ParalympicsGB names 13 athletes for Para Table Tennis Squad at Tokyo 2020

ParalympicsGB names 13 athletes for Para Table Tennis Squad at Tokyo 2020

ParalympicsGB has selected a talented squad of 13 table table tennis players for Tokyo 2020 including two defending Paralympic champions.

Rio 2016 Paralympic gold medallists Will Bayley (men’s class 7) and Rob Davies (men’s class 1) will defend their titles and are joined by fellow Rio medallists Ross Wilson and Aaron McKibbin, who won bronze in the men’s class 6-8 team event alongside Bayley. He was involved in one of the stand-out moments of Rio 2016 when he stood on the table arms aloft following his dramatic victory over Brazilian Israel Pereira Stroh to claim a career first Paralympic gold medal.

They are joined by fellow Rio 2016 athletes Sue Bailey (formerly Gilroy), who will be competing at her sixth Paralympics, Paul Karabardak and David Wetherill, who have both been selected for their fourth Games and Ashley Facey Thompson and Jack Hunter-Spivey who will be attending their second. Making their Paralympic Games debuts are Tom Matthews, Megan Shackleton, Billy Shilton and Joshua Stacey.

Gorazd Vecko, Table Tennis Team Leader said: “After all the challenges of the last 18 months I am so proud that we have 13 athletes selected to represent ParalympicsGB in Tokyo, including four who will be competing in a Games for the first time. Together with Poland we will have the most athletes in Europe competing in table tennis in Tokyo and the fourth biggest squad in the world behind China, Korea and Brazil. This is a massive achievement and would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of everyone in our team. Our athletes have been training hard and we are fully focused on making the country proud in Tokyo."

Penny Briscoe, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission at Tokyo 2020 said: “Table Tennis has qualified a brilliant group of athletes with an exciting mix of experience and new faces to the team.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the athletes and support personnel who have worked so hard to ensure they are as well prepared as they can possibly be in these challenging times. The excitement is building as we are just weeks away from the start of the Games and I cannot wait for the action to begin.”

Around 230 athletes from 19 sports are expected to make up the British team that will compete in Japan, with further names to be announced in the coming weeks.

ParalympicsGB captured the imagination of the British public at London 2012 winning 120 medals in front of sell-out crowds with countless memorable performances.

The team eclipsed that performance at Rio 2016 winning an outstanding 147 medals including 64 golds to finish second in the overall medal table. The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games will be staged from 24th August to 5th September.

Para Table Tennis Athletes for Tokyo

Aaron McKibbin:

Events: men’s class 8 singles and men’s class 8 team

“It’s a huge honour to represent your country and be one of the few people who can say they’re a Paralympian and I’ve been lucky enough to say that three times now. Winning the team bronze in Rio motivates me unbelievably – after that competition my thought almost instantly was, ‘I want to be able to try and compete for a singles medal at the next Games’. All my work went into getting my level as high as possible and I feel that my level is now good enough to be in the mix for a singles medal. There is no feeling like winning a (Paralympic) medal it is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had. To get it in London was amazing and to be the person winning it against China made it just that bit more special, so I’d love to emulate that and that is my aim to go out there and try and get that feeling again.”

Ashley Facey Thompson:

Events: men’s class 9 singles and men’s class 9-10 team

“I’d had a lot of chances to qualify but things didn’t go my way although to be fair my performance was good and I was very happy with how I performed. I just missed out on qualifying and I’m happy that I got the wild card. I was at home watching the Tour de France when Gorazd called me with the news. It will be my second Games and it’s going to be amazing – the circumstances are very different but it should be good. I’ve been through an emotional wave through COVID and trying to qualify and I was gutted not to get there at the World Qualification Tournament so it will be great to go to Tokyo and hopefully be competitive. I’m very proud to be selected – I’ve had a lot of people help me along the way over the last five years and I’m glad to say thank you to everyone who believed in me the whole way and backed me. The whole experience from Rio will help me – I’ve had experience of a Games and it is a big tournament but the same sport, so you’ve got to just remember that.”

