by Francesca Bullock, British Para Table Tennis Team Press Officer
In Rio de Janeiro Rob Davies won Men’s Singles Class 1; Will Bayley secured the Men’s Singles Class 7 title.
Star names present but also the Championships provide an opportunity for young players to test themselves against the stars of the British Para Performance Squad; many of whom are among the best in the world in their class.
Bayley’s celebration after winning gold in Rio de Janeiro made headlines around the world. The 29 year old World no.1 from Tunbridge Wells has been in good form already this season. He won Class 7 Singles, Open Standing Singles and Open Standing Doubles to complete a clean sweep of titles at the Draycott Para Open at the beginning of March.
“I really enjoy the Nationals. It is a good challenge for me playing against my Great Britain team mates, especially in the Open Class. It is different playing against team mates as we know each other’s games so well but I am looking forward to it”, Will Bayley
Also looking forward to competing in the city where the former British Prime Minister, the late Margaret Thatcher was born, is 32 year old Rob Davies. He heads the World Rankings in Men’s Class 1 and will face tough competition from the 2016 United States Open champion Tom Matthews.
“It will be a good measure of how I am playing. Playing against Tom will be a good indication of what sort of shape we are in. It is a big boost having him and Paul Davies in the squad as they keep pushing me and that is what I want to do. I want to get even better than I was in Rio; I think I can and those boys are only going to help me do that. Training has been going well; it is a slow process getting back into things and you can’t rush it but I feel that I am playing well and getting towards where I want to be. I really want to go to the Nationals and do well”, Rob Davies
Similarly, there will be tough opposition for Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson, who alongside Will Bayley, won Paralympic Men’s Team Class 6-8 bronze in London and Rio de Janeiro. They will face strong competition in Men’s Class 8 from 18 year old Billy Shilton.
“It is brilliant to have such strong competition within the squad. The standard is rising all the time and I hope we can keep pushing each other to get better results internationally. To have three players in the same class competing at the top level internationally can only be a good thing.” Ross Wilson
Meanwhile, in Men’s Singles Class 6, although Paul Karabardak will be missing owing to injury, David Wetherill, famed for his flying forehand at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, will be challenged by United States Open champion Martin Perry.
Challenges from younger players; it is the same for five time Paralympian, Sue Gilroy. In Women’s Class 4, she will face 18 year old colleague Megan Shackleton.