Successful start to team event for GB

The GB team made a winning start to the team events at the Slovakia Open today.

Rob Davies and Paul Davies started their first team competition together for two years with a hard-fought win against Brazil/Hungary. After losing the doubles 1-3 Rob Davies looked to be in trouble against the Brazilian Aloisio Lima Junior at 0-1, 5-9 but came back to win 3-1 and Paul Davies used all his battling qualities to defeat Endre Major 11-5 in the fifth.

In women’s class 4 Sue Gilroy and Alena Kanova from Slovakia had to fight hard to beat the German/Dutch combination of Sandra Mikolaschek and Femke Cobben in the doubles 11-4 in the 5th. Gilroy then lost to World number four Mikolaschek 1-3 but a 3-0 win for Kanova against Cobben gave the British/Slovakian team a 2-1 win.

Jack Hunter-Spivey and men’s class 5 Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug from Norway took on the Czech Republic and combined to win the doubles 3-0 before Urhaug beat Rene Taus 3-0 to give his team a 2-0 win.

In men’s class 6 David Wetherill and Alberto Seoane from Spain began with a 2-0 win against France/Ireland, combining to win the doubles 3-0 before Seoane beat Bastien Grundeler 3-0.

Aaron McKibbin and Billy Shilton began their men’s class 8 competition with a 2-0 win against a combined team of Australia and Thailand. After a 3-0 win in the doubles McKibbin beat the Australian Barak Mizrachi 3-0 in the first singles to secure the win.

Men’s class 10 is being played in a round-robin format and Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson started with a 2-0 win against a combined team from Austria, Chile and Kazakstan. The GB pair beat the Austrian Krisztian Gardos and Valentin Rene Letelier Mendoza from Chile in the doubles 3-1 and Daybell won the tie with a 3-0 win against Makhanbet Nassikhan from Kazakstan.

GB Team ready for Slovakia Open

Following a successful Slovenia Open last week, 12 athletes will be representing the GB Para Table Tennis Team in the Slovakia Open that starts tomorrow.  The squad includes World champion Will Bayley and European champion Rob Davies, who both won gold in the singles in Slovenia.

The full GB squad for Slovakia is:
Will Bayley - men’s class 7 (Tunbridge Wells/Sheffield)
Jane Campbell - women’s class 3 (London)
Paul Davies - men’s class 1 (North Cornelly)
Rob Davies - men’s class 1 (Brecon)
Kim Daybell - men’s class 10 (Sheffield/Leeds)
Ashley Facey Thompson - men’s class 9 (London)
Sue Gilroy - women’s class 4 (Barnsley)
Sara Head - women’s class 3 (Beddau)
Jack Hunter-Spivey - men’s class 5 (Liverpool/Sheffield)
Aaron McKibbin - men’s class 8 (London/Sheffield)
Billy Shilton - men’s class 8 (Stonehouse/Sheffield)
David Wetherill - men’s class 6 (Torpoint)

GB team assured of team medals in Slovenia

On a dramatic day at the Slovenia Open in Lasko four GB teams have made it through to tomorrow’s semi-finals against some of the best teams in the world.

In men’s class 8 Will Bayley, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson were playing together for the first time since they won a memorable bronze medal in London 2012, but class 7 World champion Bayley was left on the bench as they began with a 2-0 win against a strong Hungarian team of men’s class 8 European silver medalist Gyula Zborai and European bronze medalist Andras Csonka. McKibbin and Wilson gave their team the perfect start with a 3-0 win in the doubles and Wilson then clinched the tie with a determined 3-2 win against World number 6 Csonka.

Aaron McKibbin & Ross Wilson doubles Vejle 2015In their second match against Russia McKibbin and Wilson made a good start in winning the doubles 3-0 but when McKibbin lost a close match to the talented 17 year old Artem Iakovlev 2-3 it meant that Wilson needed to beat Aleksei Saunin in the deciding singles. The 20 year old survived a fight back from the Russian in the third game to win the match 3-1 and take GB into a quarter-final against Belgium.

Marc Ledoux and former Paralympic champion Mathieu Loicq are a very experienced team and they used all that experience to win the doubles 3-1 which left GB needing to win both singles. Wilson showed great character to come through against Loicq 11-8 in the fifth and McKibbin took his team into the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against Ledoux.

