British Para Table Tennis Confirmation athlete Grace Williams and Pathway athletes Theo Bishop, Joseph Crouse, Ryan Henry and Shae Thakker will be competing in the sixth European Para Youth Games which are taking place in Pajulahti in Finland from June 30th - July 3rd.
First held in 2011 in the Czech Republic, the European Para Youth Games is an international multi-sport competition for athletes with a disability that is designed to help develop the Paralympic movement. The Games are seen by many as one of the first steps for new athletes on their journey to a professional sporting career, and a significant number of athletes who have taken part in the Games have gone on to represent their country at other international events. Table tennis is one of eight sports featured this year and is open to athletes from the age of 12-23.
Williams, 19, from Llanfyllin, won her first international singles medal at the Montenegro Para Championships earlier this month and will represent Wales in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“Competing in the European Para Youth Games will be an amazing experience,” she said, “and I’m really pleased to have the opportunity to participate. As it is a multi-sport Games it will be great practice for the Commonwealth Games because it will be a similar tournament structure and I’ll be competing in the same class – women’s 6-10 standing. I’m hoping to take a medal but also enjoy the experience.”
Bishop, 19, from Bury, has played well against world-class opponents in Slovenia and Montenegro this season and won his first international medal in the class 18 doubles at the Egypt Open in April.
“I can’t wait to play in the European Para Youth Games,” he said. “It’s a massive opportunity to gain experience playing in a multi-sport Games that I will hopefully be able to build on in the future. I hope that I can build on recent performances and begin to turn these good performances into wins in the tournament.”
Crouse, 19, from Falmouth, will be making his international debut at the Games.
“I’ve had a rough year with some health problems so I’m really looking forward to my first international competition,” he said. “For my first tournament to be a big multi-sport event like the European Para Youth Games is absolutely amazing and hopefully an opportunity to apply the hard work in training. Pulling on a GB shirt for the first time in a big event is going to feel surreal and I really want to perform to my best to repay the incredible support I’ve had from everyone this year.”
Henry, 22, from Ardrossan, won bronze in the men’s class 8 singles and bronze in the men’s class 18 doubles at the Copa Cristina Hoffmann in Mexico earlier this month.
“I’m excited to play in the European Para Youth Games,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve competed in an event like this and I’m looking forward to the experience. I am just hoping to play as well as I can, take one point at a time and see how far I can go.”
Thakker, 18, from High Wycombe, won gold in the Romania International Junior Open in 2017, and was bronze medallist in the Copa Costa Rica men’s class 10 singles in 2019.
“I’m very excited to compete in the European Para Youth Games,” he said. “It is a real privilege to be selected to play this tournament – I’ve never competed in a multi-sport event like this, and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out. My aim is to go there and perform at a high level, demonstrating the improvements I’ve made this season and hopefully go as far as I can in the tournament.”
Alex Bland was also selected but has had to withdraw from the competition due to illness.