British Para Table Tennis announces 13-strong squad for World Championships

British Para Table Tennis announces 13-strong squad for World Championships

A strong squad of 13 British athletes including World number one and former Paralympic champion Will Bayley, reigning World champion Ross Wilson and Commonwealth champions Jack Hunter-Spivey and Joshua Stacey will compete in the 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships taking place in Granada, Spain from November 6-12.

The World Para Table Tennis Championships take place every four years and will be run under a different format with the competitions played as a straight knockout rather than initial group stages.

Team events have been replaced by doubles – men’s, women’s and mixed – with the category for pairs determined with a maximum number obtained by combining the classification numbers of the two players.

Also competing in Spain will be Rio 2016 men’s class 1 Paralympic champion Rob Davies, 2018 World bronze medallists Tom Matthews and Fliss Pickard and Tokyo medallists Sue Bailey, Paul Karabardak, Aaron McKibbin and Billy Shilton. They will be joined by two-time European team gold medallist Martin Perry and Confirmation athlete Grace Williams who have both been awarded wild cards to compete.

The full British squad for the World Championships is

Sue Bailey, 49, Barnsley – current World ranking 7

Events: Women’s singles class 4, Mixed doubles class 10 (with Jack Hunter-Spivey)

“It’s been a really challenging few months and it is having that mental toughness when you get a lot of knocks to your confidence in a short space of time and it had a huge impact on me at the Commonwealth Games and affected my performance.  I’m just working through that at the moment and trying to get my confidence back so I’m in the best place I can be for the World Championships. I know the playing ability is there and in Greece it was the best I’ve played for the last year so it is just trying to get me back to where I was with people who believe in my ability supporting me and that was the key thing for me in Greece and has helped me so much. I love doubles – me and my partner Scott Robertson have been playing in the able-bodied league and we’ve beaten everyone in the first division and won all our mixed doubles this year. Playing with Jack is great as well – it is more challenging because he is left-handed and I’ve never played with a left-hander before. We did alright out in Greece but I think we can do a lot better with some focused training so I’m hoping we get some in before Spain.”

Will Bayley, 34, Tunbridge Wells/Brighton – current World ranking 1

Events: Men’s singles class 7

“I am really pleased with how this season has gone but it is all about the World Championships because it is one of the biggest tournaments so I’m looking forward to it. It would be very special to win the World title again – these are the moments that as a sportsman you need to try and make the most of because they don’t come around very often. The World Championships is only once every four years so I need to enjoy it and try and play as well as I can. Winning matches builds an inner confidence and for the other players to know I’ve played three tournaments and won three tournaments and haven’t lost a match since the final of Tokyo is good for me. I’ve got this inner belief that I can beat anyone and I just want to carry it on. I still feel that I can play another level better than I have done this season so I need to try and do that. It would have been nice for Yan to be there because you want to beat the best players in the world and Yan is Paralympic champion but I still have to play to the best of my ability to have any chance of winning the tournament. It is going to be very tough because there are a lot of good players and it’s going to be a battle whoever I play.”

Rob Davies, 38, Brecon – current World ranking 4

Events: Men’s singles class 1

“I’m looking forward to going to the Worlds and being back amongst all the guys I’m used to competing against. I can still go out there and cause an upset and I’ll be playing with no pressure and just trying to play my game. I’ve got a lot of experience and I’m going to have to use all of that this year to try and get some wins in Spain – the Worlds is the one title that has escaped me and I’m going to do my best and see what happens. It is all about Paris for me and building towards that. Obviously I’m excited to be going to the Worlds but for me it is just a stepping stone really and my thoughts are in the future but I need to take one match at a time as that is how I’m going to improve. That is what I’m going to do and I’ll hopefully have some positives to take out of it looking towards next year. It’s good to be back playing again after such a long time out due to the injury and I’m grateful to be back on the table again and pulling on the GB shirt so I’ll get behind my team mates, do all I can and enjoy myself.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey, 27, Liverpool/Sheffield - current World ranking 4

Men’s singles class 5, Mixed doubles class 10 (with Sue Bailey)

