Table tennis is one of the traditional Paralympic sports and has been included in the Paralympic Games since the inaugural Games in Rome 1960. Standing players were included for the first time in 1976 in Toronto and athletes with cerebral palsy for the first time in 1980 in Arnhem, The Netherlands.
Para table tennis follows the laws set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) with only slight modifications to the serving laws for athletes competing in wheelchairs. Athletes with a range of disabilities can take part and there are 11 different classifications: 1-5 for those competing in wheelchairs, 6-10 for those who play standing and 11 for those with an intellectual disability.
THE GB PARA TABLE TENNIS TEAM
Having returned from Beijing 2008 without a medal GB’s table tennis team was one of the success stories of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, winning four medals with one of the youngest squads in the competition. Players like Will Bayley, who featured in a series of inspirational advertisements for Channel 4’s coverage of the event and went on to win individual silver and team bronze medals, helped to raise the profile of the sport and attract sell-out crowds to the ExCel Arena in London.
GB’s Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, who took over the team in 2009, has created a positive and dynamic team environment designed to enable players to realise their potential and achieve at the highest level. The team is based at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield, where players train for six hours a day, five days a week.
The team has five coaches, including Gorazd Vecko, who work with the Performance athletes on a daily basis.
There is a three-tier structure of athletes:
Performance Squad - this consists of 14 athletes with the potential to medal at World and Paralympic level who are funded by UK Sport and train full time to prepare for international competitions
Pathway Squad - this consists of between 10-12 athletes who are competing in international competitions and working towards a place on the Performance Squad
Development Squad - this consists of between 10-12 athletes who are considered to have the potential to become GB players
The majority of the players currently in the Pathway and Development Squads are under the age of 15, providing the team with huge potential for the Paralympic Games in 2016, 2020 and beyond.
OBJECTIVES FOR 2014-2016
The GB Para Table Tennis Team competes in around 10 international events each year, including one major championship - either a European (every two years) or World Championship (every four years) or a Paralympic Games (every four years).
2014 - World Championships, China: September 6-15
2015 - European Championships (date and venue tbc)
2016 - Paralympic Games, Brazil: September 7-18