last four years and was playing in only his sixth competition since London 2012.

wilson-ross-william-gbr-2“We started quite slowly in our semi-final match,” he said, “and we really wanted to up it for this one so we really wanted to start well and from the go we went out there and just gave it absolutely everything. We had a great start but they came back and showed amazing fight and we went down in the fifth but we believed until the end. I was feeling the nerves the whole way through the last match but we believed in him (Aaron). We do that as a team – we believe in each other and I think that is what makes us get these results and I can’t believe we’ve done it.”

Bayley, who had secured the decisive singles win in the quarter-final against Spain, admitted that he would rather play than watch.

“It was agony watching,” said the 28 year old, “and I just feel drained now. They were superb – we’ve come through a lot in this tournament and had to beat some good teams. Overall the tournament has been fantastic for us and I’m proud of the boys – they held their nerve superbly.”

Posted in GB

Tomorrow is another day

Semi-finals day in the team events in Rio and our focus is the match in men’s class 6-8 team between GB and Ukraine. The ‘Rossie Posse’ has joined the rest of the GB team in the stands and there are chants of ‘GB!’ as Will, Ross and Aaron enter the hall. A band of Ukrainian supporters are sitting behind GB but we have pole position.

aaron-ross-doubles-v-ukrRoss and Aaron are playing class 8 World number one Viktor Didukh and class 7 World number two Maksym Nikolenko in the opening doubles and the Ukrainian pair are looking ominously sharp and focused. As they take a 2-0 lead for the loss of only eight points Will leaves the hall to prepare for the first singles match – or perhaps he just can’t bear to watch.

But then Ross and Aaron start to play the way we know they can and from 0-3 they take the lead at 7-6 when a great forehand from Ross draws a mistake from Didukh. The next few points are shared and at 10-9 Ukraine have match point but Nikolenko nets. Didukh then goes long and another error secures the set for Ross and Aaron 12-10 and they are back in the game.

didukh-viktor-nikolenko-maksym-ukr-wilson-ross-william-mc-kibbin-aaron-gbrThe fourth set is nip and tuck and at 6-6 Didukh nets in response to a great shot by Aaron: 7-6 to GB. But then the umpire takes the point away from our boys because of what he thought was an infringement of the rules and there follows a long discussion between the two umpires and the referee to which coach Greg listens anxiously while Didukh prowls around in circles like a caged tiger.

Finally, the matter is resolved and the point reinstated: 7-6 to GB. Didukh nets his service return and a winning forehand from Aaron takes the score to 9-6 and two points later we have a point to level the match at 2-2 which is converted when Nikolenko nets.

After appearing down and out Ross and Aaron are back on terms and meanwhile in the other semi-final Sweden have won the doubles 3-2 to take a 1-0 lead against China.

Ukraine come out swinging in the fifth and quickly move to 6-1 but Ross and Aaron are still fighting and as they reduce the deficit to 6-7 we start to hope that they can complete what had looked an improbable victory. Sadly for them it is not to be as Didukh and Nikolenko combine to take the next four points and the match 3-2.

The boys now have a mountain to climb and Will is playing Didukh in the first singles. The Ukrainian was a good able bodied player before losing a leg to cancer and having surprisingly failed to medal in the singles here is clearly a man on a mission. It is the first time they have played each other and the first set is all Didukh as he unleashes his powerful shots to great effect.

will-bayley-final-2In the second set Will starts to score with a few shots of his own and clenches his fist as he wins a great rally but Didukh is on fire now and takes the set 11-6. Will is now pushing Didukh and levels at 4-4 but the Ukrainian has the look of a prize-fighter who knows his opponent is punching above his weight and he roars in triumph as he wins the match 11-6 in the third to take Ukraine into the final.