“The Belgians have been playing doubles together for a long time,” said Wilson, “and it is always hard to play teams like that. Going into the singles on the back of losing the doubles is quite difficult - it’s quite hard to pick yourself back up straightaway but I think where I’ve improved is now I can do that and I can just grind wins out. So it is really nice to know that even when I’m not playing my best I can still get the wins sometimes. I think we play China in the semi tomorrow but no matter who we’ve got it’s great experience for Rio and we’ll give it our best shot.”

“I wanted to do my bit for the team,” said McKibbin, “because I felt I let them down in the last game against Russia losing my singles, but it made me more determined to go out there and prove to myself that it was a one-off mistake and I could put it right and thankfully I did. We come here to play these sort of matches before Rio - we haven’t played China since 2011 and it is always a big game and we’re really looking forward to it. It will be exciting.”

In men’s class 6 Paul Karabardak and Martin Perry began with a great win against European champions Denmark, combining really well to win the doubles 3-2 before Karabardak defeated Michael Jensen 3-0 in the first singles to win the tie for GB 2-0.

They followed that up with a 2-0 win against the Spanish/Irish partnership of Alberto Seoane and Des Ryan to progress to tomorrow’s semi-finals as group winners.

Paul Karabardak Vejle 2015 6“It was good to beat Denmark,” said Karabardak. “They are a top side and the European champions and it was crucial to beat them and win the group so we get a better draw in the semi-finals. Martin and I played well and in the second match we kept our focus which was good as sometimes you lose that after such a good win, but we were professional and got the job done.”

Martin Perry France 4“With the new format playing doubles first puts a lot of emphasis on it,” said Perry, “so we were under a lot of pressure to win the doubles going into the match against Denmark. I thought Paul and I played really well - we played some very clever table tennis at times and dug deep when we had to so it was great to get a win over the European champions.”

In women’s class 4, 17 year old Megan Shackleton and her German partner Sandra Mikolaschek had a tough start against China but they competed well in the doubles against Paralympic champion Zhou Ying and World champion Zhang Miao in a 1-3 loss. Zhou then won the tie for China with a 3-1 win against Mikolaschek.

They then needed to beat Serbia 2 to progress from the group and after combining with Mikolaschek to win the doubles 3-0 Shackleton put up a great performBayreuth Open 2015 Internationales Tischtennis Weltranglistentuance to beat Zorica Popadic, the World team gold medalist, 3-1, and take her team through to tomorrow’s semi-finals.

“I’m really pleased with that because I’ve been waiting for that first big win for a while now,” said Shackleton. “It’s nice to see that everything I’ve been doing in training is finally coming through and I’m now starting to really compete with these players and cause a few upsets.”

Felicity Pickard is partnering former class 6 European champion Yuliya Klymenko from Ukraine in the women’s class 6-7 team event and they also had a tough first match against the class 7 World number one Kelly Van Zon from the Netherlands and World number two Kubra Korkut from Turkey. They competed well in the doubles, losing in three close sets, and 21 year old Pickard, a class 6 player, then played really well against Van Zon - the Paralympic, World and European champion - despite a 3-0 loss.

Although playing together here for the first time Pickard and Klymenko have formed a good partnership and they produced some great play to win the doubles 3-2 against their next opponents Russia2. Klymenko then beat Svetlana Nesterenko 3-0 to take them through to the semi-finals.

Felicity Pickard action 6 2014“I got a lot of confidence from this morning,” said Pickard, “because even though it was a tough match I felt that I played well. I just wanted to carry that on and be aggressive and positive and I feel that I did that well. We seem to click in the doubles a lot more than some other partnerships I’ve had in the past. We seem to be able to move well together so it is a good partnership and obviously she is a top player. We play Russia1 in the semi and I can’t wait. I’m up for it and let’s see what happens.”

In men’s class 10, 23 year old Kim Daybell and Ashley Facey Thompson, 21, faced Paralympic champions China in their first match. The combined experience of class 9 World number one Ma Lin and class 10 World number seven Lian Hao took the doubles 3-0 and although Daybell fought hard against Ma in the first singles the World and Paralympic champion took the match 3-1 to win the tie for China 2-0.

Daybell and Facey Thompson then had to beat a combined team from Thailand and Japan and recovered from dropping the opening game in the doubles to win it 3-1 before Daybell won the tie with a 3-0 win against Bunpot Sillapakong.

