Golden end to European Championships for GB Team

Newly crowned European champion Rob Davies won his second gold medal at the 2013 European Para Table Tennis Championships in Italy when he and fellow Welshman Paul Davies took the men’s class 1 team event. On the final day of the championships there was also a second medal for Rotherham based Will Bayley, as he and Swansea’s Paul Karabardak took a bronze in the men’s class 7 team, and for Sara Head, from Beddau, who picked up a bronze medal in the women’s class 3 team event with her London 2012 partner Jane Campbell.

Rob Davies and Paul Davies took on the unbeaten German team in their third match of the men’s class 1 team event and Paul Davies, silver medalist in the singles, gave the pair the perfect start by beating the Paralympic and World champion Holger Nikelis 3-0. Rob Davies, the former rugby player from Brecon, then lost only 10 points in beating the German number two Marcus Sieger 3-0 but the doubles was a much closer affair, which Nikelis and Sieger won 3-2 with some great tactical play. Rob Davies then faced Nikelis in a replay of their singles semi-final and although Nikelis pushed him hard, taking the third game 11-8, Davies came back strongly to take the fourth 11-2, the match 3-1 and clinch the tie 3-1.

That proved to be the crucial tie as the final match against an Italian team without their top ranked player Andrea Borgato resulted in a comfortable 3-0 win for the GB pair and they clinched the gold and the European title.

Paul Davies British Open

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Paul Davies, the pride of North Cornelly. “I didn’t think there was any doubt of it in the last game against Italy but the German match was key and to defeat the Paralympic champion from London in three straight sets was great.  They say you get a purple patch and that was definitely it for me. Even if Borgato had been playing I don’t think it would have changed the result against Italy because we were both firing. So it was nice to beat them but in the form Rob and me were on no-one in that hall could touch us today. To come out here and get a silver in the singles and gold in the team event and to be able to call myself European champion - it doesn’t get better than that. Fantastic.”

 Rob Davies London 2012 action 2For Rob Davies, who also won the award for the best male wheelchair player at the championships, it was due reward for months of hard training. “To have another gold medal is just incredible for me so I’m well happy,” he said. “It’s been a good tournament. The disappointment of London was hard for me so to come back and do what I have done is great. I was tired after losing the doubles against Germany so it was tough to pick myself up to play Holger. Luckily I did and beat him 3-1 so I was really chuffed as to get two over him in one competition is brilliant.  I’ll go back now and work even harder for the World Championships next year. It was nice to win with Paul and to win every match - I’m really happy and glad we’ve got the gold.”

Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak faced the hugely experienced Paralympic and World team silver medalists from Spain in the semi-final of the men’s class 7 team event. Karabardak came very close to giving the GB pair the perfect start, fighting back from 2-0 down against the class 6 world number one and Paralympic silver medalist Alvaro Valera to level the match at 2-2. Playing superbly he moved to 9-6 in the final game but could not close out the match and went down 11-9 in the fifth.

Bayley, the world number two from Tunbridge Wells, has struggled for consistency in the team competition here but never knows when he is beaten and against Jordi Morales, after losing the first game, he fought back from 7-2 down to take the second 12-10. He then lost the third but came back to win the match 3-2 and level the tie at 1-1. In a very tight doubles match Bayley and Karabardak were 2-0 and 8-5 up against Valera and Morales but the Spanish pair used all their experience to win some great rallies and come back and take the match 3-2.

In the fourth match Bayley took on Valera, who is a former class 8 world champion and a very skilful player. Bayley played a great match, changing tactics after losing the first game and taking the pace off the ball, targeting Valera’s weaker forehand. Having won a tight second game 13-11 he won the next two 11-4 and 11-6 to take the match 3-1 and level the tie at 2-2. Karabardak got off to a great start in the deciding tie but Morales, world number 4 and a former Paralympic singles bronze medalist, came back strongly and clinched the match 11-8 in the fifth game to win the tie for Spain and take them into the final.

Afterwards Karabardak was disappointed but the Swansea player was able to take plenty of positives from his performance. “I played really well against Valera,” he said, “but unfortunately he just managed to nick it at the end. I played well against Morales as well but at the crucial times I just didn’t have the steel and the know-how that he had, which meant that he took the match.  European championship medals aren’t easy to get so it’s nice to get another one and that’s something to be pleased about and take away as a positive. I trained hard and played well so it has been quite a good competition for me.”

 Will Bayley London 2012 actionBayley was also able to reflect positively on two great singles wins. “Valera is one of those players I don’t like playing,” he admitted. “He is really awkward and he’s smart as well but Paul gave me confidence the way he played against him and I thought if I played tactically the same way I would give myself a chance. Morales is also a difficult player - he is world no 4 and another awkward style for me. The doubles was massive but even when we lost the doubles I still thought we could win as I know Paul can beat anyone on his day. I’m pleased to win both my singles as I’ve never won two singles against Spain so that’s a positive and I’m proud of Paul as he played good against France yesterday so we definitely deserved a medal.”

Defending champions in the women’s class 3 team event Sara Head and Jane Campbell began the day with a must-win match against Turkey and although Campbell fought back from 2-0 down against the Turkish number one Nergiz Altintas she lost a tight final game 11-9. Head then levelled the match with a 3-1 win against Hatice Duman, coming back from 10-8 down in both the first and fourth games. The GB pair combined to win the doubles convincingly 3-0 but when Head lost another tight match to Altintas 3-2 it was down to the last match, in which Campbell beat Duman 3-0 to clinch the tie 3-2.

20130601-214257.jpgThey needed to win their final match to have a chance of winning the gold but the Croatian pair of Andela Muzinic and Helena Dretar Karic proved too strong and although Head and Campbell rallied well in the doubles they lost the match and the tie 3-0 and had to be content with bronze.