Zhao Shuai has beaten Emil Andersson in five sets to level against Sweden and their semi-final will be decided by the second singles between Ye Chaoqun and Linus Karlsson. There are shouts of delight from the Swedish team as Karlsson beats Ye 3-1; Sweden will play Ukraine for gold and we now know that we will have to beat China tomorrow.

Will, Ross and Aaron walk despondently away and stop on the way to speak to Channel 4. Although bitterly disappointed they have a bronze medal match to focus on and one thing is certain – they will give it everything.

Posted in GB

Gorazd Vecko and Karen Tonge MBE celebrate with Will Bayley

Gold celebrations at British House. Performance Director Gorazd Vecko and Chairman of British Para Table Tennis Karen Tonge MBE.

with Gold medallist and Paralympic Champion Class 7 Will Bayley.








The medals are quite heavy and as well as having braille writing all make different noises when shaken for gold, silver and bronze.




GB lose to Ukraine but will play for bronze

Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson put up a battling performance against Ukraine in the semi-final of men’s class 6-8 team but fell just short and will play for a bronze medal tomorrow against China, who lost their semi-final to Sweden.

wilson-mc-kibbin-gbr-m8-img_5877The modern format of team events puts even more emphasis on the doubles and it was the Ukrainian pair of class 8 World number one Viktor Didukh and class 7 World number two Maksym Nikolenko who started the best and they took the first two sets 4 and 4. However, McKibbin and Wilson slowly started to work their way back into the game and after winning a tense third set 12-10 they took the fourth 11-7 to level at 2-2.

The momentum was with GB but Ukraine were quick to put the loss of the third and fourth sets behind them and quickly moved to 6-1 in the deciding fifth. From 7-2 down McKibbin and Wilson again battled back to within a point but Didukh and Nikolenko were not to be denied and they took the set 11-6 and the match 3-2.

bayley-william-john-gbrm7-img_5596-v-strohThat left GB needing to win both singles and the first featured Bayley against Didukh. The class 7 World number one had never played the class 8 World number one and the Ukrainian simply had too much power for the class 7 World and Paralympic champion. As always Bayley kept fighting and pushed Didukh in the second and third sets but could not prevent him taking the match 11-6 in the third.

“I think we gave ourselves a chance,” said Wilson. “They got their tactics right at the beginning and were making us struggle but we started coming up with some answers and put them under pressure. We had great support from the crowd which put them under pressure as well. We gave it our absolute best shot and it really is disappointing that it wasn’t enough today. We’ll be back up and ready for it tomorrow.”

“We believe we are one of the best doubles teams in the world,” said McKibbin, “and we are just very disappointed that it took us so long to get going. If we can go into tomorrow playing as we did in the second half of the game we are good enough to beat anyone. It is down to us believing in each other and just going for it. We’ve got a great opportunity tomorrow and we just need to refocus.”

“It was a tough match against Didukh and I knew it would be,” admitted Bayley. “I started to know what he was doing to me and started to understand but it was difficult when you are 2-0 down to the World number one in class 8. He stitched me up in the first two sets so when you go 2-0 down to a player of that quality you are up against it and he was relaxed after winning the doubles. We didn’t do what we needed to do today but we’ve just got to go again and try and win tomorrow. We’ll come back fighting and we’re looking forward to it.”

Posted in GB

A game of fine margins

After the nerve-racking excitement and intensity of the medal matches in the singles it is the start of the team event today and Riocentro3 has a slightly more relaxed atmosphere as the players enter the hall for the first matches at 10:00.

First up for GB is a round 1 match in men’s class 9-10 with Kim and Ash taking on the Italian combination of men’s class 9 singles bronze medalist Mohamed Amine Kalem and the class 6 Raimondo Alecci. They take a 2-1 lead in the doubles but the Italians come back to force a decider and our boys assert themselves and run away with the final set 11-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the tie.

daybell-kim-gbrm10-img_5301Kim is playing Kalem in the first singles and loses the first set but comes back to take a nail-biting second set 15-13 with his usual mixture of spectacular defense and attack. The two players trade sets and – guess what – we are into another deciding set. Thankfully Kim takes it 11-6 and he and Ash are through and can prepare for their quarter-final match against the mighty China later this afternoon.