Ashley Facey Thompson and Kim Daybell doubles Vejle 2015That took the young GB pair into a quarter-final against the very experienced Spanish team of former World champion Jose Ruiz and class 9 World number five Juan Perez and they played a superb match to win the doubles 3-0. Daybell then outplayed Ruiz for two and a half games before the class 10 World number five’s experience came to the fore and he recovered to win the match 3-2.

Facey Thompson also showed his potential by taking the first two games against Perez before being edged out 11-8 in the fifth but both he and Daybell can be very proud of the way they played and will certainly learn from the experience.

“Against Ruiz the third game was crucial,” admitted Daybell. “His coach called a really good time out when I was up 7-4 and he (Ruiz) has been around for a long time and played a lot of matches and he used that experience. It’s a shame that I couldn’t quite cross the line as I was playing really well and I felt that I was the better player but credit to him he dug in and made life very difficult for me. My level is there - it just needs a few little tweaks and I’ll be winning those matches instead of losing them.”

“We felt we had nothing to lose in the doubles and we were really up for it,” said Facey Thompson. “I played well at the start of my singles but I think the score got to me a bit - I knew I was up and beating a top player but I couldn’t execute the finish but I’m proud of how I played as well. I still thought I could win in the fifth game but his experience showed and he was the better player at the end of the match. I feel that I can compete with the top players now so I will try to push on from here and see what I can do in Slovakia next week.”

Women’s class 3 is being played in a round-robin format and London 2012 medalists Jane Campbell and Sara Head took on the World and Paralympic team champions from China in their second match. Despite a 0-3 loss in the doubles the GB pair competed well towards the end and although Campbell lost 0-3 to World champion Li Qian the score in the final game was 11-13.

“At the end of the singles against Li I gathered myself together and gave it a go,” said Campbell, “and I felt happier about that. In the doubles we were also competitive in the last game so we just need to start out the way we finished because if we had started out with that determination and confidence then it would have gone a lot better than it did.”

The pair can take confidence from a great win yesterday against Croatia and can still take a medal.

“We put a lot of effort into the doubles against Croatia,” said Head, “and for us to win that together made me more determined to try and finish it off in my singles and I’m happy that we did. We have two matches tomorrow so still all to play for and we’re looking forward to them.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey and regular team partner Tommy Urhaug from Norway made the perfect start in men’s class 5 with a 2-0 win against Chinese Taipei. The pair had to come back from 2-1 down to win the doubles 11-4 in the fifth and 20 year old Hunter-Spivey then won the first singles against Wen-hsin Lin 3-0 to secure the tie.

Jack Hunter-Spivey & Tommy Urhaug Slovenia 2014After winning the doubles with Hunter-Spivey, Urhaug took the first singles match against Alexandre Delarque to secure a 2-0 win against a combined team from France and Thailand which took them into the quarter-final to play the second Turkish team. After losing the doubles they went out of the competition after Urhaug lost a close match against Ali Ozturk 2-3.

“We’ve had some good results this tournament and Tommy and I are getting stronger all the time as a team,” said Hunter-Spivey.  “I didn’t play my best in the doubles against Turkey but that is the way it goes sometimes. We got beat fair and square and they were the better team on the day. I feel that the stuff I’m doing in training is definitely coming through in my match play and I’m looking forward to playing all the best players and I know I can compete with them. I just want to go on to Slovakia now and see if I can do that.”

After losing their opening match in men’s class 8 yesterday against China, 17 year old Billy Shilton and his Brazilian partner Luiz Guarnieri Manara had to beat Ukraine 2 to progress into the quarter-finals but after losing the doubles 0-3 a 0-3 loss for Shilton against European team gold medalist Ivan Mai put them out of the competition.

Nevertheless Shilton can look forward to the Slovakia Open next week.

“I think I’ve played a lot more positively than in previous competitions this season,” he said. “I have a bit more belief in myself that I can take some of the top players and it showed in my matches so overall it’s been a good competition for me. “

Pickard and Shilton receive Backing the Best awards

Two of the GB Para Table Tennis Team’s most promising young players, Felicity Pickard, 21, and 17 year old Billy Shilton, have been selected to receive one of Sport England’s new Backing The Best awards – bursaries of up to £5,000 per year to help cover expensive costs such as travel, accommodation, nutrition and medical bills.

SportsAid, the charity which helps the next generation of British sports stars by giving them financial support and recognition during the critical early stages of their careers, is delivering the scheme which was launched after a new study, carried out by Leeds Beckett University, showed the rising cost of becoming a sports star has led to some of England’s best up-and-coming talent dropping out.