“It was hard getting up so early this morning knowing we had a long day ahead of us,” admitted Head. “We put everything into our match against Turkey and I think we used up all our energy before we even got to the final match. We tried everything against Croatia but they deserve the gold medal - they played brilliantly. We threw everything at them and it just kept coming back. So we have to say well done to them. It’s another major medal which is brilliant and every medal counts. It was such a strong field and so we wanted to medal and for me to get a second medal is fantastic.”

Campbell was honest in her assessment of the matches today. “It was really good to beat Turkey,” she said, “and I was glad to have won that final singles match. We always knew that Croatia would be the toughest match and we didn’t play well enough to beat them today - I think we put too much pressure on ourselves by losing to Italy yesterday and we put too much pressure on winning each individual match. I’m proud to get another championship medal and there are lots of things I can work on for next year which is good.”

Gorazd Vecko, GB Performance Director, was delighted with the overall performance of the team at these championships. “It has been a really good event and we have definitely taken a step forward since London last year,” he said. “In the majority of our events the top players are from Europe so it was a very strong competition and to win eight medals, including two golds, is a very encouraging sign for the future.”

GB Team guaranteed more medals at European Championships

The GB Para Table Tennis Team is guaranteed at least two more medals at the European Championships after the second day of the team competition, with Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak reaching the semi-finals of the men’s class 6-7 event and the Welsh duo of Rob Davies and Paul Davies winning both of their group matches today in the men’s class 1 event.

Bayley and Karabardak had to beat France in their final group match to progress to the semi-finals and they did it in style with a 3-0 win. Swansea’s Karabardak, celebrating his 28th birthday today, gave the pair a great start by beating Bastien Grundeler, the class 6 world silver medalist, 3-0, and was delighted with his performance.

PaulKarabardak British Open”He may be a class below us but he is a top player,” said Karabardak. “I thought it was going to be difficult but I played tactically well and probably as well as I’ve played in this competition. I beat him quite comfortably but it was a bit of a nervy match and I was pleased to win 3-0. I think that gave the team the belief that we could win the tie.”

Rotherham based Bayley, silver medalist in the singles, started slowly against Kevin Dourbecker, the world number nine who had taken Maxym Nikolenko, the world number one, to five sets in the quarter-finals of the singles, but after losing the first game 13-11 he stormed back to win the next three in an ultimately convincing performance.

“I know how good he (Dourbecker) is,” said Bayley, “so I knew it was going to be a hard match but I think that was the best I’ve played. I was flying in the three sets I won so I was really happy with the way I played today.”

The GB pair are guaranteed at least a bronze medal and face Spain in the semi-finals tomorrow morning.

“Spain tomorrow will be a massive match,” admitted Bayley. “They are a great team and we always have some epic battles. We’ve only beaten them once in about eight years and that was in the last European Championships but I know whenever we play them in the big majors we have a chance so it will be a great match.”

Rob Davies and Paul Davies began with a comfortable 3-0 win over Slovakia, both players winning their opening singles 3-0 and then combining to win the doubles by the same score. They followed up with another 3-0 success over Hungary and were delighted with their day’s work.

“It was a good match,” said Brecon’s Rob Davies after the Hungary win, “and I’m glad we got it over with as quickly as we did as we’ve got to be up early in the morning for our next match.  We just want to keep going, match by match and hopefully we’ll keep playing the same and keep winning with any luck. It would be nice to have another gold medal - but we’ll see how it goes.”

After taking on his younger team mate in the final of the singles on Monday, Paul Davies was glad to be back on the same side of the net.

Paul Davies British Open“I don’t want to be on the wrong side of him again,” said the man from North Cornelly. “That was 100% performance from both of us today - we did what we had to do to get through and get it over and done. That was top show that was. We’ve got to take each match as it comes, refocus and go again tomorrow.”

The GB pair are guaranteed a medal and can take the gold if they beat Germany and Italy tomorrow.

Sara Head and Jane Campbell had a tough start to the defence of their European title in the women’s class 3 team event taking on Italy, the team they beat in London last year to take the Paralympic bronze medal. In the first singles Campbell went 2-1 up against Michela Brunelli but the Italian number one fought back to take the match 3-2. Head, from Beddau,  then beat Clara Podda 3-0 to draw level but the Italians were too strong in the doubles, beating the GB pair 3-1 and Brunelli went on to clinch the tie with a 3-1 win against Head.

Head and Campbell kept their gold medal hopes alive with a 3-1 win over France in their second match. With the tie at 1-1 after the opening singles they combined to beat Fanny Bertrand and Isabelle Lafaye 3-0 in the doubles, fighting back from 10-8 down to clinch the match 12-10 in the third. Head then took on Bertrand in a replay of their semi-final in the singles, which the Frenchwoman had won 14-12 in the fifth. This time it was Head who prevailed in an equally tense final game, holding her nerve to take the match 16-14 in the fifth.

Sara Head London 2012 action 2“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Head. “To lose to her deuce in the fifth in the singles and then to win deuce in the fifth this time round - I was not going to let this one go. I’ve dreamt of the last one and I actually did what I was dreaming of this time. I think it was down to concentration and I Iearnt from my last match. You gain experience from matches like that and I took it into my next match. So it was brilliant.”

The doubles win gave the pair a vital advantage against France as Londoner Campbell admitted.

“It was disappointing to lose this morning,” she said, “and I think this time we realised the doubles was crucial and we just went hell for leather until we did it. We’ve still got all to play for tomorrow - there is no way of working out who needs to do what at the moment so we’ve just got to try and win our final two matches against Turkey and Croatia.”

Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson were guaranteed a medal in the men’s class 10 team event if they could beat France but the task proved just beyond them as a combination of nerves and inexperience resulted in a 3-2 loss. Once again the doubles proved crucial, as Daybell acknowledged.

“The doubles was the big match - they played a really good match to be fair and kept the ball on the table. They knew we were nervous and did what they had to do to win.”

The 21 year old medical student from Sheffield, who won both his singles matches, was nevertheless pleased with his performance and determined to learn from the experience.

“We know we are ready,” he said, “and it is obvious to everyone we are competing with the best players. We are clearly as good as them , we’re involved in close games and it is just about crossing the finish line so next time I’ll come back and try to play a little more freely and hopefully the results will be different.”

Mixed day for GB as the Team competition starts

It was a mixed day for GB at the European Para Table Tennis Championships with two wins and two losses on the opening day of the team competition.

GB was competing in the men’s class 7 and men’s class 10 team events, both of which involve eight teams divided into two groups of four that play each other in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each group then progress to the semi-finals.

In the men’s class 7 event Will Bayley and Paul Karabardak took on The Netherlands in their first match and Swansea’s Karabardak gave the duo the perfect start with a 3-0 win over the Dutch number two Hans Speek. Bayley had lost to the improving Jean Paul Montanus in the group stages of the singles and looked to be heading for another defeat at 2-0 down. In a typically fighting display the Rotherham based world number two came back to win a tense third game 14-12 and went on to take the match 3-2. It was a great comeback against a talented opponent who had beaten the Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert on his way to winning a bronze medal in the singles.  Bayley and Karabardak then combined to win the doubles 3-0 and take the tie 3-0.

Their next match against the number one seeds from the Ukraine resulted in a 3-0 loss as Bayley struggled to find his form and although Karabardak pushed the singles gold medalist Mykhaylo Popov to four sets Bayley lost to world number one Maxym Nikolenko and the pair then lost the doubles, also in four sets.

PaulKarabardak British Open“We played well against Holland and they are not easy so to beat them as comfortably as we did was very good,” said Karabardak. “I had a good game against Popov and if I could have taken the second set when I had set points to go two sets up it could have been a bit different but it wasn’t to be and he played a bit better than me at crucial times.”

Bayley and Karabardak will need to win their final group match against France tomorrow to progress to the semi-finals and Bayley is already focused on clinching another medal after his silver in the singles.

“I just seem a bit sluggish at the start in the team matches at the moment,” said the 25 year old from Tunbridge Wells, “but I need to up my game and try and get focused for tomorrow as it’s a big game against France. It is difficult when you are not quite pumped up enough but there are lots of things we can improve tomorrow and we’ll come back fighting. If we beat France we’ll be in the semis and assured of a medal so it’s all to play for.”

Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson began their bid for a medal in the men’s class 10 team event with a tough match against the favourites from Poland. Daybell had two match points in the fifth game against the Polish number two Sebastian Powrozniak but could not convert either and lost the game 13-11 and the match 3-2. Facey Thompson, a class 9 player, was not disgraced in a 3-0 loss to Patryk Chojnowski, the class 10 world number one and Paralympic champion who had retained his European singles title on Monday. In the doubles, the GB pair competed well but lost in three close sets 11-9, 15-13, 11-8.

They needed to win their second match against Germany to keep their medal hopes alive and showed great character and resolution to come through 3-1. Facey Thompson made a slow start against the German number one Michael Roll but fought back hard and lost in the third 15-13. The 18 year old Londoner combined well with Daybell in the doubles, which the pair took 3-0 and can take plenty of positives forward into tomorrow’s must win match against France.

Ashley Facey Thompson action“I gave myself chances against Chojnowski,” said Facey Thompson, “he’s a really good player and the Paralympic champion and I just came out with no fear and tried my best and it was a good match. I was disappointed to lose my singles against Germany but I picked myself up for the doubles - it was a big match and we came out strong and won so that was good. We’ve got good chances against France tomorrow and again the doubles will be crucial so I’m just going to go out there and fight from 0-0 until the end and see what the outcome is.”

Leeds University student Daybell won both his singles matches against Germany 3-0 and is determined to make up for the disappointment of losing in the quarter-finals of the singles.

“It was disappointing to go out of the singles in the quarters,” said the 21 year old from Sheffield, “but you just have to try and put it behind you and you can make up for it in the team if you play well. Poland are the number one seeds but I felt that I should have won my opening singles although to be fair the other guy played a really good match. It was a must win match against Germany so I was pleased that we could go out and do the business today. France tomorrow is a medal match because if we can win that we will be through to the semi-finals - I’ve never played either of their players before so it will be nice to have a new challenge and hopefully we can come through it.”

Rob Davies and Paul Davies, gold and silver medalists in the men’s class 1 singles, begin their team campaign tomorrow. Their event involves five teams in a round-robin style format and the Welsh duo, who took the silver medal in 2011, start with matches against Slovakia and Hungary.

Sara Head and Jane Campbell are defending their European women’s class 3 team title and their event also involves five teams in a round-robin style format. The GB pair begin tomorrow with matches against Italy and France.

Historic day for GB Team at European Championships

GB singles medalists at European Champs 2013The GB Para Table Tennis Team made history today at the European Championships when Welsh duo Rob Davies and Paul Davies took gold and silver in the men’s class 1 singles while Will Bayley took silver in the men’s class 7 event and there were bronze medals for Sara Head (women’s class 3) and Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4).

Britain had never had two players in the final of the same event before and it was former rugby player Rob Davies who came through to take the title 3-0. The 29 year old from Brecon has used the disappointment he felt after London 2012 to drive him on this year and earlier in the day he was hugely impressive in beating the Paralympic champion and world number one Holger Nikelis from Germany 3-0 in his semi-final.