Billy Shilton:

Events: men’s class 8 singles and men’s class 8 team

“When I found out that I had been given a wild card I was so excited; I’ve had a couple of weeks now for it to sink in. Seeing the kit and everything it is really nice to be involved in all the preparation so I can’t wait. Going to Rio as part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme was brilliant – I think the Paralympics is something that you can only experience if you see it, so it was great to experience the environment and the atmosphere. Obviously, it will be a bit different this time but just to see everything and the scale of everything it will really help me in Tokyo for sure. I just want to take every match as it comes – play the best I can and hopefully the results will come. Ross (Wilson) and Aaron (McKibbin) have nurtured me from quite a young age when I first came to Sheffield so it is really nice to be playing team event with them and I’ve learnt a lot from them. Everyone on the team gets on so well and that can only be a positive going into the Games, so I’m really excited.”

David Wetherill:

Events: men’s class 6 singles and men’s class 6-7 team

“I didn’t even know the Paralympics existed when I first started playing table tennis. It’s amazing when you grow up and you have dreams and you have targets to aim for which get you out of bed every day; it makes the tough times a lot easier having something to focus on. I could never have dreamed I would go to four Paralympic Games and irrespective of what happens that is something I can be very proud of because I have had a lot of doubts in the past year or two. It’s been difficult for everyone and I certainly questioned whether my body could hold together and if I would even make it so it is almost as if I’ve achieved a massive goal already, irrespective of what happens in Tokyo.  It is a nice feeling and takes the pressure off a little bit because I do almost have the philosophy of everything else is a bonus now, which is nice as I can enjoy it.”

Jack Hunter-Spivey:

Events: men’s class 5 singles

“It’s still not quite sunk in yet. As a 10-year-old kid wanting to be a Paralympian, to be going to do it again for a second time is a feeling I’ll never get over. I’ll never get tired of saying I’m a Paralympian and it will be something I’ll never take for granted. It’s a special feeling going out there to represent my country at the highest level – it’s amazing really. Winning the World Qualification Tournament was the culmination of 18 months of hard work and leaving no stone unturned to go out there and do it and it paid off.  That feeling when I won the final point was something I’ll never forget; I felt that I was watching myself from above the table but it’s a memory that will last forever win, lose or draw in Tokyo.”

Joshua Stacey:

Events: men’s class 9 singles and men’s class 9-10 team

“I’m really excited; preparation is going really well and I’m looking forward to competing at a Paralympics for the first time. It is even better that I’m going as part of a big squad and I’m sure it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience but hopefully I’ll experience it more than once. In the simplest terms it is not so different to a normal competition apart from the fact that it is on the biggest stage, so I’ll just try and simplify the event in my mind and play it like any other tournament.  The Commonwealth Games was on a smaller scale, but it will give me an insight into the feeling of being around so many other athletes. I’m just prepared for Tokyo to be a fair bit bigger, but I think it will be in my favour that I have experienced something similar. Looking back to 2017 when I was first classified, I didn’t think it would be possible to compete in Tokyo so if I had to say one word about how it feels it would be ‘incredible’ because in a very short amount of time I’ve somehow managed it and I’m just glad and very privileged to be in the position I am.”

Megan Shackleton:

Events: women’s class 4 singles and women’s class 4-5 team

“It means so much to me after years of growing up watching my idols on screen and imagining myself in the team kit, to have actually earned my own kit and to be wearing it soon and representing Great Britain at the pinnacle of my sport. My family has seen the work that it has taken behind the scenes, as well as my friends and the rest of the team, and I know that everyone is going to be just as excited for me out there as I am for myself. Having gone through qualification for Rio and seen what the guys did in preparation has helped me massively; it was obviously difficult to miss out on qualification last time, but I trusted in the process that in four years’ time it would all work out for me and I feel in good stead. I feel that I know what to expect and it is just about getting out there now and hopefully putting in some good performances.”

Paul Karabardak:

Events: men’s class 6 singles and men’s class 6-7 team

“I’m really proud - it is probably the best team in the world to be part of and it’s really hard to be part of it. It’s been a lot of hard work so to be representing ParalympicsGB for a fourth time is really special and it means a lot. I haven’t competed in over a year which isn’t ideal, but preparation and training has been going really well and I’ve had lots of good match practice sessions with different players. I’ve been playing different styles so I’m still confident I can go into matches and do well. I’m really looking forward to the team event – it’s not the same if you are just going to play singles because there is a lot of pressure on the singles. So to be playing team event as well will be a big bonus and we have a really good chance but I’m also looking forward to the singles and hopefully I can do well in that. It would mean everything to come back with a medal because the Paralympics is the ultimate sporting competition and it’s the only medal I’m missing so to get a Paralympic medal would complete everything and would mean so much.”

