Preparation for Paris begins in Slovenia for British Para Table Tennis Team

Preparation for Paris begins in Slovenia for British Para Table Tennis Team

The ITTF Slovenia Para Open in Lasko next week (May 7-11) will be an important tournament for the British Para Table Tennis Team as it continues to build towards the Paralympic Games in Paris later this summer.

A squad of 17 British athletes will compete in what is always one of the strongest tournaments of the year with World and Paralympic champions from around the world among the 266 entries.

Nine British athletes have so far qualified for Paris on their singles or doubles ranking including three-time Paralympic team medallist Aaron McKibbin, who will be looking for his third consecutive singles title in 2024 after winning gold in the men’s class 8 singles at the US Open in January and the Italian Open in March.

“Slovenia is always the biggest tournament of the year,” said the 32-year-old Epsom-based Londoner who has reached a career high of World number two, “and I’m going there with a mindset of trying to win a third tournament. Italy was the first time I’ve won back-to-back tournaments and if I was to win in Slovenia that would be something else I’ve never done before but I’m really just looking to keep playing the way I’ve been playing.

“I want to go into Paris in the best physical shape and match form so the best thing for me would be to play as many different players as possible in Slovenia. I’ve played quite a few players inside the top 10 this year and I really want to have a go at everyone. When I go onto court now I feel my opponent is going to have to play very well to beat me. I’ve had a few back-to-back tournaments now where I’ve played really well, and this is a good year to start doing that with Paris coming up so I hope that continues into the Games.”

Also qualified for Paris and competing in Slovenia are Rob Davies (men’s class 1), Martin Perry (men’s class 6), Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6), Will Bayley (men’s class 7), Billy Shilton (men’s class 8), Joshua Stacey (men’s class 9), Fliss Pickard (women’s class 6) and 14-year-old Bly Twomey (women’s class 7).

The World Paralympic Qualification Tournament in Thailand at the end of May will provide a final chance for athletes to qualify for Paris and Tokyo medallists Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5), Ross Wilson (men’s class 9) and Megan Shackleton (women’s class 4) as well as European silver medallist Grace Williams (women’s class 8) will be among those hoping to take confidence from good results in Slovenia into Thailand.

Confirmation athletes Chris Ryan (men’s class 2) and Theo Bishop (men’s class 7) will warm up for Slovenia and Thailand by competing in the Montenegro Para Open this week (May 1-4) where they will be joined by a squad of Pathway and Futures athletes including 18-year-old Bailey Page who will be making his international debut.

The British squad for the ITTF Slovenia Para Open (May 7-11) is:

Will Bayley, 36, Tunbridge Wells/Brighton – class 7

Theo Bishop, 20, Rossendale/Sheffield – class 7

Rob Davies, 39, Brecon – class 1

Ashley Facey, 29, London (Stratford)/Sheffield – class 9

Jack Hunter-Spivey, 28, Liverpool/Sheffield – class 5

Paul Karabardak, 38, Swansea – class 6

Tom Matthews, 31, Aberdare – class 1

Aaron McKibbin, 32, London (Wandsworth)/Epsom – class 8

Martin Perry, 29, Paisley/Dumbarton – class 6

Fliss Pickard, 29, Burnley/Sheffield – class 6

Chris Ryan, 32, Welwyn Garden City – class 2

Megan Shackleton, 24, Todmorden/Sheffield – class 4

Billy Shilton, 25, Stonehouse (Gloucester)/Sheffield – class 8

Joshua Stacey, 24, Cardiff/Sheffield – class 9

Bly Twomey, 14, Brighton – class 7

Grace Williams, 21, Llanfyllin/Sheffield – class 8

Ross Wilson, 28, Minster/Sheffield – class 9

The British squad for the ITTF Montenegro Para Open (May 1-4) is:

Craig Allen, 29, Bromsgrove – class 9

Theo Bishop, 20, Rossendale/Sheffield – class 7

Max Flint, 20, Guildford – class 10

Ryan Henry, 23, Ardrossan/Sheffield – class 8

Bailey Page, 18, Plymouth - class TBC

Chris Ryan, 32, Welwyn Garden City – class 2

Romain Simon, 34, Leyton/Chigwell – class 3

Daniel Thomson, 18, Brighton – class 7

Jacob Wicks, 18, Cwmbran – class 6