22 Aug 2017

He jumped in the air on the late morning of Thursday 13th September in Riocentro 3 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games; then dismantled the court surrounds as he rushed into to arena to hug Rob Davies. The head coach of the Great Britain Team, Greg Baker, was the happiest man on planet earth, Rob Davies was the second.

The ultimate prize had been won; gold in the Men’s Singles Class 1 event; the celebration had been the same just under one year earlier in the Danish town of Vejle in Denmark when the European title had been secured.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor (Interviews by Francesca Bullock, British Para Team Press Officer)

Now the young man born and raised in the heart of England in the city of Birmingham has been recognised for his efforts.

He has become an honorary member of the UK (United Kingdom) Sport’s Coaching Fellowship, an organisation which aims to champion the coaching profession and support the development of world class coaches within the United Kingdom.

“Greg was selected by the Fellows themselves to join them as a result of his sustained coaching success on the world stage, his commitment and growth to self-development through the Elite Programme and for his passion for coaching. Greg’s commitment to the Elite Programme saw him develop both as a coach and personally, contributing to the fantastic results of his athletes and inspiring the nation.” Chris Stott, Elite Programme Coordinator at UK Sport

Most impressively, Greg Baker is one of nine coaches from a range of sports who have graduated this year from the United Kingdom’s Sport’s Elite Coaching Programme; at 31 years of age he is the youngest to receive a Fellowship.

“I am absolutely delighted and privileged to be offered a place on UK Sport’s Coaching Fellowship. I am extremely passionate about coaching and what it can do to change people’s lives and the impact it has on elite performance. Great Britain has an excellent and ever developing coaching workforce and I believe the Fellowship can help to bring those coaches together to share knowledge, best practice and experiences to create an even stronger British coaching system. I look forward to continuing to develop my own coaching experience and helping in any way I can to improve the direction and shape of coaching in the UK.” Greg Baker

Make no mistake Greg Baker joins the best of the best. He lines up alongside the likes of Sir David Brailsford, Jürgen Gröbler, Baroness Sue Campbell and Malcolm Arnold OBE

Sir David Brailsford, in his role as Performance Director, took British cycling to totally unprecedented levels within the United Kingdom; notably eight gold medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Similarly, Jürgen Gröbler guided British rowing to new heights, as did Malcolm Arnold in athletics, whilst to find the equal of promoting women in sport, Baroness Sue Campbell has no equal.

It was in 2001 that Greg Baker turned his attention to coaching having enjoyed a quite illustrious junior career; he represented England at five European Youth Championships, in turn becoming the country’s no.1 ranked player in the Under 12, Cadet and Junior age groups.

Later in 2006 he assumed a coaching role with the Great Britain Para Team; working alongside Gorazd Vecko, the Performance Director, he was instrumental in raising the number of medals won at the Beijing Paralympic Games from zero to four at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Impressively at the 2015 European Para Championships, Great Britain secured no less than 11 medals, before in Rio de Janeiro, in addition to Rob Davies, Will Bayley won Men’s Singles Class 8 gold before joining forces with Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson to secure bronze in Men’s Team Class 6-8.

“Greg’s commitment and dedication to Para table tennis has been a significant factor in the success of the team over the past five years. He is always looking to improve and he fully deserves the recognition from UK Sport and the Fellowship. His enthusiasm and energy are a great example to any coach and an inspiration to the athletes in our squad.” Gorazd Vecko, Performance Director, British Para Table Tennis Team

Notably as a coaching career progressed, Greg Baker was selected for the Elite Coaching Programme. He took part in a three year course of personal and professional development from 2014 to 2017, both as part of a group and individually. Importantly he had unparalleled access to expertise, technology and experiences from both within and outside the sports industry.

“The Elite Programme has been a great experience and has taught me a lot about leadership and how to manage a team of people as well as providing valuable advice on coaching. I really enjoy working with Para athletes because of the range of disabilities involved and the challenge that presents. To take a group of athletes from Beijing in 2008 where we didn’t win any medals to winning three medals in Rio, including beating China in the team event after they beat us comfortably eight years ago, has been very rewarding and I’m very proud of what we have achieved as a team.” Greg Baker

Currently Greg Baker is based in Sheffield at the English Institute of Sport, the home for the British Para Team.

Paralympics Para Table Tennis Greg Baker