Felicity Pickard action 6 2014Born with cerebral palsy, Felicity started playing table tennis in 2010 when she wanted to find a sport she could play competitively.  She made her international debut at the Czech Open in 2011 and represented GB at the European Championships in 2013. In 2014, Felicity took a break from international competition to focus on her training and she returned in the Belgium Open in October 2015. She showed her improvement and belied her ranking in the round robin women’s class 6 singles event to take the gold medal.

Billy Shilton Vejle 2015 13Having been diagnosed at the age of five with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) Billy was also  looking for a sport that he could play competitively and started playing table tennis at the age of 12 after watching his dad Michael play in a local league tournament. He was spotted by the GB squad at the UK School Games in 2012 and invited to attend a development camp from which he progressed to the Pathway Squad. He made his international debut in Belgium in 2013 and was selected for his first major championship - the European Championships in Denmark - in 2015 where he exceeded all expectations in taking bronze in the men’s class 7 singles and silver in the team event.

Following the European Championships the ITTF Para Table Tennis Committee made the decision to reclassify him as a class 8 player and he responded with a superb performance to win his first singles gold medal  in Belgium and finished the 2015 season by taking team bronze in the China Open and singles bronze in Costa Rica.

Tim Lawler, chief executive of SportsAid, said: “Backing The Best is exciting. It’s a new initiative never seen before in the environment of talent in sport, being targeted at those young sports people facing the toughest financial challenges.

“Backing The Best will provide the means to give certain talented young sports people the financial help they need to access the talent pathway and develop their sporting potential – not making the journey to success any easier for these athletes, but actually making it possible.

“Without support through Backing The Best, there is a chance some talented young athletes will be lost to their sport; with Backing The Best, they have a chance to reach their full potential. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the first cohort of athletes grow and develop over the next few years - we really think Backing The Best is going to be a game changer for sport in this country.”

Sport England director of sport, Phil Smith, said: “As well as encouraging more people to play sport and be active, Sport England’s job is to help identify and develop talented athletes. But being talented can be expensive, as the cost of travelling to competitions and the essential coaching needed can mount up.

“Backing The Best has been designed to give a helping hand to those who need it – so that ability and attitude are the only criteria for success, and not money. Ultimately, we want our national teams to be truly representative of our country, rather than just those that can afford to reach the top.

“We are incredibly proud of our first group of athletes; they are an inspiring group of young people that deserve to be recognised for their talent and dedication.”

Part of the money will also go towards helping sports bodies to broaden their talent development schemes so that those slipping through the net because of cost are supported.

According to the research carried out by Leeds Beckett University, travel and accommodation are by far the biggest costs for a young athlete trying to fulfil their potential.

Young athletes with a disability also have to travel further - often abroad - because there are fewer sports clubs and teams for disabled sports, which again means the price of making it to the top is higher.

Gorazd Vecko, Performance Director for the GB Para Table Tennis Team, said: “We would like to thank Sportsaid and Sport England for their support of two of our most promising young athletes. Both Billy and Felicity have already shown great potential at international level and these awards will be a great help to them both as they work towards their goal of qualification for Tokyo in 2020.”

LimbPower engagement in physical activity survey

Please help us to help you by taking part in this LimbPower survey to find out which activities amputees and people with physical impairments are taking part in. The results of the survey will help LimbPower to:

a) Find out which activities amputees and people with limb impairments are currently taking part in, as well what they would like to take part in the future.

b) Gain an understanding of the impact wearing a prosthesis (false limb) has on an individual’s likelihood to take part in sport and physical activity.

 We want all amputees and people with limb impairments living in the UK to complete this survey, whether you take part in sport and physical activity currently or not.

Many thanks for your help.


Paralympic stars support Talent-ID Days

Following the announcement of the team that will represent ParalympicsGB in the table tennis events at this year’s Paralympic Games two of the athletes selected for Rio are supporting the GB Para Table Tennis Team’s search for new talent this weekend.

Sara Head Nat Champs 2015

London 2012 medalist Sara Head

London 2012 medalist Sara Head will be joined by GB Pathway athlete Tom Matthews at the Talent Recruitment Day in Cardiff on Saturday, March 12 and Torpoint’s David Wetherill, who will be competing in his third Paralympic Games in Rio, will be the star attraction in Plymouth on Sunday, March 13.

