Jack Hunter-Spivey

Date and place of birth: 11/05/1995
Home town: Liverpool
Lives: Sheffield
Family: Mum Renee, brother Chris, sister Romana-Dawn
TT Class: 5
Current world ranking: 6
TT Style: All-round attacking
International debut: 2011, Slovakia

In brief:

Jack achieved his dream of competing in a Paralympic Games in Rio 2016 and won his first international singles gold in the US Open in 2017, beating World champion Valentin Baus in the semi-final and London 2012 Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug in the final. After losing narrowly to reigning World champion Ali Ozturk in the quarter-finals at the European Championships in 2017 and 2019 and the World Championships in 2018, Jack won his first major championships medal in 2021, taking bronze in the men’s class 5 singles at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Jack’s story

When London won the Olympic and Paralympic bid in 2005, 10 year old Jack was playing table tennis in a youth club in Widnes and decided that he wanted to play in the Paralympic Games in London. He was invited to his first GB Development camp at the age of 11 and has now been part of the Performance squad since 2011. Although he just missed out on selection for London, he experienced the atmosphere of the Games through the Paralympic Inspiration Programme and went on to achieve his dream of representing ParalympicsGB in Rio 2016.

Originally from Liverpool and brought up on a council estate in Anfield, Jack was born with cerebral palsy and was blind and deaf until he was nine months old. He discovered his passion for table tennis at an early age. “I was obsessed and just wanted to play all the time,” says Jack. “It is so easy to integrate into able bodied table tennis and you can’t do that in a lot of other sports.”

Proof that hard work pays off, Jack is the only player ever to win the Junior, Senior and Open British titles in the same year and competes in able bodied table tennis at county level as well as competing with the British Para team. A win against the world number four in the Lignano Master Open in Italy in March 2013 was the start of a successful season for Jack in which he won nine medals, reached his first singles final and represented GB in the European Championships in Italy, performing with great credit on his major championship debut. 

In 2014 Jack continued to progress and a number of good results, including a silver medal in the Slovakia Open, took him to a career high world ranking of nine and earned him a trip to China for the World Championships in September. He acquitted himself well, progressing from his group and playing well against the experienced Korean Kiyoung Kim in the last 16 despite losing 3-1.

Jack began 2015 with bronze in Italy and then took team gold in Slovakia with Norwegian Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug followed by silver in the men’s class 4-5 singles in Korea. In the European Championships he reached the quarter-finals of men’s class 5 singles but was disappointed to lose 3-0 to the World number six from Serbia Mitar Palikuca.

Jack went to Beijing in November 2015 for the China Open needing some good results to keep his dream of competing in Rio alive and he responded by taking silver in the singles - a performance that secured his qualification for the 2016 Paralympic Games. He continued to progress and after more good results in 2016, including a victory over the World champion Valentin Baus in Slovakia in May he went to Rio as the world number seven.

After losing to Baus in his first group match he had to beat Claudiomiro Segatto from Brazil to progress to the knockout stages. He made a great start and was 2-0 up but after Segatto took a tight third set 12-10 the Brazilian always had the upper hand and he took the match 11-8 in the fifth to the delight of the home crowd.

In 2017 Jack reached the quarter-finals of the men’s class 5 singles at the European Championships in Slovenia, losing a very close match to the eventual gold medallist Ali Ozturk 3-2. In December he went to Las Vegas and won his first international singles gold in the US Open, beating world champion Valentin Baus in the semi-final and London 2012 Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug in the final.

In 2018, after taking medals in Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic, Jack topped his group at the World Championships and defeated the reigning champion Valentin Baus from Germany in the last 16 before losing in four sets to World number four Ali Ozturk. He came agonisingly close to his first major medal at the European Championships in 2019, leading Ozturk 2-0 in their quarter-final before the World champion came back to win 3-2.

As first alternate for men’s class 5 in Tokyo Jack went to the World Qualification Tournament in Slovenia in June 2021 needing to win his class to secure his place in the Paralympic Games. He bounced back from a disappointing start to the tournament when he lost his first group match to the Russian Grigorii Isakov to reach the final and booked his ticket to Tokyo with a 3-0 win against Joerg Didion from Germany.

Jack made the most of his chance in Tokyo, defeating the World number two Cheng Ming Chih to win his group and then beating regular team partner Tommy Urhaug, the London 2012 Paralympic champion and World number three from Norway, in the quarter-finals 3-2. Although he lost the semi-final to Baus, Jack took the bronze – his first major championship medal.

“This gives me all the motivation,” he said. “I’ve worked 16 years now to try and get to this point and I thought it was never going to happen. I was ‘Mr Quarter Final’ - I’ve lost in every major quarter final and now I’ve won one and got a medal and beat my absolute idol who is one of the best players in the world to do it. I’ve got a whole load of work in front of me but if I carry on like I am doing I can definitely dominate.”

