The GB Para Table Tennis Team heads to Bratislava today for the Slovakia Open (May 14-17) hoping to build on the success in last week’s Slovenia Open in which GB was the leading nation with 12 medals including five gold.
European champion Rob Davies confirmed his world number one status by taking two gold medals in Slovenia and his opposition in the men’s class 1 events in Slovakia will include Chang Ho Lee from Korea, the Asian champion and world number four who beat Davies the last time they met in the final of the German Open last year.
“I just want to go to Slovakia and up my level again from here if I can,” said Davies. “We have been waiting to have a look at the Koreans in my class again - we haven’t played them this year. I’ve gained in confidence since I last played them and I’ve won the Europeans so I’m looking forward to having another crack at them. Hopefully I can beat them and get that in their heads before the World Championships.”
Davies and fellow Welshman Paul Davies, bronze medalist in the singles in Slovenia, will also be looking for a repeat success in the men’s class 1 team event in which they are the reigning European champions.
“Me and Paul are both in high spirits and both playing well so it will be a good test to go there and play against the Koreans as well as everyone else who was in Slovenia again. It should be another good competition.”
Paralympic silver medalist and men’s class 7 world number two Will Bayley also won two gold medals in Slovenia and his opponents this week will include the world number one and world number three from Ukraine - Maksym Nikolenko and European champion Mykhalo Popov. Bayley avenged his European championship final defeat by Popov on his way to winning gold in Italy earlier this year and will be looking to lay down a marker against his Ukrainian rivals ahead of the World Championships in China in September.
“I’m really looking forward to playing Nikolenko and Popov,” said Bayley, “they are really good players and we always have really close matches. The Chinese are going to be there as well and they are always dangerous so I’m looking forward to the challenges in Slovakia.”
GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko was delighted with the team’s performance in Slovenia and is expecting a tough competition in Slovakia, which is one of the most important tournaments of the year for the GB team.
“Slovenia was amazing,” said Vecko, “the best factor 40 tournament that we have played, the most medals and the most gold medals we have ever won. In particular, Aaron McKibbin beating the world number eight in class 10 was brilliant and for him and Kim Daybell to beat Russia 3-0 in the team competition was a great result. I’m very happy also with Billy Shilton who at 15 years old has shown he has huge potential for the future and with Tom Matthews getting his first medal in a factor 40 tournament. All the top players from Europe were in Slovenia apart from the Ukraine and they will be in Slovakia along with China and Korea, which is good as we will see exactly what we need to do before the World Championships. Our top players will have played all the top players in the world this year and we will know where we stand and what we need to do better. Slovenia was amazing and if Slovakia can be as good then we will have had a really good preparation leading to the World Championships in September.”
The full team competing for GB in the Slovakian Open is:
Will Bayley (Sheffield/Tunbridge Wells) - class 7
Jane Campbell (London) - class 3
Paul Davies (North Cornelly) - class 1
Rob Davies (Brecon) - class 1
Ashley Facey Thompson (Sheffield/London) - class 9
Sara Head (Beddau) - class 3
Jack Hunter-Spivey (Widnes) - class 5
Paul Karabardak (Swansea) - class 7
Thomas Matthews (Aberdare) - class 1
Aaron McKibbin (Sheffield/London) - class 8
David Wetherill (Torpoint) - class 6
Follow the GB Para Table Tennis Team on Twitter @gbparatt