With a series of Talent-ID events around the UK the GB team is actively working in partnership with each respective Home Nation Governing body in searching for talented players who could be part of the team in Tokyo and beyond. The Home Nations are instrumental in grass roots development and work hard to get potential athletes involved in the sport.

David Wetherill Slovenia 2014 1

European bronze medalist David Wetherill

These events provide a free opportunity for any disabled person to come and take part in an introduction to table tennis session. Para table tennis includes classes for a wide range of disabilities, both ambulant and wheelchair-bound athletes, as well as those with learning difficulties and is one of the most inclusive of the Paralympic sports.

Since taking four medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games the GB team has gone from strength to strength. It enjoyed its most successful ever European Championships last year with 11 medals and now boasts two current World number ones in World champion Will Bayley and double European champion Rob Davies among its brightest prospects for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Tom Matthews Vejle 2015 5

GB Pathway athlete Tom Matthews

In addition to a 14-strong Performance Squad the team now has thriving Pathway and Development Squads bringing on young players and introducing them to International competition. In addition to Matthews, who won European team gold and singles bronze in 2015, other players to come through the Pathway Squad are 17 year old Billy Shilton and 16 year old Megan Shackleton, who also won European medals in their first major championship last year.

“We have a very talented GB squad,” said GB Pathway and Development Coach Shaun Marples, “but we are always planning for the future. At these Talent Recruitment Days we are looking for anybody who shows potential to be the next Paralympic star and once they have been identified we can assist in signposting them to their nearest club and begin their training.”

The event in Cardiff runs from 11.00am - 3.00pm on Saturday, March 12 at the Welsh Institute of Sport and the event in Plymouth runs from 11.00am - 2.00pm at Eggbuckland College. Anyone wanting further information should call 0114 261 8681.

Twelve athletes selected to take on World’s best in Rio

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) today announced that ParalympicsGB will field 12 table tennis players at the Rio 2016 Games, confirming the athletes selected to compete in one of the most fast-paced sports on the programme.

640x347_table_tennis_Rio_2016_teamThe line-up of athletes includes current World number ones Will Bayley and Rob Davies, with the team brimming with experience gained from London 2012.

Current Paralympic bronze medallists Paul Davies, Sara Head, Jane Campbell, Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson return for their second Games, while Sue Gilroy MBE, Paul Karabardak, David Wetherill and Kim Daybell proved their case in a competitive selection process and earn their place on the team.

Liverpool’s Jack Hunter-Spivey also impressed during selection and is now set to make his Paralympic debut in Rio.

Will Bayley, the 28 year old from Tunbridge Wells now 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 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.”

Rob Davies, the 31 year old former rugby player from Brecon, was disappointed to be knocked out of the singles competition at London 2012 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.

“After working so hard, it’s a relief to be selected and I’m really excited to be part of the team for Rio, 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 everyone proud.

“It was London that definitely inspired me and I’ve improved so much since then. Before London I was an outside chance but in Brazil I will go in as one of the favourites. Like every athlete I want the gold medal but the competition will be really tough.”

Penny Briscoe MBE, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Rio 2016, said:

“These talented players have put a huge amount of hard graft in to earn their selection, and I’m delighted to announce that they’re now part of the ParalympicsGB team for Rio.

“Paralympic table tennis is fiercely competitive and huge credit should go to Performance Director Gorazd Vecko and his team who have continued to build on the work that resulted in four medals at London 2012. These players are very bright prospects for Rio, and behind them are the next generation of athletes for Tokyo 2020, so it’s a hugely exciting time for this sport.”

Performance Director Gorazd Vecko said:

“Four years ago we had nine players qualified for London and we now have 12 players qualified for Rio so we are in a better position than we were in 2012 when we won four medals.

“Our target is four to six medals and we are on track to achieve that. For the first time we have two athletes who are World number one in their class - Rob Davies in men’s class 1 and Will Bayley in men’s class 7 - and we have three other players in the top five in the World.

“The players are working hard and have also been training abroad which will bring them to a higher level but we should not forget that other countries are also working hard and it will be a massive challenge for us. We are doing everything we can to ensure our players are ready in September and we hope the results will be there.”

Today’s announcement brings the number of selected athletes to a total of 22, across the sports of sailing, judo and table tennis.

