Wilson to defend his Commonwealth title in Birmingham
Reigning Commonwealth champion Ross Wilson is one of five British Para Table Tennis Team athletes selected to represent Team England at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham while Joshua Stacey, bronze medallist in 2018, and Grace Williams will represent Team Wales.
Wilson beat his England teammate Kim Daybell to become Commonwealth champion on the Gold Coast in Australia in 2018 and later the same year took the World title in men’s class 8 in Slovenia.
The three-time Paralympic team medallist took gold in the Costa Brava Spanish Open in March and is excited to be defending his men’s class 8-10 singles title in front of a home crowd.
“I am so proud to be selected for my second Commonwealth Games,” said the 27-year-old from Minster, “and it will be an honour to perform in front of a home crowd at a Games for the first time since London 2012. I have great memories of winning gold in 2018 and I’m really looking forward to defending my title in Birmingham.”
Also representing Team England will be former Commonwealth champion Sue Bailey MBE, Dan Bullen, Jack Hunter-Spivey and Fliss Pickard.
Bailey won Commonwealth gold in Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006, was European champion in 2005 and has twice been a World medallist - in 2006 and 2014. She won her first Paralympic medal in Tokyo at her sixth Paralympic Games, taking bronze in the women’s class 4-5 team event with Megan Shackleton, and will compete in the women’s class 3-5 Para Table Tennis competition in Birmingham. “I’m thrilled to be selected for my third Commonwealth Games in Birmingham,” she said. “Winning gold in Manchester and Melbourne was amazing, especially in front of a home crowd in Manchester. Being able to win gold in Manchester will always be so special to me as my dad was terminally ill at the time and all he wanted to do was see me play, so to get him transferred from the hospital to watch my final and to win it for him will always be such a memorable experience. The Commonwealth Games is the only event that we are in a combined team with our able-bodied team members, and it is always special to be able to compete at home in front of family and friends who normally don’t get to see me play. I would love to win another gold in Birmingham in front of a home crowd but it will be a tough competition as always.”
Bullen has been awarded a wild card to represent Team England in the men’s class 3-5 event at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The 24-year-old from St Neots is a member of the British Para Table Tennis Team’s Pathway Squad and made his major championship debut at the European Championships in 2019, competing alongside Hunter-Spivey in the men’s class 5 team event. He won his first international tournament at the Costa Rica Para Open in 2021.“I’m really excited to be selected as a wild card for the Commonwealth Games,” he said. “This was my target at the start of the year and I’ve worked really hard and gone to as many tournaments as possible to give myself the opportunity to be in with a chance of a wild card but I really didn’t think it was possible so to get one is a dream come true. This will be my first major Games and I’m really looking forward to the experience especially with Jack (Hunter-Spivey), Fliss (Pickard), Sue (Bailey) and Ross (Wilson) who have all done major Games before to help me. My family have never seen me play in an international tournament except on live steam so for them to be able to watch me play and represent England will mean the world to me and I’m so excited to be going and to have the chance to compete in front of a home crowd. It will be amazing to be part of it.”
Two-time Paralympian Hunter-Spivey will also compete in the men’s class 3-5 singles. After experiencing London 2012 as part of the Paralympic Inspiration Programme he achieved his dream of competing in a Paralympic Games in Rio 2016. Having lost narrowly in the quarterfinals at the European Championships in 2017 and 2019 and the World Championships in 2018, he won his first major championships medal in 2021, taking bronze in the men’s class 5 singles at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, and after victory in the Egypt Open in April has reached a career high of world number five in men’s class 5.“It is an absolute honour to be selected to represent England at a Commonwealth Games,” said 27-year-old Hunter-Spivey. “Competing in front of a home crowd is something I’ve always dreamed of doing and I can’t wait to get out there and try to bring home the gold for Team England.”
Pickard will compete in her second Commonwealth Games having competed for Team England on the Gold Coast in 2018, reaching the semi-finals before losing to the class 10 Nigerian Faith Obazuaye and then losing her bronze medal match to another class 10 athlete Andrea McDonnell from Australia. Women’s class 6 World bronze medallist in 2018, she will once again face tough opposition in the women’s class 6-10 singles against athletes from higher classes but is looking forward to the challenge. “It’s an honour to be selected to play for Team England at the Commonwealth Games especially as it’s a home Games,” she said. “The Commonwealth Games in 2018 really helped me grow as a person and an athlete and I then went on to my biggest achievement to date, winning bronze at the World Championships later that year, so I’m hoping I can do even better this year. The Gold Coast was an amazing experience but to play in front of a home crowd will be incredible.”
Stacey will also be competing in his second Commonwealth Games, having taken bronze on the Gold Coast in 2018, losing in the semi-finals to Wilson but securing a clean sweep of medals for BPTT by beating the class 10 South African Theo Cogill 3-2 to win the bronze medal match. Since then he has won European team bronze, represented ParalympicsGB at his first Paralympic Games in Tokyo and established himself in the world’s top ten of men’s class 9.
“Obviously it is a great honour to be selected to represent Wales again,” said 22-year-old Stacey, “and I’m very excited to put on the Welsh jersey as it’s been a long time since I was able to do that. It definitely means a lot – representing GB is lovely but to play another Games for Wales is something I’m very proud of and a fantastic achievement. In the Gold Coast it was quite surreal as I didn’t expect to medal or do as well as I did but I feel now I am in a position to push for the gold medal. It is definitely going to be a different experience playing a home Games as I’ve never done it before but I think it is going to be an even better experience because of the support we are all going to receive. I think the atmosphere will be even more intense than it was on the Gold Coast so I’m really looking forward to it and I hope that I can come away with an even better result than I did last time.”
Williams will be competing in her first major championship having just progressed from the Pathway squad to Confirmation, the transition programme between Pathway to Performance. The 19-year-old from Wrexham won her first international singles medal in Montenegro last week and will compete in the women’s class 6-10 singles against her BPTT doubles partner Pickard.“Being selected to represent Wales in the Commonwealth Games is very surreal,” she said. “I never imagined I’d ever compete at a major Games at this stage of my playing career. It’s an honour to be selected and to represent my home country and have my first major Games in the UK is incredible.”
The Para Table Tennis events at the Commonwealth Games will take place at the NEC Hall 3 in Birmingham from August 3-7.