by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor (Interviews: Francesca Bullock)
In a group organised event, Aaron McKibbon remained unbeaten throughout, the crucial contest being his nail-biting win over Will Bayley, the duel decided by the minimal two point margin in the deciding fifth game (13-11, 11-8, 3-11, 4-11, 16-14).
Defeat but matters must be put into perspective. Aaron McKibbon and Billy Shilton are both Class 8 athletes, players with a lesser disability than their rivals in Nottingham. Will Bayley is Class 7, David Wetherill Class 6.
“Obviously we play each other all the time and it is always close. Will and I always have big battles and although I was leading two-nil I wasn’t leading comfortably. I nicked the first two games which I shouldn’t have and then Will completely changed, for two games he didn’t miss and I couldn’t do a single thing. In the fifth game I thought I’ve got to try something different because I had lost the last two games 11-3 and 11-4 so I tried to change it and at deuce I tried to be sensible. In the end it was two points either way. I feel more comfortable in tight situations now; playing these events used to make me nervous but now I am used to a playing in front of a crowd. It is always difficult playing against someone like Will and it is always going to be tight. It keeps me calm knowing it is expected to be close”, Aaron McKibbin after beating Will Bayley
Gold for Aaron McKibbin, in Class 3-5 it was the top prize for Jack Hunter-Spivey.
The 21 year old from Liverpool, now resident in Sheffield, finished ahead of Nicko Anderson, Daniel Bullen and Kevin Plowman; Jack Hunter-Spivey remained unbeaten but the battle for second place was close.
Nicko Anderson beat Daniel Bullen in four games (11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9) but by a similar margin lost to Kevin Plowman (8-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8); likewise Daniel Bullen overcame Kevin Plowman with the loss of just one game (13-11, 9-11, 11-3, 13-11).
Level on games ratio; points ratio decided. Second place went to Nicko Anderson (77:75), followed bt Daniel Bullen (80:78) and Kevin Plowman (77:81).
“It is a really good win for me. At the start of my season this is a good stepping stone for me to progress to the BPTT (British Para Table Tennis) Nationals in April. Kevin is very consistent so I had to be at the top of my game and I’ve proved that I can win when I am not at my best so it was a good result. It is good to be back and nice to be in a competitive environment and playing the sport I love in front of one of the biggest crowds, so I am looking forward to playing more this season. I’m feeling fitter, stronger and can move quicker around the table so the process of doing this gym programme is definitely working and I’m going in the right direction”, Jack Hunter-Spivey after his gold medal winning performance
Titles for Aaron McKibbin and Jack Hunter-Spivey; in Men’s Singles Class 9-10 it was success for Kim Daybell, who, in the Men’s Singles event had also excelled.
First place in his group ahead of Gabriel Achampong and John Taylor; in the opening round, the 24 year old Leeds University medical student who took a year off to prepare for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, captured the first game against England international Liam Pitchford, the no.2 seed, before losing the next four (9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8).
“I’m very busy now, studying a lot but still finding time to train and still enjoying it. I was pleased with the Men’s Singles, the last 16 is always a good place for a Para athlete to be in the Nationals. I came up against a very strong opponent in Liam and I was pleased I could give him a game, take a game and keep it competitive. I think it is good for Para sport as it shows we are not far off some of the best players in England. When I first started just after Beijing 2008 there were no young players coming through and it is nice now that some of the younger players are pushing some of the better players. It is a good feeling to be looking over your shoulder a bit because it shows we are progressing as a country and as a team”, Kim Daybell after his title success.
Quarter-finalist at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Kim Daybell remained unbeaten to finish ahead of Shae Thakker and Craig Allen.
PG Mutual English National Championships: Results – Para Events