The subject of mental health is now a widely acknowledged and accepted one in elite sport with a number of leading athletes having spoken out about the pressures that they have faced and Jack has also been open about his battle with depression.

“When I first started on the World Class Performance programme I was much shyer and didn’t really believe in myself much,” he admits, “and it is a credit to the BPTT coaching team and the whole staff that I am the person I am today because I’m a lot more confident. When I was 18 and going through my worst mental health stages they helped me to recognise that I had problems and one of the things that we talked about was speaking out about it.

“Then I started talking to people about mental health and my journey and realised that I wasn’t alone in what I’d been going through and other people had been going through similar situations. Once I was comfortable talking about it and comfortable in my own skin and my own story I thought why not go and tell other people. If one in three people suffer from mental health problems there has to be someone I can tell my story to and hopefully help them as well."

Take 5 with Jack:
Most admired sportsman – Paul Davies
Place in the world you would most like to visit – Tokyo
Alternative occupation – actor
Your karaoke song – Ice Ice Baby
Superstitions – arranging all my GB kit in order the day before I play

and finally – Jack was an extra in Grange Hill and also appeared in Christmas Lights and the film Millions

2021 Results:

Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s singles (class 5)

World Qualification Tournament, Slovenia – gold, men’s singles (class 5)

2019 Results:

China Open – silver, men’s singles (class 5); bronze, men’s teams (class 5)

European Championships, Sweden – QF, men’s singles (class 5); QF, men’s teams (class 5)

Czech Open – QF, men’s singles (class 5); QF, men’s teams (class 5)

Bangkok Open, Thailand – silver, men’s singles (class 5); gold, men’s teams (class 4-5)

Japan Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 5); gold, men’s teams (class 5)

Slovenia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 5); silver, men’s teams (class 5)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – bronze, men’s singles (class 5); gold, men’s teams (class 5)

2018 Results:

World Championships, Slovenia – QF, men’s singles (class 5)

Czech Open – silver, men’s singles (class 5); group stages, men’s teams (class 5)

Slovenian Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 5); QF, men’s teams (class 5)

Slovakia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 5); silver, men’s teams (class 5)

2017 Results:

US Open – gold, men’s singles (class 5); silver, men’s teams (class 3-5)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – QF, men’s singles (class 5)

Slovenia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 5); bronze, men’s teams (class 5)

2016 Results:

Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro - group stages, men’s singles (class 5)

Slovakia Open - silver, men’s singles (class 5); QF, men’s teams (class 5)

Slovenia Open - QF, men’s singles (class 5); QF, men’s teams (class 5)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (class 5); silver, men’s teams (class 4-5)

2015 Results:

China Open - silver, men’s singles (class 5); bronze, men’s teams (class 5)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - QF men’s singles (class 5)

Korea Open - silver, men’s singles (class 4-5); 4th, men’s teams RR (class 4-5)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - QF, men’s teams (class 5); group stages, men’s singles (class 5)

Slovakia Open - gold, men’s teams (class 5); QF men’s singles (class 5)

Slovenia Open - group stages, men’s singles (class 5); QF men’s teams (class 5)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (class 5); group stages, men’s teams (class 5)

2014 Results:

World Championships, Beijing, China - last 16, men’s singles (class 5)

Slovakia Open - silver, men’s singles (class 5)

Slovenia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 5); last 16, men’s singles (class 5)

Career highlights:

2021:    Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s singles (class 5)

World Qualification Tournament, Slovenia – gold, men’s singles (class 5)

2019:    China Open – silver, men’s singles (class 5)

European Championships, Sweden – QF, men’s singles (class 5)

Bangkok Open, Thailand – silver, men’s singles (class 5); gold, men’s teams (class 4-5)

2018:    World Championships, Slovenia – QF, men’s singles (class 5)

Czech Open – silver, men’s singles (class 5);

2017:    US Open – gold, men’s singles (class 5); silver, men’s teams (class 3-5)

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – QF, men’s singles (class 5)

2016:    Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – group stages, men’s singles (class 5)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (class 5); silver, men’s teams (class 4-5)

2015:    China Open - silver, men’s singles (class 5); bronze, men’s teams (class 5)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - QF men’s singles (class 5)

Slovakia Open - gold, men’s teams (class 5)

2014:    World Championships, Beijing, China - last 16, men’s singles (class 5)

Slovenia Open - silver, men’s teams (class 5)

Slovakia Open - silver, men’s singles (class 5)

2013:    US Open - bronze, men’s singles (class 5); gold, men’s teams (class 5)

Belgium Open - silver, men’s singles (class 5)

2012:    Slovenia Open - gold, men’s teams (class 5)