“Preparation has gone really well. The gold in Greece has stood me in good stead and I’m feeling good going into the Worlds and can’t wait to get involved now. It’s going to be different with a straight knockout tournament especially as I’m number four seed and I’ll go straight into a quarterfinal so my first match will be a medal match but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I always felt that I was never going to win a major medal but Tokyo changed that - beating Tommy (Urhaug) in a medal match was amazing so I believe in myself now and if I can do that again in the World Championships that will be great. I can draw on my experience of being in those big situations and hopefully I can do the business again. Mixed doubles with Sue is a free hit for us in some sense as we’re a new pairing so we’ll see how it goes and if we play some good doubles then I think we can do well.”

Paul Karabardak, 37, Swansea - current World ranking 4

Events: Men’s singles class 6, Men’s doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)

“I’ve had a good year and done well – I’ve maybe not been at my best but I’m playing well at the moment so I’m really looking forward to seeing what I can do at the World Championships. Tokyo was fantastic and it has given me a lot of confidence and belief that I can win on the big stage and beat the best players in the world in the big matches so I think I can take a lot from that to give me confidence going into the Worlds.  The only thing I haven’t won is a World singles medal and it would be very special if I could get that and have all the medals then. I’m also really looking forward to playing doubles with Billy – we played together years ago and to come together again in the Czech Open was really nice, especially to win the gold. Billy is playing really well and he’s a top player now, so it is exciting because I think we have a great chance to do really well in the doubles.”

Tom Matthews, 30, Aberdare – current World ranking 9

Events: Men’s singles class 1

“Four years ago it was my first World Championships and I didn’t really know what to expect but I’ve done other majors since then including the Paralympic Games and that is the pinnacle of the sport so I feel a bit more relaxed going into this one and I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to get out there. I’ve got a good record in majors but sadly they are only bronze medals and I want to change that colour so we’ll see. Training has been going really well - I’ve been working hard and I feel that I’m a better player than I was in Tokyo and I got a bronze there so let’s see what I can do in the World Championships. Straight knockout will be psychologically more difficult for some players than others – I’ve been working a lot with my psychologist and I feel I thrive at the majors so I’m going to take confidence from that and hopefully put on a good performance.”

Aaron McKibbin, 31, London/Epsom - current World ranking 6

Events: Men’s singles class 8

“I’m feeling really good. Coming off the back of a win gives you that little bit of extra confidence and I’m looking forward to the World Championships. I feel that I’ve been improving each year - I keep joking with my friends that I’m like a fine wine and I’m getting better with age. I’m not putting any pressure on myself; I’m going in there to do my best to win it. Anything can happen on the day and there are a lot of good players but I do believe I’m in the mix. I don’t think I played an amazing level in Greece but my average level was more than good enough and I was never in any difficulty and I think that is a sign of where I’ve improved. If I can get to the quarterfinal I don’t care who I play I believe I can get over the line and get to that next stage. I understand it is not an easy task but I fully believe in my ability to achieve that.”

Martin Perry, 28, Paisley/Dumbarton - current World ranking 15

Events: Men’s singles class 6

“I would love to have qualified directly but I’m over the moon to be given a wild card and very humbled that the hard work I’d put in has been recognised because everyone works hard in this sport. It’s a really good opportunity because I feel I have no pressure or expectation so I can go out and enjoy my first World Championships. I’ve chatted to a lot of the guys in the team and they said they’ve struggled at big competitions by putting too much pressure on themselves and building it up too much. Everyone has put me in a really relaxed mindset – don’t get me wrong I think I can get some good results but it is nice going into a competition where I feel no pressure. I’m just going to try and enjoy it and getting silver in Greece was a massive confidence boost because it was a strong competition in class 6. It's completely new to have straight knockout and that really excites me because upsets are going to happen and I hope I can be one of those upsets.”