“I haven’t beaten Holger very often,” said Rob Davies, “and I haven’t beaten him in a while so it was brilliant to finally beat him.  He was the person I followed when I first started - he was my idol - so to beat him in the semi-final of a European Championships is amazing and I’m so happy.”

Rob Davies London 2012 action 2He understandably had mixed emotions about playing his teammate and great friend Paul Davies in the final.

“It was very hard to play Paul in the final - he was the person who first trained me so it was a bit emotional to be honest but I’m glad we both got there. To have to beat him in the final was not a nice feeling but I’m really happy and hopefully Paul and me can take it through now to the team event and get gold for us both.  It feels amazing to be European champion although it hasn’t really sunk in yet. I’ve beaten all the guys who are ranked above me now this year so I’m very proud and pleased - my family are going to go mad back at home. My nan has been texting me which is a bit strange as she shouldn’t really know how to text!”

North Cornelly’s Paul Davies was involved in a titanic semi-final battle against the crowd favourite Andrea Borgato from Italy. Having lost the first two games he saved match points in the fourth before taking it 15-13 and then clinched the match 11-8 in the fifth.

Paul Davies British Open“That was a huge battle being 2-0 down against Borgato who had beaten a former Paralympic champion,” said Paul Davies reflecting on his semi-final win. “I was starting to get nervous but I’ve been 2-0 down before and come back and won it but I had to pull everything out of the bag for that. Going in to the third end Borgato started making some service errors and I just capitalised on that by shouting at him - sometimes you have to use psychology as well as skill.”

After the final the Paralympic bronze medalist paid tribute to his younger team mate.

“I said before this tournament if anyone deserved it Rob did - it was me that got him involved in table tennis and he’s worked hard.  He had a big shock in London as we all expected him to do better but he’s gone home and reflected on how he played there and he’s come here and he’s annihilated everybody. If I had to lose to anybody it would be Rob Davies and the better man won today.”

Bayley made a heroic attempt to retain his European title and started the day with a 3-0 win over the tricky Ben Despineux from Belgium in the last 16. He then set up a semi-final against the world number one from the Ukraine Maxym Nikolenko with a 3-0 win over the German number two Thorsten Schwinn. The 25 year old from Tunbridge Wells played superbly against Nikolenko, taking a 2-0 lead and coming back from losing the third 12-10 to win the match in the fourth.

Will Bayley London 2012 actionIn the final he faced another Ukrainian Mykhaylo Popov, the former world number one, and despite making a great start it proved one match too many. As always Bayley went down fighting but lost the match 3-1.

“It was really nice to beat Nikolenko in the semis,” said Bayley, “as he’s beaten me a few times so it was really nice to win that match. It was hard to play the final so soon afterwards as I’ve played lots of matches today and I was quite tired but Popov played really well and he deserved to win so no excuses. I was flying at the start and I don’t know what went wrong really. He knew he had to go for it in the last three sets and everything he hit was going on the table. He hit some great balls to be fair. That’s table tennis.  I think I’ve proved again that in the big tournaments I can do the business and three major finals in a row is really consistent so I’m proud of myself for that. I’ll keep working hard and hopefully for the world championships next year I’ll be better than I am now.”

Sara Head, from Beddau, had recovered from a 2-1 deficit in her quarter final against Nergiz Altintas of Turkey to win a tense fifth and final game 14-12 on her third match point. In her semi-final she took a 2-1 lead against the double European gold medalist from France, Fanny Bertrand, and had a match point at 10-9 in the fifth but could not clinch the point and lost the game 11-13 and the match 3-2.

Sara Head London 2012 action 2“I was thrilled with my quarter-final,” said Head. “Lady Luck was on my side and I was just so thrilled to have won it and get into the semi-final of a major championship, which is a fantastic achievement. My goal was to fight - as long as I give it my all and I can come away knowing that I’ve given it everything. In the semi-final she had the luck and she had the edge to finish the match. There were only two points in it between being in the final so I’m thrilled and I’ve gained a lot of experience from it.  I can’t wait for the team competition on Wednesday but I’m looking forward to a bit of rest first.”

Barnsley’s Sue Gilroy faced the London 2012 silver medalist and double European champion Borislava Peric-Rankova from Serbia in her semi-final and came heartbreakingly close to the final. She made a great start by winning the first game and then fought back to level the match after losing the next two. She had her chances in the final game but went down 11-7 and had to settle for a bronze.

“I’m desperately disappointed,” she said afterwards. “I gave it everything and really thought I could beat her this time but I have to be proud of a bronze medal.”

Sheffield’s Kim Daybell (class 10) won his final group match 3-1 against the talented young Filip Radovic from Montenegro to top his group. The 21 year old, who is studying medicine at Leeds University, started well in his quarter-final match against the experienced Jorge Cardona of Spain, the Paralympic team bronze medalist, and had chances to win the first and third games but made too many errors in a disappointing 3-0 loss. He still has the opportunity to take a medal in the team competition in which he will partner Ashley Facey Thompson.

Having won his group Aaron McKibbin (class 8) was unlucky to be drawn against the former world champion and London 2012 silver medalist Richard Csejtey from Slovakia in the last 16 as the veteran of four Paralympic Games went through to the knockout stages as a runner-up. The 21 year old Londoner played well and had his chances but eventually lost in three close games. Nevertheless it was a good performance by McKibbin, who is improving steadily and competing well against the top players in the world.

Development squad player Felicity Pickard (class 6) also put up a great performance in defeat to the former European bronze medalist from Germany, Stephanie Grebe, in her final group match, fighting hard in a 3-2 loss. The 19 year old from Burnley, competing in her first major championship, is a great prospect for the future and is also showing that she can compete with the best in her class.

“It’s been a very good day,” said GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “and we can look forward to the team competition when we also have a great chance of taking some medals.”

