Karen’s tenure was extended to cover the European Para TT Championships in Sheffield, which ended on September 9, with the British players securing 12 medals at the tournament, including a gold for Will Bayley. At the end of the event, a presentation was made to Karen to mark her time at the helm.
She officially finished her term of office on September 10, although still has some duties to perform during this month as she hands over to Adele Stach-Kevitz, who was appointed in June.
Karen first became involved in Para table tennis when coaching Tony Edge of Widnes in preparation for the 1984 Stoke Mandeville Games, where he won silver medals.
Then, in 2008, she was referee for the Liverpool Para Open as a 13-year-old Jack Hunter-Spivey, who is from Karen’s club Halton TTC, played his first tournament as a GB player. Karen was then invited to join BTTAD Performance Management Committee.
She said: “It has been an honour to steer the British Para TT on its course for many years and see the amazing impact we’ve had on changing the culture and developing a legacy.
“We have built on the original charity committee of four to become a Company Limited by Guarantee in 2014; from the title of BTTAD, with emphasis on disability, to elite performance in the name now of British Para Table Tennis.
“We have recruited, trained and developed a world-class Board of 12 to match our world-class players, coaches and EIS support staff, still based on Performance Director Gorazd Vecko’s idea of a family culture within the team and organisation.
“Together we developed a vision of bringing a major Para event to UK and develop a lasting legacy. The European Para TT Championships saw Will Bayley MBE qualify for the Paris Paralympics by winning gold, but there was also a medal tally of 12 medals, building on 10 at the World Championships in November 2022 and seven at the Tokyo Paralympics.
“When I became Chairman in 2014 it was a very busy period starting to plan for the Tokyo cycle of funding while delivering on the Rio Games. Rio was very special – at British House singing with the British Ambassador and a homeless choir from the streets of Rio to the amazing two gold medals in the singles and a team bronze.
“Another very special memory has to be the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games when, as Referee, I witnessed Jack Hunter-Spivey win the gold medal in the men’s wheelchair event.
“On a personal note, the surprise of being advanced to the OBE for services to Paralympic Table Tennis in the late Queen’s Platinum Birthday Honours List, and the joy of Gorazd Vecko receiving an Honorary MBE in recognition of his work with BPTT. It’s a special journey we have both been on.
“We are grateful to UK Sport and the National Lottery for their support on this journey without which we could not have achieved such success. Alongside a World Class Performance Programme for the elite athletes, we have developed a Pathway programme to progress new players, many coming through from the Home Nations.
“The City of Sheffield, English Institute of Sport, Butterfly Europe and Crowne Plaza Hotel have all played a major role in our organisation.”
The BPTT also has close relations with the British Paralympic Association and Karen has been on their National Council for nine years.
Table Tennis England nominated her to serve on the International Table Tennis Federation Para Committee in 2021 – she was elected and has recently been re-elected for a further two years; Karen is also deputy chair of the European Table Tennis Union Para Committee.
Article written by Julie Snowdon, Senior Design and Marketing Officer, Table Tennis England.
Photo Credit: Michael Loveder.