Fliss Pickard, 28, Burnley/Sheffield – current World ranking 3

Events: Women’s singles class 6, Women’s doubles class 14 (with Grace Williams), Mixed doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)

“Obviously it was heart-breaking not making Tokyo and I did question myself as anyone would, but I think I can be very proud of the way I’ve bounced back. I got straight back on the table and got my head down and it has made me the person I am today. I’m really pleased with the way I’m performing at the moment – I’m not always feeling great but I think I’ve learnt over these last 12 months that it is just a feeling and I’ll always back myself to find a way to win and I think I can trust in my processes. Every match is going to be tough and I can’t take anyone for granted but I’ll take one match at a time and I want to go there to try and win gold. Doubles has been very difficult for me but I think it has really helped me grow as an athlete and as a person and to have those different relationships with different personalities has been fantastic. I’m looking forward to working with both Billy and Grace and I’m really excited to go out there and not just have the singles but to be part of the team.”

Billy Shilton, 24, Stonehouse/Sheffield – current World ranking 8

Events: Men’s singles class 8, Men’s doubles class 14 (with Paul Karabardak), Mixed doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard)

“Tokyo was on such a big scale so it is not a new thing for me now going into the World Championships. I’m trying not to think about it too much and just focus on my training and hopefully everything will take care of itself. I think on the whole it has been a good season for me and I’m just hoping I can take that into the World Championships now. Singles and doubles are all really important to be honest. Paul, Fliss and I have all got great chances to do well in singles and I’m looking forward to the doubles. Every chance we get we’re playing doubles so I’m feeling really confident and looking forward to playing with them both. I love playing table tennis in general and I think I enjoy the team spirit you have with the other player and the coach in the corner. I think that gets the best out of me so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Joshua Stacey, 22, Cardiff/Sheffield – current World ranking 3

Events: Men’s singles class 9, Men’s doubles class 18 (with Ross Wilson), Mixed doubles class 18 (with Grace Williams)

“Tokyo just gave me so much motivation knowing that the Paralympics are only every four years but every year there is a major which is really good in terms of wanting to do as well as you can. I feel that my level and my mindset have gone up nicely in correlation and it is translating quite well on the table and I’m hoping it will do the same in Spain. Major championships are what you strive towards and I feel I’m in a good position to show what I can do and I’m really excited. I feel like I’m improving week-on-week and to feel confident in how I’m playing and also confident in terms of my mindset is exciting but also quite settling. I feel that I can think my way through a match if things aren’t going as well as they could do and that is something that can be used in any stage of the competition. It is very special and a privilege to have been selected for the doubles as well and they are a nice goal to chase other than just the singles. When you are on the table with someone else you’re playing for them as well which is always a good thing and I think it also brings together that family vibe we have created in the team so I enjoy playing with both Ross and Grace.”

Grace Williams, 19, Wrexham/Sheffield - current World ranking 18

Women’s singles class 8, Women’s doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard), Mixed doubles class 18 (with Joshua Stacey)

“It is really exciting especially because I wasn’t expecting to go and I’ve got a wild card so I feel really privileged to get an opportunity to go and show what I can do. Sometimes I feel I don’t deserve it but I’ve been given the chance and I’m going to take it. Playing doubles is really helping me to develop as a player individually because I get to have that reassurance with Fliss and Josh - they help me and that helps my singles game as well. The nerves are still there but it is about managing them – the Worlds is my first major Para championships, so we’ll see how it goes but I’m looking forward to it.”

Ross Wilson, 27, Minster/Sheffield – current World ranking 2

Events: Men’s singles class 8, Men’s doubles class 18 (with Joshua Stacey)

“I don’t take these competitions for granted anymore - I missed the Worlds in 2014 due to injury so just to have the opportunity to go and perform at a World Championship is something I’m really looking forward to because you’re not always going to get to play them. So I’m really excited to get out there and do as best as I can and hopefully I can defend my title. I wasn’t happy with how I played in Birmingham but I did take away a lot of good things and it has definitely given me confidence going forwards and I was really proud of myself for how deep I got stuck in even though I wasn’t playing very well. I didn’t feel that I was on top of my game but I stuck in there and to come away with the bronze medal is something I’m really proud of. Josh and I have a really good relationship and in doubles we work well together. Winning gold in Spain was a good start and something we want to build on and if we can get some practice in over the next two weeks and work on some things we’ll be confident going into the Worlds."