Fliss Pickard

Date and place of birth: 17/07/94, Wordsley
Home town: Burnley
Lives: Sheffield
Family: Mum Mandy, dad Will
TT Class: 6
Current world ranking: 7
TT Style: All round
International debut: 2011

In brief:

Fliss missed out on qualification for the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 but made a major breakthrough at the World Championships in 2018, taking bronze in the women’s class 6 singles having earlier in the year represented Team England in the Commonwealth Games. After taking gold in the Czech Open in 2019 she lost in the quarter-finals at the European Championships to World and Paralympic medallist Stephanie Grebe but went on to medal in Finland and China. Having just missed out again on automatic qualification for the Paralympic Games in Tokyo Fliss competed in the World Qualification Tournament but lost a close semi-final to Moon Sung Keum from Korea 13-11 in the fifth.

Fliss’s story:

Having been keen on sport from an early age Fliss started playing table tennis in 2010 when she wanted to find a sport she could play competitively.  “I had started horse riding but the only equestrian sport in the Paralympics is dressage and I wanted to do more than dressage,” explains Fliss, who went on to try boccia and swimming, both of which failed to provide her with the challenge that she wanted.

At the age of 14 she began volunteering to help other disabled people and having played table tennis on holiday she was asked to play while volunteering at Hyndburn table tennis club. The coach spotted her natural ability and Fliss had found a sport in which she could excel. “I have always wanted to achieve something,” says Fliss, “and I found I could do that with table tennis.”

Born with cerebral palsy she inherited her competitive nature from her father Will. “Even when we were just playing a board game at home he would never let me win,” says Fliss. “Dad has always adapted things for me. It’s never been a case of ‘you can’t do that’ but ‘we’ll find a way’. He’s also tough - if I’m having a bad day he’ll just say ‘you’ve got to get on with it and find a way’. That comes from both my parents – they’ve always just made me get on with it. It might be tough but that’s life.”

She made her international debut at the Czech Open in 2011 and was selected for the GB Para Table Tennis Team Performance Squad in April 2014. In 2013 she had the chance to play in international team events with Sandra Paovic, the Olympic table tennis player from Croatia who suffered a severe spinal injury in a car accident in 2009. She continues to benefit from advice from Paovic, who is in regular contact with Fliss.

“I didn’t want to think of myself as a disabled athlete,” admits Fliss, “and Sandra has helped me to come to terms with that and see it as a positive.  Sport sets me free from my disability.”

Fliss represented GB at the European Championships in 2013 and performed with great credit at her first major championships, fighting hard and narrowly failing to record a win in the group stages. In 2014 she took a break from international competition to focus on her training and she returned in the Belgium Open in October 2015. She showed her improvement and belied her ranking in the round robin women’s class 6 singles event, starting with a 3-2 win over top seed and 2010 World champion Katarzyna Marszal from Poland, holding her nerve to win a very tight match 14-12 in the fifth. She went on to clinch the gold medal with 3-0 wins over Russian World number 11 Svetlana Nesterenko and Tatiana Ledovskaia, also from Russia.

Fliss continued to work hard in training and in 2017 competed in the European Championships in Slovenia. Although she went out at the group stages after losing to two higher ranked and more experienced opponents she was able to take plenty of positives from her second major championship.

In April 2018 Fliss represented Team England in the Commonwealth Games in Australia and played really well to reach the semi-finals of the women’s class 6-10 singles, losing the bronze medal match to the class 10 Australian Andrea McDonnell 3-0.

In October Fliss confirmed her improvement by taking bronze in the World Championships in Slovenia, showing all her fight and determination to beat the World number nine Gabriela Constantin in her final group match and then producing an even better performance to defeat the World number four and former World champion from Poland Katarzyna Marszal 3-0 in the quarter-final.

She put in another solid performance in the semi-final against the World number two and European champion Raisa Chebanika, saving match points in the fourth set before the hugely experienced Russian, who was Paralympic champion in London 2012, secured the set 14-12 and the match 3-1.

2019 proved to be a season of ups and downs for Fliss with some good performances including gold in the Czech Republic and silver in Poland and some disappointing results. She lost in the quarter-finals of the European Championships to World and Paralympic medallist Stephanie Grebe from Germany in four sets and having missed out on an automatic qualification place for Tokyo she was unlucky to lose a very close semi-final at the World Qualification Tournament in Slovenia in June 2021 to the eventual winner Moon Sung Keum from Korea.

Take 5 with Fliss:

Most admired sportsman - Will Bayley

Sporting event you would most like a ticket for - Wimbledon

Favourite sport - football (Fliss supports her local club Padiham and goes to as many home games as she can)

Three words that describe you best - stubborn, determined, competitive

Achievement you are most proud of - being selected to represent GB

and finally - Fliss was Volunteer of the Year for Burnley in 2010 and subsequently accompanied 24 disabled and disadvantaged children on the Journey of a Lifetime to Borneo

2021 Results:

World Qualification Tournament, Slovenia – SF, women’s singles (class 6)

2019 Results:

China Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 6); silver, women’s teams (class 6-7)

Finland Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 6); silver, women’s teams (class 6-7)

European Championships, Sweden – QF, women’s singles (class 6)

Czech Open – gold, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s teams (class 6-8)

Japan Open – group stages, women’s singles (class 6); 4th women’s teams (class 6-7 RR)

Polish Open – silver, women’s singles (class 6); silver, women’s teams (class 6)

Slovenia Open – QF, women’s singles (class 6); 5th women’s teams (class 6-7 RR)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – bronze, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s teams (class 6-8)

2018 Results:

World Championships, Slovenia – bronze, women’s singles (class 6)

Czech Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 6); silver, women’s teams (class 6-7)

Slovenia Open – QF, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s teams (class 6-7)

Slovakia Open – silver, women’s teams (class 6-7); group stages, women’s singles (class 6)

Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia – SF, women’s singles (class 6-10)

2017 Results:

Czech Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 6); silver, women’s teams (class 6-7)

Belgium Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 6-7); bronze, women’s teams (class 6-10)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – group stages, women’s singles (class 6)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – group stages, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s teams (class 6-7)

Slovenia Open – group stages, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s teams (class 6-7)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – group stages, women’s singles (class 6); 4th place RR, women’s teams (class 6-7)

2016 Results:

Slovenia Open - bronze, women’s teams (class 6-7); group stages, women’s singles (class 6)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - group stages, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s teams (class 6-7)

2015 Results:

Belgium Open - gold, women’s singles (class 6)

2014 Results:

Slovenia Open - group stages, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s team (class 6-7)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - group stages, women’s singles (class 6); group stages, women’s team (class 6-7)

Career Highlights:

2019:    European Championships, Sweden – QF, women’s singles (class 6)

Czech Open – gold, women’s singles (class 6)

Polish Open – silver, women’s singles (class 6); silver, women’s teams (class 6)

2018:    World Championships, Slovenia – bronze, women’s singles (class 6)

Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia – SF, women’s singles (class 6-10)

2017:    Belgium Open – bronze, women’s singles (class 6-7); bronze, women’s teams (class 6-10)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – group stages, women’s singles (class 6)

2015:    Belgium Open - gold, women’s singles (class 6)

2013:    European Championships, Lignano, Italy: group stages, women’s singles (Class 6)

2013:    National champion (Class 6-7)