European silver medallist Grace Williams is one of seven British Para table tennis athletes who will compete in this week’s French Para Open in Saint Quentin en Yvelines from November 9-12.
The 20-year-old student from Llanfyllin is joined by Theo Bishop, Chris Ryan and European bronze medallist Bly Twomey who have all moved from the Pathway squad to Confirmation, the transition programme between Pathway and Performance, after also impressing at the European Championships in Sheffield in September. The squad is completed by Tokyo Paralympic medallist Megan Shackleton, former two-time European team medallist Ashley Facey and European Para Youth Games medallist Ryan Henry.
Williams, who won gold at the World Championships last year with doubles partner Fliss Pickard, transferred that form to her singles at the European Championships, beating World champion Thu Kamkasomphou on her way to reaching the women’s class 8 final where she lost to the Norwegian world number one Aida Dahlen. Together with Shackleton and Facey she will be hoping to improve her world ranking and her chances of qualification for the Paralympic Games in Paris next year and will face tough competition this week from some of the best players in Europe as well as a strong squad from China.
“The Europeans were amazing for me,” said Williams, who is studying nutrition at the University of Sheffield. “Stepping out of university and coming back into full time training was a difficult transition but it allowed me to fully focus on preparing for the Europeans. I didn’t expect to get the results I did and watching the matches back knowing what I’ve done makes me feel I can do it - I just need to fully focus on my fundamentals and my mentality before going into a match to get the best outcome on the table. It has given me a boost in training that I now know what I need to focus on to get to the next level and it has given me an extra area to work on with the coaches and the players that I train with. I know what works for me to get the best outcome on the table.
“To get to Paris after three years of hard work balancing training and uni would be amazing but if I’ve done the best I can and it is not enough then I’ll be disappointed, but it will make me work even harder the next time around.”
The British squad for the French Para Open is:
Theo Bishop, 20, Rossendale/Sheffield (class 7)
Ashley Facey, 28, London (Stratford)/Sheffield (class 9)
Ryan Henry, 23, Ardrossan/Sheffield (class 8)
Chris Ryan, 32, Welwyn Garden City (class 2)
Megan Shackleton, 24, Todmorden/Sheffield (class 4)
Bly Twomey, 13, Brighton (class 7)
Grace Williams, 20, Llanfyllin/Sheffield (class 8)