Following the announcement of the table tennis team selected to represent ParalympicsGB in Rio in September, this is what it means to the athletes:
Will Bayley (men’s class 7)
The 28 year old from Tunbridge Wells, who is based at the EIS in Sheffield, took silver in the singles in London after losing an emotional final to double Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert from Germany. He has since become World champion in China in 2014, defeating Wollmert along the way, and is the current World number one in men’s class 7.
“Being selected for another Paralympic Games means everything to me – it’s my life. I love table tennis and to be selected to compete for your country at a Paralympic Games is the pinnacle of any table tennis player’s career.
“London was special. It sometimes felt like an out of body experience. But I performed well under tremendous pressure. I learnt so much and feel stronger mentally because of it.
“Preparation for Rio is going great. I’m on the right road, working hard and staying focused.
I want to be the best prepared in the world and perform to the best of my ability. If I can do that then I’ll be happy.”
Jane Campbell (women’s class 3)
The 47 year old Londoner, who combines her table tennis with her job as a research director for a market research company, won a Paralympic team bronze with Sara Head in the women’s class 1-3 team event in 2012 and reached the quarter-finals of the women’s class 3 singles in the World Championships in 2014.
“It is a huge honour and a privilege to be a part of ParalympicsGB once more and nothing could make me feel happier.
“Competing in London and winning a bronze medal with Sara is the highlight of my life so far. It was a truly incredible feeling competing with the whole home crowd supporting us.
“We have an intensive training programme in place leading up to Rio and I feel confident that this will get me to the best possible level when the competition starts. It would be fantastic to get another medal but the standard is extremely high and I know that it will only be possible if I put in all the hard work needed between now and Rio.”
Kim Daybell (men’s class 10)
The 23 year old from Sheffield has taken a year out of his medical studies at Leeds University to prepare for Rio and has been dividing his time between training with the GB squad in Sheffield and with the national squad in Slovenia.
“Being selected for the Paralympic Games means everything. It’s the culmination of four years hard work. To be selected to be a part of the ParalympicsGB team is the ultimate goal in our sport and I am honoured to be competing in a GB shirt.
“London was like nothing I have experienced before. To play in front of a home crowd at a home Games was something that can never be replicated. Four years on I am a much wiser and technically better player. As a squad we have become much more professional and grown closer as a team and it is showing in our results.
“Preparation for Rio is going well. My time in Slovenia has helped to develop my game and play at a faster pace. Being a full time athlete has made a big difference to my game. I am sharper and quicker and will be in the best shape possible in September.”
Paul Davies (men’s class 1)
The 49 year old from North Cornelly was one of the stars of the GB team in London, winning a bronze in the men’s class 1 singles. The following year he took silver in the European Championships, losing in the final to his great friend and team mate Rob Davies, and then combined with his fellow Welshman to take gold in the team event. After missing two years of competition due to injury he is back in training and fully focused on Rio.
“It means the world to me to be selected and compete for ParalympicsGB after a long injury out, but this has made me even more determined to achieve higher results.
“London 2012 was massive for me as I won a bronze medal in the singles. Experiencing the support around me was fantastic, that experience from London 2012 gives me more focus to be ready for Rio.
“My preparation is going really well since I’ve come back from injury and I feel that I will be even stronger and more focused than ever before, so the next six months is all about work on my training and fitness.
“My hope for Rio is to defend my bronze medal or go one step further for a silver or even gold; but just to be selected is an achievement to me.”
Rob Davies (men’s class 1)
The 31 year old former rugby player from Brecon was disappointed to be knocked out of the singles competition in London in the group stages but has since fought back to become double European champion and is the current World number one in men’s class 1.
“Being selected by ParalympicsGB is a relief and it’s another chance for me to prove that I can produce my best on the biggest stage. Not many people get to put that GB kit on and I want to do that ‘lion head logo’ proud.
“London was phenomenal. I’ve never experienced anything like it before; it was breath-taking coming out into that home crowd, the roar when they announced the GB athletes you just can’t describe. I’d never have thought I’d be playing table tennis in front of thousands of people screaming their support for you; it was just an incredible feeling.
“I’ve improved so much since then and it was London that definitely inspired me. Before London I was an outside chance but in Brazil I will go in as one of the favourites. A lot of people have helped me get to this position and I’m going to keep putting the work in to try and make those people proud. Like every athlete I want the gold medal but the competition will be really tough and I know that any medal in Paralympic table tennis is an achievement.
“Preparation is going well; I’m excited to be going to Brazil and I’m confident after a good solid spell of training that I can now go there and perform at my best injury-free. I’ve been hitting the gym consistently now and getting plenty of table time too so I’m happy with the way my preparation is going.”
Sue Gilroy MBE (women’s class 4)
The 43 year old primary school teacher from Barnsley will be competing in her fifth Paralympic Games. A former Commonwealth and European champion she took silver in the World Championships in China in 2014 and is world ranked number four in women’s class 4.
“Being selected to play for GB in my fifth Paralympic Games makes me incredibly proud. To represent your country on so many occasions is something you can only dream of and to win a Paralympic medal would be the icing on the cake.
“London was a fantastic experience. The support from our country was incredible and that really boosts you as an athlete when you are competing. It will be very difficult to improve on London but I am really looking forward to seeing how Rio can build on the success of London.
“My preparation for Rio has been going really well. My game is going from strength to strength and competing in the able bodied league has really helped my match play. My coaches Neil Robinson, Mick Travis, Brian Barrett, Greg Baker, Farrel Anthony and Matt Kenny have helped me improve my game so much. I am really looking forward to competing in Rio in September.