Selected athletes (table tennis):

Will Bayley (class 7)

Jane Campbell (class 3)

Paul Davies (class 1)

Rob Davies (class 1)

Kim Daybell (class 10)

Sue Gilroy (class 4)

Sara Head (class 3)

Jack Hunter-Spivey (class 5)

Paul Karabardak (class 6)

Aaron McKibbin (class 8)

David Wetherill (class 6)

Ross Wilson (class 8)

Six singles medals for GB in Italy

The GB Para Table Tennis Team made a good start to the 2016 season in Italy today with bronze medals in the singles events at the Lignano Master Open for Sue Gilroy (women’s class 4-5), Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5), Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6), David Wetherill (men’s class 6) and Kim Daybell (men’s class 10). But there was disappointment for men’s class 7 World champion Will Bayley, who was knocked out in the quarter-finals by the experienced Spaniard Jordi Morales.

Gilroy, World silver medalist in 2014, topped her group with three wins from three including a walkover against Tarsilem Tarsilem from Indonesia. She received a bye in the quarter finals but had to settle for bronze after a 3-0 semi-final loss to Wijittra Jaion from Thailand, the World number six.

Matthews lost his opening match to Paralympic champion Holger Nikelis from Germany but reached the knockout stages with a 3-0 win over the Italian Federico Falco. A great 3-0 win over the very experienced Endre Major from Hungary took him into a semi-final against Dmitry Lavrov but the Welshman could not produce his best form and the Russian took the match 3-0.

Jack Hunter-Spivey 1Hunter-Spivey started with a great 3-2 win over the Paralympic champion and World number one from Norway Tommy Urhaug and followed that with a 3-0 win over Sem Roelofs from The Netherlands. A 3-1 loss to Yen-Hung Lin from Chinese Taipei meant that he finished in second place in his group and progressed to a quarter final against the former European champion and current World number five Nicolas Savant-Aira. The Frenchman twice came back to level at 1-1 and 2-2 but Hunter-Spivey responded well and took the match 11-9 in the fifth for another notable win.

The 20 year old from Liverpool started well in his semi-final, taking the first set against Ming Chih Cheng but the World number four from Thailand was just too strong in a 3-1 win. Nevertheless it was a great start to the season for Hunter-Spivey, who continued the good form he showed in China at the end of last year.

Karabardak topped his group with three 3-0 wins and another 3-0 win against Michael Jensen from Denmark in the quarter-finals took him into a semi-final against the World number two Peter Rosenmeier in a repeat of their semi-final at last year’s European Championships that the Dane won 3-2. It was another close match and the Swansea City fan had his chances and led 2-1 but Rosenmeier finally clinched the match 3-2.

Wetherill also progressed from his group with three wins from three although he had to fight hard to defeat the Romanian World number eight Bobi Simion 3-2. He went on to beat Pavao Jozik from Croatia 3-0 in the quarter-finals but came up against the Paralympic champion and World number three Rungroj Thainyom in the semi-final and the World number three from Thailand was a 3-0 winner.

Kim Daybell 4Daybell, who has taken a year out of his medical studies to prepare for Rio, won his group with three wins from three although he had to dig deep to beat the Indonesian player Komet Akbar 3-2. His reward was a bye in the quarter-finals and an automatic place in the semi-finals where he faced the experienced Pavel Lukyanov. After losing a close third set 16-14 Daybell fought back to level at 2-2 but the Russian took the final set and the match 3-2.

Bayley, the men’s class 7 world number one, started with a comfortable 3-0 win against Yuttana Namsaga from Thailand and followed that with a 3-1 win over the Ukrainian Victor Karp. His quarter-final opponent was the World number five Jordi Morales and the experienced Spaniard, who is always a tough competitor, produced his best form to defeat a below-par Bayley 3-1.

In men’s class 8 Aaron McKibbin won all three of his group matches, including a 3-1 defeat of the World number eight from Sweden, Linus Karlsson. He faced Ivan Mai in the quarter-finals and led 2-0 before a titanic struggle in the third set, which he lost 18-16, gave the momentum to his Ukrainian opponent who went on to win the match 3-2.

Ross Wilson Vejle 2015 11McKibbin’s class 8 team partner Ross Wilson defeated the Italian Francesco Lorenzini from Italy 3-0 and Banyu Tri Mulyo from Indonesia 3-1 but found the former European champion and London 2012 bronze medalist Emil Andersson in great form and a 3-1 loss to the Swede left him second in his group and drawn against the World champion and World number one Viktor Didukh in the quarter-finals. After a close first set the Ukrainian proved too strong in a 3-0 win but Wilson was playing only his fifth competition since London 2012 and is sure to improve with more match play.

