Commonwealth champions Jack Hunter-Spivey and Joshua Stacey dominated the 2023 Michael Hawkesworth British Para Table Tennis National Championships, taking the Open Wheelchair and Open Standing titles respectively as well as their individual classes. Hunter-Spivey also took the Wheelchair Doubles title with Meg Shackleton, beating Andrew Green and Romain Simon in the final, but Stacey had to settle for silver in the Standing Doubles after he and Martin Perry lost the final to Aaron McKibbin and Billy Shilton.
This was the first time the National Championships has been held for four years and it produced some great matches and intense competition. While experience came to the fore there were some promising performances from some of the young and up-and-coming players in the Pathway and Development squads who are coming through to challenge the established players in the Performance squad.
After winning the combined class 4 and 5 Hunter-Spivey had to fight to retain his Open singles title, beating the improving Lee York 3-1 in the final.
“Being British champion is something I’ll never take for granted,” he said. “It is an absolute honour to be the best player in this country at the level that this sport is going up and up every year. I’ve been pushed all the way and I’m just thankful I managed to do it again and hopefully I can do it again next year. Playing doubles with Meg is really good for me - we’re really good friends off the table and really understand each other’s games. I’ve been in the squad as Megan has come through and now we compete together internationally. I’ve really got high hopes for our doubles partnership and hopefully we can do well at the Europeans later this year.”
Stacey was impressive in beating Ross Wilson 3-0 in the Open Standing final and also retained his title in class 9, which was reduced to a five-man round-robin competition following the withdrawal of Ashley Facey due to injury.
“It is always a pleasure to play Ross who I know is going to push me,” he said, “and I’m pretty pleased with how I’ve played. In the open I was able to force my game on anyone I played and I prepared really well. I’ve been out for a while dealing with a few niggling injuries and to be able to win it is fantastic. We train with each other all the time and essentially anyone can win on any given day but within myself I believe I’ll win on that given day. I wasn’t able to play the Welsh nationals a couple of months ago so just to be able to compete here yet alone win it is a really nice feeling.”
Megan Shackleton retained her Women’s Wheelchair title after beating Beth Kyte and Bethany Kelf.
“It’s nice to be back at the Nationals playing,” she said, “and a good opportunity for the girls to have an event to themselves. Going into match play sessions over the next few weeks it’s going to be a big part in how I perform in Montenegro and Slovenia, so it’s been great prep for those tournaments.”
Newcomer Lianna Shillani was a surprise winner of the Women’s Standing title after beating World Doubles champions Fliss Pickard and Grace Williams.
“I really wanted to play here,” said the 14-year-old from Ukraine, who was born in London and started playing table tennis five years ago. “It was very exciting to beat Fliss and Grace because they are very good players so it was nice to be able to play against them.”
Joseph Fortnum-Adams won the Junior title after beating Max Flint in the final 3-1 and other class winners were Chris Ryan (Open Wheelchair Band B), Tom Hepburn (Open Wheelchair Band C), Bailey Page (Open Standing Band B) and Adnan Janoowalla (Open Standing Band C).
British Para Table Tennis Chairman Karen Tonge OBE said: "On behalf of British Para Table Tennis I would like to thank our sponsors Tees Sport Butterfly, UK Sport, the National Lottery, Sheffield City Council and all the technical officials and volunteers who helped to make this the best ever National Championships."