Aaron McKibbin

Date and place of birth: 27/08/1991, London
Home town: London
Lives: Sheffield
Family: Mum Joanne, older sister Emma and grandmother Iris
TT Class: 8
Current world ranking: 5
TT Style: attacking shake hand
International debut: 2009

In brief:

Aaron won a bronze medal in the men’s class 6-8 team event at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and four years later in Rio won the deciding singles match against world champions China to secure bronze again in the men’s class 6-8 team. He enjoyed his best season in 2019, breaking into the world’s top 10 in men’s class 8 for the first time with singles medals in Slovenia, Poland and Japan and reaching his first major final, taking silver in the men’s class 8 team event at the European Championships with Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton. He reached the quarter-finals of the men’s class 8 singles in Tokyo and won a bronze medal in the men’s class 8 team event with Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton.

Aaron’s story:

Aaron played tennis from the age of four to 14 before taking up table tennis at school. He quickly showed potential and competed in the UK Schools championship but had reservations when his coach first suggested he try out for the GB Paralympic squad.  “I didn’t consider myself to be disabled,” he explains. “I was 16 and thought people would laugh at me but I gave it a try, went to a training camp in 2009 and then to the Romanian Open to get classified.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided it was what I wanted to do. I was a bit arrogant at first because I’d played able bodied table tennis and I thought Para table tennis would be easy but I soon realised how good the standard is.”

Aaron was part of the ParalympicsGB team in London and together with Will Bayley and Ross Wilson he brought home a bronze medal from the men’s class 6-8 team event. He admits that the experience matured him and said: “It’s nice to know we were part of the 2012 Games that changed people’s view of the Paralympics. Lots of people are interested now - it’s changed the public’s perception and that’s great for us as athletes.”

Aaron was born with bilateral talipese (club foot) and had corrective surgery from the age of one week old.  “I’m a lot quicker and more balanced than I used to be,” he says, “and we work on ways round the things that I can’t physically do. For me it is what makes Para table tennis fun because it is about trying to counteract your opponent’s disability - it’s more tactical.”

In 2013 and 2014 Aaron enjoyed a number of wins against higher ranked players including at the World Championships in China in 2014 where he reached the last 16 of the men’s class 8 singles and played well in the men’s class 9-10 team event. In 2015 he struggled a little for consistency despite some good wins and medals in Italy, Slovakia and Germany. In the European Championships in Denmark he reached the last 16 of the singles and, reunited with Ross Wilson in the team event, took the bronze having defeated Paralympic champions Poland in the group stages. The following month he went to the China Open in Beijing knowing that his qualification for Rio was in the balance. He responded superbly to the pressure, beating the Chinese world number two Ye Chao Qun to take gold in the singles and secure his Paralympic qualification.

Aaron went to Rio in determined mood and topped his group in the men’s class 8 singles before losing in the quarter-finals to the eventual silver medalist Andras Csonka from Hungary. In the men’s class 6-8 team event he combined with Ross Wilson and Will Bayley to win a superb bronze medal, clinching victory over World champions China by taking the deciding singles match 3-2 on his second match point.

In 2017, Aaron reached the final of the men’s class 8 singles at the Slovenia Open, losing to the World number one Viktor Didukh, and finished the season by taking bronze in the men’s class 8 team event at the European Championships with Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton. In 2018 he took singles medals in Italy, Slovakia and Czech Republic but was unable to produce his best at the World Championships in Slovenia and was hugely disappointed to go out in the group stages after losses to World number one Viktor Didukh and former World champion Richard Csejtey.

In 2019 Aaron broke into the top 10 in the World for the first time after taking medals in Slovenia, Poland and Japan with wins against top five players. He lost in the last 16 at the European Championships to Piotr Grudzien, the former World, Paralympic and European team gold medallist from Poland, but went on to take silver in the men’s class 8 team event with Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton, losing in the final to Paralympic champions Ukraine.

In Tokyo Aaron reached the quarter-finals of the men’s 8 singles, losing in four close sets to the eventual silver medallist Didukh, and then went on to take bronze in the team event with Ross Wilson and Billy Shilton, losing in the semi-finals to China.

