World Championships Beijing Blog#4

Friday, September 5: A leisurely start to the day as our first training session is not until 10.00. It’s very warm and feeling increasingly humid as the clear blue sky of the last two days has been replaced by a hazy cloud. As we head over to the hall we can see evidence of preparation for the start of the tournament as more banners are being prepared. One of them says China Dream and in just over a week we will know if our own China Dream has been realised.

Our arrival at Gatwick airport on Monday seems a lifetime ago and all the athletes are now firmly on Beijing time. Training for most of the GB athletes this morning is in the training hall which again is hot and airless but the players don’t seem to notice and as always put 100% into the session.

It is fascinating to see the contrasting styles and personalities. Will Bayley is a bundle of energy and dynamism, committing to every shot while his class 7 team partner Paul Karabardak is much more economical with his movement but still returns the ball with impressive speed and accuracy. Women’s class 3 team mates Sara Head and Jane Campbell chat throughout the session with the same easy familiarity that has made them such a successful partnership – encouraging each other and working on tactics.

Aaron McKibbin and Kim Daybell practising in the training hall

Aaron McKibbin and Kim Daybell practising in the training hall

Rob Davies, so cheerful and unassuming away from the table, shows the same steely determination in training as he does in matches, berating himself quietly for every missed shot. Kim Daybell prowls around the table and is rarely still, so athletic and quick; team partner Aaron McKibbin is focused and unusually serious, hitting the ball with power and intent. Sue Gilroy, the most experienced member of the team, appears calm and relaxed but has the look of a woman on a mission and the baby of the team Jack Hunter-Spivey, while enjoying his first visit to China is clearly hoping to take home more than just experience from his first World Championships.

For the afternoon training session we are back in the competition hall where it is thankfully cooler. Jack is practising with his regular class 5 team partner Tommy Urhaug, the World and Paralympic champion from Norway. It is a great opportunity for the Liverpool teenager and he is keen to make the most of it. Coaches Greg and Matt step in to provide some practice for the standing players and everyone is looking sharp and focused.

After dinner head coach Greg and the team’s psychologist Tim have devised a quiz to keep everyone entertained. It turns out to be hotly contested and proves that Will Bayley is one of the most competitive people in the world and Paul Karabardak would be a shoe-in for any sporting pub quiz team. Despite this it is won by Matt and physio Jill, who can be very relieved that their celebratory dance is not captured on film.