There is a delay to the start of Aaron, Ross and Will’s first match in men’s class 6-8 against Belgium as the previous match on table 6 between Netherlands and Austria goes the distance. When they finally get underway Aaron and Ross are back in their corner in next to no time with the first set won 11-2. They take the second 11-6 and at 0-3 in the third a timeout for the Belgian combination of Marc Ledoux and Mathieu Loicq gets them back on track and they take the third 12-10.

With Aaron and Ross trailing 6-9 in the fourth we seem to be heading for yet another final set but they clearly don’t fancy that and take the next five points to secure the win.

There is a roar from the crowd as Brazil have levelled at 2-2 in the doubles against Spain but World champions Morales and Valera take the fifth set to give Spain a 1-0 lead.

Ross is being supported by a posse of family and friends in the crowd and he gives them and us something to cheer about by taking an edgy first set against Ledoux 11-9. He seems to grow in confidence after that and takes the second 11-6.

alvaro-valera-espAt the same time Alvaro Valera is playing Israel Stroh in the first singles of the tie between Spain and Brazil and, just as he did against Will in the final of the men’s class 7 singles, Stroh is calling Valera on his serving action. The Spaniard is such a great champion with many years’ experience behind him and is so indignant that he calls the referee. The look on Valera’s face is reminiscent of sailing legend Ben Ainslie when he famously said about his opponent: “He made me angry and you don’t want to make me angry.”

Unfortunately for Valera he appears to lose concentration and Stroh takes the match 3-1 to level the tie.

Ross is not about to relinquish control of his singles match against Ledoux and takes the third set 11-6 for his first singles win at Rio 2016. The boys are safely through and will face either Spain or Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Valera may not have been able to channel his anger but fortunately for him and for Spain Morales can and after losing the first set to Paulo Salmin he fights back to take the second 16-14. Salmin takes the third but back comes Morales again from 8-4 down to take the fourth 11-8 and when he clinches the final set 11-9 to take the match 3-2 and the tie 2-1 both players fall backwards on to the floor as Valera and the Spanish coach leap to their feet in celebration.

So we will play Spain in the quarter finals at 18:00 in what is sure to be a real battle.

Jane and Sara have started their quarter final in women’s class 1-3 team against Italy – a repeat of their epic bronze medal match in London which our girls won. They make a great start by taking the doubles 3-0 but when Sara is beaten by Michela Brunelli it means that Jane has to beat 22 year old Giada Rossi.

campbell-lara-jane-gbrThe first set appears to be going to plan at 10-6 but Giada starts a run of seven consecutive points to take it 12-10 and then from 3-5 in the second comes back to take it 11-5. Jane is still looking determined and when she wins the third 11-5 we start to hope that she might be able to pull this one out of the fire. Sadly she can’t as Rossi takes the first five points of the fourth set and although Jane fights hard the Italian closes out the set 11-5 and the match 3-1.

It is desperately disappointing for Jane and Sara who will not repeat their medal winning performance in London 2012.

“It just wasn’t our day,” says Sara afterwards and one can only feel for her and Jane as their Paralympic dreams lie in tatters.

Rob’s Paralympic dream has already been realised but he wants a second medal with his great friend and team partner Paul Davies. However, in the Paralympic team events men’s classes 1 and 2 are combined and our Welsh duo are up against two class 2 athletes from Brazil. They lose the doubles 3-0 and Rob then loses the first set to Guilherme Marcio Da Costa.