“To say at London 2012 I’d be a three-time Paralympic medallist I probably wouldn’t have thought that would happen so it is obviously a very proud moment,” he said. “It is a bit raw at the moment to not be in that final, which is what we were aiming for when we came here, but we’ve got to be proud of that - for me and Ross to be three-time medallists and Billy to have his first one. We have got such a strong unit as a team and we’re only going to get better so hopefully we can do even better in Paris.”

When Tokyo was postponed for a year Aaron took the opportunity to complete his degree in sports science and then took a financial marketing course that had been set up for athletes during lockdown.

Along with the rest of the GB squad Aaron knows that the hours spent in training are necessary if he wants to achieve his goals.

“Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard,” he believes. “I enjoy training hard because I know I have to do that to improve. There is no better feeling for me than at the end of the day, if you’ve had a really hard session and your body is hurting and you know you’ve given everything, as that’s the only way you are going to get better.”

Chelsea fan Aaron is outnumbered by Arsenal fans on the team but is confident that he retains the bragging rights in terms of recent trophies won. Music also plays a big part in his life and helps him to prepare for matches, with hip hop and R&B his favourites.

Take 5 with Aaron:

Person who has influenced you most - my mum and grandma

Three famous people you would most like to have a drink with - Usain Bolt, Gianfranco Zola, John Bishop

Superstitions - I always change my shirt just before a match

Places you would most like to visit - Japan and USA; I love seeing new cultures and places so different to England

Three words that describe you best - confident, charismatic, funny

and finally - Aaron has a degree in sports science

2021 Results:

Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s team (class 8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

2019 Results:

European Championships, Sweden – silver, men’s teams (class 8); L16 men’s singles (class 8)

Japan Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); silver, men’s teams (class 8)

Polish Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); gold, men’s teams (class 8)

Slovenia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – QF, men’s singles (class 8)

2018 Results:

World Championships, Slovenia – group stages, men’s singles (class 8)

Czech Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8)

Slovenian Open – bronze, men’s teams (class 8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

Slovakia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); silver, men’s teams (class 8)

2017 Results:

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – bronze, men’s teams (class 8); L16 men’s singles (class 8)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – silver, men’s teams (class 8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – 7th men’s class 8

Slovenia Open – silver, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – QF, men’s singles (class 8)

2016 Results:

Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - bronze, men’s teams (class 6-8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

Slovakia Open - last 16, men’s singles (class 8); QF, men’s teams (class 8)

Slovenia Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s teams (class 8); QF men’s singles (class 8)

2015 Results:

China Open - gold, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8-10)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - bronze, men’s teams (class 8); last 16, men’s singles (class 8)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - bronze, men’s teams (class 9); last 16, men’s singles (class 8)

Slovakia Open - bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 9)

Slovenia Open - QF men’s singles (class 8); QF men’s teams (class 10)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 8); QF men’s singles (class 8)

Hungarian Open - QF men’s singles (class 8); group stages, men’s teams (class 8)

2014 Results:

World Championships, Beijing, China - last 16, men’s singles (class 8); group stages, men’s teams (class 9-10)

Slovakia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 8); group stages men’s singles (class 8)

Slovenia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 10); last 16 men’s singles (class 8)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 8); group stages, men’s singles (class 8)

Career Highlights:

2021:    Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s team (class 8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

2019:    European Championships, Sweden – silver, men’s teams (class 8)

2017:    European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – bronze, men’s teams (class 8)

Slovenia Open – silver, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8)

2016:    Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - bronze medal, men’s teams (class 6-8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)

2015:    China Open - gold, men’s singles (class 8)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - bronze, men’s teams (class 8)

Slovakia Open - bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 9)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 8)

2014:    World Championships, Beijing, China - last 16, men’s singles (class 8)

Slovakia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 8)

Slovenia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 10)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 8)

2013:    European Championships, Lignano, Italy - last 16, men’s singles (class 8)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8)

Slovenian Open - gold, men’s teams (class 8)

2012:    Paralympic Games, London - bronze, men’s teams (class 6-8)

China Para TT Open - gold, men’s teams (class 8)

2011:    European Championships, Split, Croatia - 4th, men’s singles (class 8)

Brazil Open - gold, men’s singles (class 8); gold, men’s teams (class 8)