by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
A squad of 10 athletes including Paralympic team bronze medallist Aaron McKibbin, European silver medallist David Wetherill and Commonwealth bronze medallist Josh Stacey will compete in Slovakia.
They will be joined in Slovenia by Paralympic and World champion Will Bayley, Commonwealth champion Ross Wilson, European silver medallist Tom Matthews and European team gold medallist Paul Karabardak.
Also among the athletes competing in Slovakia will be Liverpool’s Jack Hunter-Spivey in his first international tournament since winning the United States Open title in December last year. At the recent British National Championships, he successfully defended his three National titles and has been training in Sheffield with Norwegian former Paralympic champion Tommy Urhaug.
“The National Championships were really good preparation for Slovakia and Slovenia. Training is going really well so I’m feeling good.” Jack Hunter-Spivey
Likewise European bronze medallist, Sue Gilroy is back in action. She recently won her 23rd title at the National Championships having only returned to training six weeks ago following major surgery; thus missing the Italian Para Open in March. She is looking forward to continuing her team partnership with 18 year old Megan Shackleton, a pairing that gained a bronze medal at last year’s World Team Championships.
“Megan has really come on and she is a really talented player. Even though we haven’t practised much together lately we did really well in the doubles at the Nationals so hopefully we can do well in Slovakia and Slovenia.” Sue Gilroy
Also in action in both Slovakia and Slovenia is Burnley’s Felicity Pickard. She just missed out on a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games but was impressive in successfully defending her National title one week later.
“I feel I have improved quite a lot in the last year with all the support I’m having from the Great Britain team in Sheffield. I feel more confident going in to a match. The Commonwealth Games has definitely given me the boost I need to go forward in Slovakia and Slovenia.” Felicity Pickard
Undoubtedly, British Team Performance Director Gorazd Vecko is hoping that his team can build on the success of the Commonwealth Games in which British athletes took gold, silver and bronze.
“The tournaments in Slovakia and Slovenia always provide very tough competition; with the exception of China all the strongest nations will be represented. Back-to-back tournaments are tough on the players but they will be good experience. The athletes have been working hard in training and are ready for the challenge.” Gorazd Vecko
Most certainly for Great Britain a stern test await but after recent performances at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games there is undoubtedly a positive mood in the camp.
Slovakia Open selection: Ashley Facey Thompson (Class 9), Jack Hunter-Spivey (Class 5), Sue Gilroy MBE (Class 4), Aaron McKibbin (Class 8), Martin Perry (Class 6), Felicity Pickard (Class 6), Megan Shackleton (Class 4), Billy Shilton (Class 8), Josh Stacey (Class 9), David Wetherill (Class 6)
Slovenia Open selection: Will Bayley (Class 7), Ashley Facey Thompson (Class 9), Jack Hunter-Spivey (Class 5), Sue Gilroy MBE (Class 4), Paul Karabardak (Class 6), Tom Matthews (Class 1), Aaron McKibbin (Class 8), Martin Perry (Class 6), Felicity Pickard (Burnley), Megan Shackleton (Class 4), Billy Shilton (Class 8), Josh Stacey (9), David Wetherill (Class 6), Ross Wilson (Class 8)