We all know that he must be exhausted after all the effort and emotion of yesterday’s singles but sheer grit and determination enable him to haul himself back into the match by taking the second set.  He quickly goes 5-1 down in the third but rallies again and has chances to win it but Da Costa finally edges it 15-13. It proves to be Rob’s last roll of the dice and the Brazilian delights the crowd by taking the fourth and the match to take the home team through to the semi-finals.

daybell-kim-thompson-ashley-facey-gbr-3Meanwhile Kim and Ash are doing battle with China and having lost the first two sets in the doubles are locked in a battle for the third. The combined talent and experience of Lian Hao and Ma Lin clinches the set 14-12 and the match. Table tennis is all about the finest of margins – the boys haven’t been outplayed but they have lost 3-0 and the same happens when Kim plays Ma Lin. One or two points here and there make the difference between winning and losing but both Kim and Ash are encouraged by the level they have played at here.

So all our hopes for another medal now rest on Will, Aaron and Ross in men’s class 6-8. Can they beat World champions and London 2012 silver medalists Spain and reach the semi-finals? After Morales and Valera take the doubles in four close sets against Aaron and Ross we need to win both singles to keep our medal hopes alive.

Ross’s family and friends are back to cheer him on and as he takes a 2-0 lead against Valera chants of ‘Rossie, Rossie, Rossie; Oy, Oy, Oy’ urge him on. Valera doesn’t give up but Ross grinds out the third set and rewards the ‘Rossie Posse’ with a 3-0 win to level the tie at 1-1.

Not for the first time GB expects and Bayley delivers. He admits afterwards that he has never felt so nervous but he hides it well and never really looks in trouble against Morales, whose efforts against Brazil earlier may have left their mark.

Coach Greg jumps to his feet and salutes the GB supporters as Will wins the third set 11-2 and takes GB into a semi-final tomorrow against Ukraine.

Can the boys match or even improve on the bronze they won in London? Watch this space.

Posted in GB

GB through to semi-finals of men’s class 6-8 team event in Rio

Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson are through to the semi-finals of the men’s class 6-8 team event in Rio but there was disappointment for Rob Davies and Paul Davies (men’s class 1-2), Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 9-10) and Jane Campbell and Sara Head (women’s class 1-3) who all went out of their respective events at the quarter-final stage.

wilson-ross-william-mc-kibbin-aaron-gbrAfter beating Belgium this morning Bayley, McKibbin and Wilson faced World Team champions Spain in their quarter-final. Jordi Morales and Alvaro Valero are great players and they used their experience to good effect in the doubles against McKibbin and Wilson, taking the match 3-1. This meant that GB needed to win both of the singles and Wilson survived a spirited fightback by Valera to beat the class 6 World champion 3-0.

With the tie level at 1-1 it was down to Bayley to beat Morales in a repeat of their singles semi-final three days ago. After a tight first set that Bayley took 11-9 after a time out call by coach Greg Baker at 9-8, he took the second 11-8 and was always in control thereafter – taking the match 11-2 in the third to take GB through to a semi-final tomorrow against Ukraine.

will-bayley-final-2“It was one of the most nervous matches I’ve ever had in my life,” admitted Bayley. “I was really happy with my performance because that wasn’t a nice match to play for either me or Morales but I came through it so I am happy for the boys and we can go into the semi-final and just go for it. I believe in the boys – it is not easy to beat Spain as they always raise their level for the big occasion and they were silver medalists in London as well as being World team champions so it was a fantastic result. We won the match, that is the most important thing, and we can go on now and express ourselves and do the job.”

“We should have played better than that in doubles,” said McKibbin, “but they made life really awkward for us and it is not a style we normally play against. Luckily it is a team event and I had so much faith in Ross and Will to win their singles and when it was 1-1 and it was down to Will to finish it I had no doubt in my mind that we were going to win because he looked so comfortable and thankfully the boys pulled through in the singles to make up for the doubles.”

“Valera has beaten pretty much everyone regardless of his disability,” said Wilson. “I’ve always seen him as a great player and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and how he changes his game and adapts to still be a great player. So it was brilliant to get through that match and I really want to push on now and go for it with the boys. We can use that as our wake up call to really get into it and give it a good shot.”