“After missing out on medals in my previous Paralympic Games, my dream would be to win a Paralympic medal and become Paralympic champion.”
Sara Head (women’s class 3)
The 35 year old from Beddau won a bronze medal with Jane Campbell in the women’s class 1-3 team event in London 2012 and has been working hard to recover that form after two years hampered by illness and injury.
“It’s a very emotional feeling to be selected for my second Paralympic Games. I’m so incredibly proud to have another amazing chance to represent my country and showcase how brilliant and exhilarating table tennis is. Competing in London at a home Games was such a huge experience – it’s one that will never leave me. The emotions, the support – it was overwhelming and it really does inspire me in my training.
“Preparation for Rio is going well. The next few months are all mapped out to help us peak as we arrive in Rio, to be match ready and to be at our very best. I’m confident with the plans we have in place and believe they will help me reach my full potential by the time the competition starts. I know I will be very ready when Rio arrives.
“Winning team bronze in London has given me the hunger to want to achieve another medal. Most of all I want to play extremely well and come away saying I gave it my all.”
Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5)
The 20 year old from Liverpool was part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme in 2012 and secured qualification for his first Paralympic Games by taking silver in the China Open last November. Now based with the GB team in Sheffield he is world ranked number six in men’s class 5 after some good results in last month’s Italian Open.
“Being selected to represent GB in a Paralympic Games means everything to me. To represent my country at the highest level is something I’ve dreamt about for as long as I can remember, and for it to become a reality is unbelievably special for me.
“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is the overall experience of a Paralympic Games; to be part of one of the biggest sporting events in the world is something not many people can say they have done and something I am incredibly proud of.
“I feel my preparation for Rio is going really well. I have an amazing team around me helping me improve every day and I feel I am playing the best table tennis I’ve ever played. I’ve had some big results already this season and I’m really excited to compete in my first Paralympic Games.
“With Rio being my first games my biggest hope is to just go out there and show what I can do. On my day I know I can beat anyone in the world but I just want to take every game as it comes and take it from there.”
Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6)
The 30 year old Swansea City fan will be competing in his third Paralympic Games and last year proved himself to be one of the best players in the world in class 6, taking bronze in the singles and silver in the team at the European Championships.
“Being selected to represent GB in a Paralympic Games means a lot – it’s such a privilege and an honour to be able to compete for my country and competing in a Paralympics is an indescribable experience and gives you a lot of pride. It is such a fantastic thing to be a part of.
“Since London I have been training really hard and have developed different aspects of my game so I think I have improved a lot and that, coupled with more experience and maybe more maturity as a player, has made me a lot better since London.
“My preparation is going really well for Rio – I am training hard and feeling good. I had a good competition in the Italian Open last month and I think I will be in good form and shape come Rio.”
Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 8)
The Sheffield based 24 year old from Wandsworth won a team bronze medal with Will Bayley and Ross Wilson in London and secured his qualification for Rio by winning the China Open last November, beating the Chinese world number two Ye Chao Qun in the final.
“It’s a massive privilege to be selected for GB and to be representing my country in probably the biggest event in the world. I have worked hard for this and I’m very pleased the BPA have shown faith in my ability to select me. Now it’s time to push on from here and repay their faith by performing at my best in Rio.
“London was magical, to have your family and friends there supporting you was a special feeling. It will be hard for another Games to live up to something as special as London but I think Rio is still going to be a very special Games. I feel I have improved a lot since London – physically and in my overall ability and maturity as a person. I’m really looking forward to the event.
“Rio preparation has been going brilliantly; as a team we are in a great position at the moment and we have the support of a great team behind us who are making sure we are covering every base to be our best by the time the Rio 2016 Games begin.
“I would like to improve on London; as a team we are looking to better our results and I feel on my day I can beat any opponent I come across. This being said every player who qualifies for a Paralympic Games is world class so every match will be like a final.”
David Wetherill (men’s class 6)
The 26 year old from Torpoint will be competing in his third Paralympic Games and produced some great performances at the European Championships in Denmark last year to take bronze in the men’s class 6 singles and silver in the team event.
“Being selected for another Paralympic Games means everything to me. Rio is all that I have been working towards. I am a very different player than I was in London and it will be interesting to see the effects of the improvements I’ve made.
“My preparation is going okay; I haven’t hit my top form yet this year but it’s all about peaking for September and I am hoping to do myself justice in Rio.”
Ross Wilson (men’s class 8)
The Sheffield based 20 year old from Minster reached the semi-finals of the singles and won a team bronze in London when just 17 years old. Ranked World number two in men’s class 8 at the end of 2012 he has since had to overcome a series of injuries but came back to take a team bronze medal in the European Championships last October – his first major championship and only his fourth competition since London.
“Being selected for the Paralympic Games means everything to me. It’s been a very tough couple of years and I am so pleased to have come out of it being qualified for Rio.
“Competing in London was incredible. The support from the public was out of this world and it was an honour to be a part of something so special.
“My preparation for Rio is going very well. Training has been very tough and I have loved every second of it. With the main goal being Rio a lot of work has been put into preparation before this year so it will be nice to see all my hard work put to the test.
“I hope to get out there and do myself, my family and the rest of Great Britain proud. I’m looking to better my results from London and try to get in the medals in the singles. I’d also like us to come back stronger as a team and do well in the team event after a bronze medal in London.”