The team competition starts on Wednesday.

GB Team assured of three medals in European singles events

Britain is assured of at least three medals in the singles events at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Italy after Rob Davies, Paul Davies and Sue Gilroy reached the semi-finals of their respective events.

Rob Davies avenged his London 2012 defeat at the hands of the Frenchman Jean-Francois Ducay with a battling 3-2 win in the quarter-finals, showing great character to recover from the loss of a 2-0 lead to win a dramatic fifth and final game 11-6.

Rob Davies London 2012 action 2“Although I have beaten Ducay a couple of times since London it is great to do it in a major championship,” admitted Davies. “Although I made hard work of it I’m so happy that I came through. I went a little bit passive in the third and fourth game but I tried some different tactics in the fifth and just upped my game a bit.”

Earlier in the day, Davies had lost only 10 points in beating Andrea Borgato from Italy 3-0 and then defeated Dmitry Lavrov of Russia 3-0 to finish top of his group. He will play the world number one and Paralympic champion Holger Nikelis tomorrow in the semi-finals.

His class 1 team mate and fellow Welshman Paul Davies received a walkover in his quarter-final when his intended opponent Endre Major of Hungary withdrew through illness.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever had a walkover,” said Davies, who won a bronze in London 2012, “and I don’t want to win a medal that way.”

Davies, from North Cornelly, had earlier beaten Ducay, the Paralympic silver medalist, 3-1, and secured his position at the top of his group with a 3-0 win over Mario Pezzuro of Italy. He will play Andrea Borgato in tomorrow’s semi-final after the Italian beat the world number two Andreas Vevera in the quarter-finals.

Sue Gilroy became the first British player to be guaranteed a medal when she won her quarter-final match against Andreja Dolinar from Slovenia 3-0 and will now play the number one seed and world number two Borislava Peric-Rankovic in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

“I’m really pleased,” said the Barnsley player. “To win 3-0 against Dolinar, coming back from 10-6 down in the second game - I’m really happy. I desperately wanted to get to play Peric and I needed to get past a really good player in Andreja to get there. It’s great to be assured of a medal but I’d like to convert it to gold if I can.”

Will Bayley suffered a surprise defeat in his second group match, losing 3-2 to an inspired Jean-Paul Montanus from the Netherlands, but ensured his progression to the knockout stages with an emphatic 3-0 win over Victor Doana from Romania.

“I feel like I’m playing quite well,” said Bayley. “Montanus is a difficult player and I didn’t take my chances; at this level you’ve got to finish matches off when you get the chance and I didn’t do it. I’m still in the draw which is the most important thing - I know that I can beat anyone so I’m happy that I am still in the competition.”

Bayley will play Ben Despineux of Belgium in the last 16 and will have to win four matches tomorrow if he is to retain his European title.

Welshman Paul Karabardak took a game off the world number one Maxym Nikolenko but then lost his final group match to Shmuel Shur from Israel 3-0. The Swansea player was knocked out of the competition as a result but can look forward to the team competition in which he will partner Bayley.

Kim Daybell had a good win over the fourth seed Ivan Karabec, the former European champion and world silver medalist from the Czech Republic, coming back from 2-1 down to win 3-2. The 21 year old medical student from Sheffield is an exciting player to watch and successfully changed tactics to secure his second win of the championships and ensure a place in tomorrow’s knockout stages.

“I knew he was going to be a really tough opponent,” said Daybell, “and I was just pleased I was able to come through in five sets. I didn’t feel too nervous at 1-2 down as I didn’t feel he was outplaying me. I just felt I needed to change a few things and luckily I was able to do that.”

Sara Head, from Beddau, had a tough first match against the Paralympic champion and world number one Anna-Carin Ahlquist from Sweden but put a 3-0 loss behind her and progressed to the quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over the Croatian Helena Dretar Karic.

“I always knew it was going to be a difficult one to start with,” said Head, “and I had to keep my head afterwards knowing she is a very good player and I needed to focus on my next match so I could get through from the group.  Helena is also a very good opponent and we’ve had some great battles and today I’m really proud to have won the battle.”

Head’s class 3 team mate Jane Campbell went out of the singles at the group stage after losses to Doris Mader of Germany, the London 2012 silver medalist, 3-0, and Keziban Cakir of Turkey 3-1.

Aaron McKibbin made sure of winning his group with a 3-1 win over the Russian Arsenty Shlyndrov and will face world number six Richard Csejtey of Slovakia in the last 16.

“I was struggling with his serves a bit,” the 21 year old Londoner admitted. “I was trying to find my rhythm and I think midway through the third game I found the gear I needed and I kicked on from then. I haven’t played my best yet but I feel like I’m going into every match in a good frame of mind.”

David Wetherill has struggled to find his form in this championship and went out of the competition today after losing his second match in five sets to Danny Bobrov of Israel, although he finished on a positive note with a battling 3-2 win over Gabriel Csemy of Slovakia.

Jack Hunter-Spivey led Selcuk Cetin 2-0 in his second group match before finding the German’s greater experience too much in the final game. The 18 year old from Widnes will not qualify for the knockout stages but has played well and can take plenty of positives away from his first European Championship.

Ashley Facey Thompson won the first game against the world team gold medalist Ronald Vejverberg from the Netherlands and then lost the next three tight games to lose the match 3-1. The 18 year old Londoner has also shown great promise for the future and will compete in the class 10 team event with Kim Daybell.

All the singles events will conclude tomorrow.

Good start for GB in European Championships

The GB Para Table Tennis Team made a good start to their European Championships campaign in Italy with eight of the 12 players in action today all recording wins in the initial round-robin group stages.