Teenager Billy Shilton is still finding his way in men’s class 8 but was disappointed to lose both his group matches against World number six Andras Csonka and Ivan Mai.

Ashley Facey Thompson had a 3-0 win against Ali Alsanea from Kuwait but defeats against the World number two from Russia Iurii Nozdrunov and the Italian Mohamed Kalem sent him out of men’s class 9 at the group stages.

In women’s class 3 Jane Campbell started with a 3-0 win over Osrita Muslim from Indonesia but a defeat by Italy’s Michela Brunelli 13-11 in the fifth and another narrow 3-2 loss to Helena Dretar from Croatia meant that she missed out on a place in the knockout stages. Team partner Sara Head was drawn in a really tough group and defeats to Swedish World number one Anna-carin Ahlquist and Hatice Duman from Turkey meant that she also did not progress from the group stages.

With women’s class 4 and 5 combined 16 year old Megan Shackleton also faced a tough task in her group but although she did not win a match she pushed Germany’s World number eight Sandra Mikolaschek all the way in a four set defeat and is gaining valuable experience at this level.

Felicity Pickard also showed that she is making great progress in women’s class 6 with a 3-0 win over Stephanie Grebe, the German World number six , and narrow 3-2 defeats to the Russian World number two Raisa Chebanika (14-12 in the fifth) and World number three Marina Lytovchenka from the Ukraine.

Martin Perry was a deserving winner of the men’s class 6 singles in the Lignano Junior Open earlier in the week and although he did not progress from his group he competed well against the experienced Italian Raimondo Alecci and Michael Jensen from Denmark and is showing plenty of promise for the future.

The tournament continues with the team competition that concludes on Saturday.


Will Bayley action 9 2014

World champion Will Bayley and double European champion Rob Davies will be among the competitors at this year’s Butterfly Michael Hawkesworth Championships (BTTAD National Championships) held on March 5-6 at Grantham Meres Leisure Centre.

They will be joined by other members of the GB Para Table Tennis Team preparing for this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio including London 2012 medalists Aaron McKibbin, Ross Wilson, Sara Head and Jane Campbell.

The Championships provide an opportunity for young up-and-coming players to take on the members of the GB Team, many of whom are ranked in the top ten in the World in their class.

Rob Davies Vejle 2015Welshman Davies, who successfully defended his European title in 2015, is the men’s class 1 World number one and is looking forward to starting his season in Grantham.

“The Nationals are really important,” he said. “I didn’t go to Italy so it will be my first competition of the year and the first opportunity for me to see what level I am playing at the moment. I’ve got strong competition within the GB squad from Tom (Matthews) so it will be good competition and a lot to play for. It’s good to have people pushing you all the time - you’ve got to up your game and be at your best all the time. Since January I’ve been really chuffed with the way things are going again - I’ve had good consistency in training which is something I haven’t been able to get, through injury and other things. I’ve still got a way to go but I’m excited about the future now. It’s the first time I’ve played the National Championships for a while so I’m looking forward to it.”

Bayley also holds the World number one ranking in his class and will be bidding to win the Men’s Open Standing title as well as Men’s class 7.

“It’s a great tournament,” said the 28 year old Paralympic silver medalist, “and so competitive now with so many good young players coming through and good older players. The National title is obviously something I’d love to win and it would be nice to win the Open title - I’ve lost to Kim (Men’s class 10 athlete Kim Daybell) about six times I think in the final but it’s not easy to get to the quarter-finals now let alone the final. I’ll just try my best and we’ll see how it goes.”

Sara Head Nat Champs 2015Among those who will be defending their title is Ladies’ Wheelchair Open champion Sara Head, who won a memorable bronze medal in London 2012 in the women’s class 1-3 team event with Jane Campbell.

“The Nationals are really important to me,” she said. “It’s a home event and great practice - it gets very competitive and you know if you manage to win back what you won last year it is a fantastic achievement. But it is all about preparation for everything this year so I am looking to build on that with every match I play. Matches against Jane are always the hardest matches for us. I don’t like playing any of my teammates to be honest because as much as I want to win I also want to see them do well. It’s very difficult because I want the best of both worlds really.”