Rob Davies MBE:

Events: men’s class 1 singles

“Rio is quite fresh in the mind in some ways and it was obviously a really special time for me but I’m just looking forward to getting out there and performing at the Paralympics again. It is probably best to park that memory - maybe use it when I’m out at the Paralympics to help keep me calm - but parking it is probably best most of the time when you are looking to your next challenge. I’m happy to be training again - it has been a difficult year and a half for everyone so I’m just excited to be playing again and looking forward to being in a competition again to be honest. The Paralympics is always special - it has been a strange period so it’s a very different Paralympics but it’s always a special feeling to be selected and represent your country. I take every competition as a new one; it is always a challenge and I enjoy the challenge and we’ll see how this one goes. People talk about me wanting to defend my title, but I just want to go out there and enjoy myself and see how it goes.”

Ross Wilson:

Events: men’s class 8 singles and men’s class 8 team

“I feel that in some ways I’ve got the experience behind me and in other ways it will be a completely different experience altogether because of COVID and the lack of competitions beforehand but I’m really looking forward to it. Because I haven’t played a competition for so long it will just be nice to be able to get out there and compete again no matter what the result is; I’m just looking forward to getting out there and seeing what I can do and I’ll give it my absolute best shot. It’s an amazing feeling when you know the whole country is supporting you and you are doing what you love and you just want to do everyone proud and just give it your all really. To add the Paralympic title to my World and Commonwealth ones would be incredible but I’ve just got to take each game as it comes. For me just playing out there and for everything to be going ahead is a really special feeling and I can’t wait to experience it.”

Sue Bailey MBE:

Events: women’s class 4 singles and women’s class 4-5 team

“I am extremely proud to have qualified for my sixth Paralympic Games and to be representing GB again after such a difficult few years. It makes it even more special to have qualified by winning the first ever World Qualification Tournament in Slovenia last month. This will be my first ever tournament that I will compete in under my maiden name of Bailey which will make me so proud in honour of my Dad and I hope to do him justice in Tokyo. I owe him and my Mum so much as they got me into table tennis and have supported me so much throughout my career, along with my children Ryan and Lauren, my partner Scott and all my family and friends. Winning a Paralympic medal would mean so much to me as it is the only medal I haven’t won over my career. I hope I can do my family and my country proud in Tokyo.”

Tom Matthews:

Events: men’s class 1 singles

“I’m very excited, a little bit nervous but I can’t wait to get out there and experience my first Paralympics and enjoy the experience. Missing out on Rio was heart-breaking and Tokyo has been constantly on my mind since then. Training has been going really well; I’ve just come back from a training camp in Slovenia which was really good, getting used to the higher temperatures and using the cooling strategy that I’ve been testing and has worked perfectly so I’m really looking forward to getting out there now and doing my best. Rob has given me some knowledge of how to prepare and experience it and Ross, Aaron and Will were telling me in Slovenia how to experience a Games and take it all in but not get carried away with it. Obviously, I want to go for a medal – every athlete does – but it’s my first Games so I’ve got to be realistic. I just want to go out there and give my best performance and enjoy the experience.”

Will Bayley MBE:

Events: men’s class 7 singles and men’s class 6-7 team

“When I won the final in Rio I realised a dream that I had been going to sleep thinking about since I was 18 years old because it doesn’t get any bigger than winning a Paralympic gold medal. I had always said to other people that I could do it but in the back of my mind I didn’t know so I was relieved and a bit surprised; it was a special moment and something I will never forget. It means everything to me to compete for my country; to represent GB is what I live for and what I train for every day; I get an extra bit of energy and drive to go for these moments because I know these chances don’t come around very often. I’m playing the best table tennis of my career so I know this is a great opportunity for me and I want to show people what I can do. It helps that I’ve got such amazing players around me who have got great opportunities as well and are really hungry for success. We have a team that can be really successful and that drives me on as well. I feel that I’ve got a lot to prove as an athlete – I still don’t feel I have achieved everything I can achieve so I’m excited to try and do that.”