Rotherham based Will Bayley began the defence of his European crown with a 3-0 victory over the experienced Italian Davide Scazzieri and the 25 year old from Tunbridge Wells was pleased to start with a win against an awkward opponent.

“It was good to get that out of the way,” said Bayley.  “The first match is always difficult and he obviously wants to do well in front of his home crowd so it’s nice to get a win under my belt. I played pretty good, not my best, but for the first match I was quite happy with that.”

Bayley’s class 7 team mate Paul Karabardak also started his campaign with a 3-0 win and was never really troubled against Patrick Otte from Denmark. The Swansea player knows there are tougher tests to come but will take confidence from an emphatic win.

“At the majors I’m always really nervous in the first match,” said Karbardak, 27. “I struggled against him the last time I played him and so to beat him as comfortably as I did was good. It shows that I’m playing better than I was a few months ago and it shows that the training and hard work has paid off.”

Aaron McKibbin put up a gutsy display to battle past the Slovakian Josef Krsiak 3-2 in his first match and then showed his talent with a 3-0 win over the experienced world number 10 from Belgium, Marc Ledoux.

Aaron McKibbin action 2“After the scare in the first match I felt a bit more pumped up and a bit more focused,” said the 21 year old Londoner, “so I think it helped in some ways. I think I played solidly all the way though the match against Ledoux - I stuck to my tactics really well and didn’t get nervous when it was getting tight.”

Sheffield’s Kim Daybell had to face an unknown quantity in the powerful Russian Vladimir Glasov but came through a tricky match 3-1.

“It was a good start,” said Daybell, 21, “and I was pleased to come through today. I’ve never seen him play before and he made it difficult for me so I was pleased that I could just battle through it. The most important thing was to get the win and then move on and see if I can do the same tomorrow.”

Rob Davies, silver medalist in 2011, was impressive in beating Martin Polkorab of Slovakia 3-0 despite admitting to first match nerves.

“I was really nervous,” said the 29 year old from Brecon, “but I got in there and just rolled the ball on and tried to be consistent.  It won me the game so I’m happy. By the last game I was feeling quite comfortable. It was very hot in the hall so I’ll rest up and recover ready for the matches tomorrow.”

Fellow Welshman and class 1 team mate Paul Davies also came through his first match successfully but had to recover from losing the second game before winning 3-1.

“The first set was quite comfortable but in the second set I took my foot off the gas and you just can’t do it at this level,” explained Davies, bronze medalist in London 2012. “You’ve got to play flat out all the way through as it’s never over till it’s over, as they say.”

Paralympic bronze medalist Jane Campbell, from Clerkenwell in London, looked to be on course for a comfortable win in her first match but in the end had to show all her fighting spirit to defeat the Italian Federica Cudia 3-1.

Jane Campbell London 2012 action

“I always feel quite nervous before the first match,” admitted Campbell, “so I’m really glad to get that one over and to get a win.  It’s always a good sign of determination when things aren’t going as well as they were and you’ve got to up your game somehow and learn to deal with it.”

Barnsley’s Sue Gilroy became the first GB player to reach the quarter-finals after winning both of her group matches but had to fight hard in her second match before coming through against the Serbian Nada Matic 3-1.

“I haven’t played particularly well but I’ve done what I needed to do,” said the former Commonwealth champion. “I know I can do a lot better but it doesn’t matter because winning is the important bit and hopefully I’ll improve through the next couple of days.”

Torpoint player David Wetherill had a disappointing start to his competition, losing 3-1 to Bobi Simion of Romania after taking a 1-0 lead, but can still qualify for the knockout stages if he can win his second group match tomorrow.

Jack Hunter-Spivey and Ashley Facey Thompson, both 18 years old, and 19 year old development squad player Felicity Pickard all acquitted themselves well in losing against much more experienced opposition. Hunter-Spacey, from Widnes, won his fair share of great tactical rallies against the reigning European champion and world number four from France Nicolas Savant-Aira during a fighting 3-1 defeat. Londoner Facey Thompson, now based in Rotherham, lost 3-0 against the double Paralympic and six times European champion from Austria Stanislaw Fraczyk, the current world number two, while Burnley’s Felicity Pickard won the first game against the world number four Yuliya Klimenko of the Ukraine before losing the match 3-1.

The competition continues tomorrow with the final group matches and the first of the quarter-finals.





GB Team ready for European challenge

The European Para Table Tennis Championships start tomorrow with the round-robin group stages of the men’s and women’s singles following today’s opening ceremony in the Ge.Tur Sports Complex in the Italian city of Lignano Sabbiadoro.

The 13 players who will be representing GB arrived in Italy on Thursday and are ready to take on the best of Europe.

This evening’s draw has thrown up some stern challenges for the British team, with only two players from each group going through to the knockout stages of the competition that will start on Sunday and conclude with the finals on Monday.

Paralympic silver medalist Will Bayley, who is the reigning European champion in the men’s class 7 singles, starts tomorrow against Davide Scazzieri of Italy and is looking forward to defending his title.

“I don’t really feel any more pressure than I did before,” said Bayley, who won gold here in the Lignano Master Open earlier this year.  “I just feel that because I’ve done it before I can do it again. So I’m using it as a positive - I know what I have to do to win so I just want to do it again.”

Paul Davies, bronze medalist in London 2012, faces strong opposition in the men’s class 1 singles from among others his team mate and fellow Welshman Rob Davies, who will be hoping to go one better than the silver he won in the last European Championship in 2011 and make up for London 2012 when he was knocked out of the competition in the group stages.

“Training has been going really well,” said Rob Davies. “Hopefully I can win some matches and it goes the same way as 2011 and I can be in the medals again. What happened in London was a massive disappointment and I’m using it this year to come back stronger - be more positive and relaxed and try as hard as I can.”