P RJust over 24 hours after becoming men’s class 1 Paralympic champion Rob Davies was back with team partner Paul Davies to take on Brazil in the men’s class 1-2 team event quarter-final. It was a tough ask against two class 2 players Iranildo Conceicao Espindola and Guilherme Marcio Da Costa and the Welsh pair lost the opening doubles 3-0.

Rob Davies then took on Da Costa and put up a great fight – taking the second set 11-7 to level at 1-1 and recovering from 5-1 down in the third to level at 7-7 before just being edged out 13-15. It was the turning point in the match and Da Costa ran away with the fourth 11-2 to win the match 3-1 and the tie for Brazil.

“No excuses,” said Rob Davies. “I really enjoyed being out there. It is always tough for me and Paul playing in a class up but I’m proud of the effort I put in and I ran him close until that last end. I was really happy with getting to deuce in the third – I needed to win that and then I’d have been in the game and he would have got a bit nervous. I loved the crowd – it was a brilliant atmosphere and that’s why we play. I’m just really happy with the performance and it is a shame we couldn’t have done a bit better in the doubles. But we haven’t had much practice and we’ll work on that for next time and get plenty of practice in and next year we’ll have another youngster Tom Matthews to strengthen the team up even more.”

“It’s a huge difference between class 1 and class 2,” said Paul Davies. “They are a lot fitter and stronger and more agile so we knew it would be tough. Rob played well – fair play he took a set off Costa.  We haven’t played doubles together for ages so we played well considering. It is a good step towards the World team championships next year in Slovakia so I think a bit of work is needed. Paralympic champion as a team partner – doesn’t get better than that does it?”

daybell-kim-thompson-ashley-facey-gbrKim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson had a tough quarter-final against China but they competed well in the doubles, saving three match points before Lian Hao and Ma Lin took the match on their fourth match point 14-12 in the third. Daybell was also not outclassed by the men’s class 9 World and London 2012 Paralympic champion Ma Lin despite a 3-0 loss.

“They are a very strong team,” acknowledged Daybell, “very sharp. The difference in level didn’t feel that big even though we lost both games 3-0. It is just little things in table tennis. We can come back and shore up our weaknesses and there is no reason why we can’t compete against them. They knew they were in a match – you could see it in their faces – and I was pleased that we were able to play well and hopefully next time we’ll get them.”

“It was an amazing experience,” said Facey Thompson, competing in his first Paralympic Games. “China are one of the best teams in the world in class 9-10 combined and to play against them in a quarter final in a Paralympic Games was great, especially with Kim. We kept fighting and we can be proud of that. It brings me belief and hope and I’ve got to keep on training and trying to play my table tennis for the next four years.”

Jane Campbell and Sarah Head began their campaign for a second Paralympic medal in the women’s class 1-3 team event against Italy – the team they beat to win the bronze medal in London 2012.

campbell-lara-jane-head-sara-gbr-2The GB pair looked in great form in their opening 3-0 doubles win over Michela Brunelli and Giada Rossi but when Head lost 1-3 to Brunelli it was down to Campbell to play the deciding singles against the class 2 World number four Rossi.  She looked to have the first set in her pocket at 10-6 but Rossi took six points in a row to steal it 12-10. The next set also went the way of the 22 year old Italian, who did not compete in London and is clearly an improving player. Her style of play proved difficult for Campbell who fought hard to take the third set 11-5 but could not stop Rossi from winning the fourth 11-5 and the match 3-1 to take Italy through to the semi-finals.

The GB pair were understandably bitterly disappointed particularly after such a dominant performance in the doubles.

“It just wasn’t our day,” said Head, “that is table tennis.”

“I think if I had won the first set it would have given me confidence,” said Campbell. “After losing the first set I just panicked a little bit.”

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