Gorazd Vecko, GB Performance Director, said: “It is going to be a very tough competition as many of the world’s top players are competing here. We’ve had a chance to train in the competition hall and the playing conditions are as good as anywhere in the world. The players are ready and looking forward to the challenge.”

The full GB squad is:

Will Bayley (Lives: Rotherham; Home town: Tunbridge Wells) - class 7

Jane Campbell (Lives: Clerkenwell, London) - class 3

Paul Davies (Lives: North Cornelly) - class 1

Rob Davies (Lives: Brecon) - class 1

Kim Daybell (Lives: Leeds; Home town: Sheffield) - class 10

Ashley Facey Thompson (Lives: Rotherham; home town: Stratford, London) - class 9

Susan Gilroy (Lives: Barnsley) - class 4

Sara Head (Lives: Beddau) - class 3

Jack Hunter-Spivey (Lives: Widnes) - class 5

Paul Karabardak (Lives: Swansea) - class 7

Aaron McKibbin (Lives: Rotherham; home town: Wandsworth, London) - class 8

Felicity Pickard (Lives: Burnley) - class 6

David Wetherill (Lives: Torpoint) - class 6

Media Enquiries:

For further information, please contact the GB Para Table Tennis Team press officer Francesca Bullock on 07768 515841 or email: [email protected]





Paralympic silver medalist and defending European champion Will Bayley heads the list of 13 athletes who will be representing GB in the European Para Table Tennis Championships at Lignano in Italy from September 28-October 5.

Fellow London 2012 medalists Paul Davies, Aaron McKibbin, Sara Head and Jane Campbell are also included in a squad that combines youth with experience and a great deal of ambition.

Sheffield based Bayley, from Tunbridge Wells, faces tough competition in the men’s class 7 event as 11 of the players currently ranked in the top 12 are from Europe, including the Paralympic champion Jochen Wollmert from Germany who beat Bayley in the final in London. The 25 year old has been involved in a duel for the number one ranking this season with Maxym Nikolenko from the Ukraine and is currently ranked number two in the world. He has already won gold medals in Italy and Slovenia this year and is looking forward to defending his title.

“Training has been going really well the last few weeks,” said Bayley, “and I feel that I am playing the best I have all season. I always seem to be able to peak for the big tournaments so I’m hoping that I can carry that on, push on next week and really do well. It will be tough and there will be no easy matches but I know what I have to do to win so I just want to do it again.”

Sara Head, from Beddau, and London-based Jane Campbell will be defending their European title in the women’s class 3 team event. The Paralympic bronze medalists have become a hard pair to beat and will both be looking for success in the singles as well as a successful defence of their team gold.

“It would mean the world to successfully defend our title,” said Head. “I still remember the feeling when we won gold two years ago so to win it again would make me ecstatic. We put pressure on ourselves because we want to do better and better and improve all the time and hopefully we can use the experience from London against the other teams in the Europeans. Training has been fantastic - we had a great training camp in Slovenia in August and I’m feeling really prepared and looking forward to going now.”

Paul Davies, from North Cornelly, won a memorable bronze medal in London in the men’s class 1 singles and has a singles silver in the Slovakian Open and team gold in Slovenia and Slovakia to his credit this season. He will be joined in the class 1 events by fellow Welshman and former rugby player Rob Davies, a double silver medalist in the European Championships in 2011 who has moved up to number five in the world rankings after good wins against top three players this year.

“Preparation has been going really well,” said Paul Davies. “I’ve had a bit of a break due to a slight injury but I’ve been back training this week and I’m feeling good and ready and I can’t wait until next week. If I can capitalise on what I did in London in the Europeans that would be a really good achievement; I’d like to come away with a medal in the singles and I’ve got a strong chance of a medal in the team event with my playing partner Rob (Davies). It’s all to do but all to gain.”

Londoner Aaron McKibbin, also based in Sheffield, won a men’s class 6-8 team bronze in London with Bayley and Ross Wilson. He took a singles bronze in Germany in June following a team gold in Slovenia a month before and will be hoping to improve on his fourth place in the European Championships in 2011.

“We’ve been training really hard and have put a lot into our preparation,” said McKibbin, so we’re looking forward to getting out there and for the competition to start now. I’ve got more experience of major championships now and I’m going in to the Europeans with an open mind. I want to perform my best and I feel I’m in quite good shape. I’ll just take every match at a time, play my best and see where it takes me.”

David Wetherill (class 6), Paul Karabardak (class 7), medical student Kim Daybell (class 10) and former Commonwealth champion Sue Gilroy (class 4) were all part of the GB team in London 2012 and the European Championships squad is completed by three promising young players Jack Hunter-Spivey (class 5), Ashley Facey Thompson (class 9) and Felicity Pickard (class 6).

“We have had a good preparation for the European Championships,” said GB Performance Director, Gorazd Vecko. “Training has been going well and the athletes have been working very hard. It will be a tough competition as Europe has many of the top players in the world in all the classes we will be competing in and we have a young team but we will hope to use the experience of London 2012 and bring back some medals.”

The full squad is:

Will Bayley (Lives: Rotherham; Home town: Tunbridge Wells) - class 7

Jane Campbell (Lives: Clerkenwell, London) - class 3

Paul Davies (Lives: North Cornelly) - class 1

Rob Davies (Lives: Brecon) - class 1

Kim Daybell (Lives: Leeds; Home town: Sheffield) - class 10

Ashley Facey Thompson (Lives: Rotherham; home town: Stratford, London) - class 9

Sue Gilroy (Lives: Barnsley) - class 4

Sara Head (Lives: Beddau) - class 3

Jack Hunter-Spivey (Lives: Widnes) - class 5

Paul Karabardak (Lives: Swansea) - class 7

Aaron McKibbin (Lives: Rotherham; home town: Wandsworth, London) - class 8

Felicity Pickard (Lives: Burnley) - class 6

David Wetherill (Lives: Torpoint) - class 6

Media Enquiries:

For further information, please contact the GB Para Table Tennis Team press officer Francesca Bullock on 07768 515841 or email: [email protected]



The GB Para Table Tennis Team picked up a further four medals in the team events at the Czech Open in Ostrava today, including a silver for London 2012 bronze medalist Jane Campbell, partnered by Alena Kanova of Slovakia, in the women’s class 1-3 teams.

Two of the team’s promising young players Ashley Facey Thompson, partnered by Andreas Aulie from Norway, and Jack Hunter-Spivey, partnered by the Belgian Bart Brands, won bronze in the men’s class 9-10 and men’s class 5 teams respectively and David Wetherill combined with 19 year old GB Pathway squad player Martin Perry to win bronze in the men’s class 6-7 team event.

Campbell, from Clerkenwell in London, had a good win in the round-robin format team event against the in-form Marie-Christine Fillou of France, who had taken silver in the women’s class 3 singles. Campbell and partner Kanova were in with a chance of gold going into their final match against the Croatian pair of Andela Muzinic and Helena Dretar Karic but had to settle for silver after losing the match 3-1.

“I played reasonably well,” said Campbell, “but not quite good enough. I lost three of my singles matches in the fifth game so had my chances but couldn’t quite convert them into wins. This will definitely help my preparation for the European Championships - I’ve learnt a lot of things about some of my competitors and I know what I have to work on now.”

Eighteen year old Hunter-Spivey, from Widnes, added a team bronze to the bronze he had won in the singles and once again showed winning form against higher ranked players.

“The tournament has gone quite well,” said Hunter-Spivey, “and I’ve won some matches even though I haven’t played my best. I feel that I can compete now with players ranked above me and I’ve taken games off some of the best players so hopefully I can continue that at the Europeans.”

Wetherill also picked up his second bronze medal of the tournament and recorded a fine win against the Italian class 7 player Davide Scazzieri but the 23 year old class 6 player from Torpoint admitted that he was disappointed with the matches he lost.

“I’m pleased with the way I played,” said Wetherill, “but disappointed with the outcome of some of the matches. When it got tight at the end I wasn’t clinical enough but this has been great match practice before the Europeans so I can take a lot of positives from it. I would also like to congratulate my playing partner Martin Perry who won his first international medal in only his second international tournament.”

Londoner Facey Thompson, a class 9 player, recorded a win against Nixon Reyes from Costa Rica in the group stages and in the semi-final lost a very close match 11-9 in the fifth game to the class 10 Brazilian Carlos Carbinatti. He was also disappointed with his overall performance despite a bronze medal but is determined to learn from the experience.

“It wasn’t my best tournament but I have learnt a lot,” said the 18 year old from Stratford. “I didn’t play my best because I was too nervous and I can use this experience to help me prepare for matches so I can play more freely and not be afraid to lose.”

Head coach Greg Baker was satisfied that the tournament will prove a useful preparation for the four players going in to the European Championships later this month.

“It’s been great match practice for the players,” said Baker. “Jane has learnt some new things about her class 3 opponents, Jack is getting closer to the top players in class 5 and all the players can use the experience from this tournament to good effect in the European Championships.”

Media Enquiries:

For further information, please contact the GB Para Table Tennis Team press officer Francesca Bullock on 07768 515841 or email: [email protected]


The GB Para Table Tennis Team picked up two medals in the singles events at the Czech Open in Ostrava today, with Torpoint’s David Wetherill and 18 year old Jack Hunter-Spivey from Widnes taking bronze in the men’s class 6 and class 5 respectively.

Wetherill, 23, won all three of his group matches 3-0 to progress to the semi-finals and was disappointed to lose a very close match to the experienced Brian Nielsen of Denmark, a former Paralympic silver medalist, 3-2. The GB player fought back from 2-0 down to level the match at 2-2 but lost the fifth and deciding game 11-8.

Hunter-Spivey, one of the GB Performance Squad’s most promising young players, finished runner-up in his group and progressed to the quarter-finals where he beat the higher ranked German Selcuk Cetin 3-1. He went on to take a game off the Paralympic champion and world number 2 Tommy Urhaug from Norway in the semi-finals, eventually going down 3-1 after four closely fought games.

However, there was disappointment for Paralympic bronze medalist Jane Campbell. The London player started with a 3-0 win against Polina Mokhova of Russia and in her second match against the world number 3 Alena Kanova of Slovakia fought back from 2-0 down to 2-2 before losing the fifth and deciding game 12-10. In her final group match she let a 2-0 lead slip against Helena Dretar Karic of Croatia, the world number 13, losing the match 3-2, a defeat that meant she did not progress from her group.

Fellow Londoner Ashley Facey Thompson was also disappointed not to progress from the group stages. The talented 18 year old found the world number 6 Iurii Nozdrunov of Russia too good and then lost a tight match to David Pulpan of the Czech Republic 3-1.

“It has been a mixed tournament so far,” said GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “with some good performances and a few disappointments as well. Jack Hunter-Spivey played really well against Cetin and had his chances against Urhaug while David Wetherill also played very well in his group matches and went down fighting against the very experienced Nielsen. Jane Campbell came very close to beating the world number 3 but should have beaten Dretar Karic and Ashley Facey Thompson was also very disappointed with his performance but will improve for the experience.”

All four GB players, plus development player Martin Perry from Paisley, are in action in the team events which conclude today. (Saturday, September 14).

Media Enquiries:

For further information, please contact the GB Para Table Tennis Team press officer Francesca Bullock on 07768 515841 or email: [email protected]