by Francesca Bullock, British Para Table Tennis Press Officer
After winning medals at seven consecutive major championships, Will Bayley’s defence of his men’s class 7 World title last year ended with defeat at the quarter-final stage. He was beaten by the eventual champion, Spain’s Jordi Morales.
A disappointment, it has been driving the 31 year old from Tunbridge Wells throughout the winter months to prove himself as he did in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’m really motivated at the moment. Looking back on the World Championships I think I could have done more in my preparation and probably could have had a better season. I didn’t win that many tournaments last year and I think it is important for my confidence that I can take medals in the smaller tournaments so it builds me up for the majors. I haven’t missed a training session since 2nd January; that builds my confidence up as well and I’m excited to see what I can do in Italy.” Will Bayley
Meanwhile, 34 year old Welshman Rob Davies is also on the comeback trail after a disappointing 2018 season and is focused on trying to win his fourth consecutive men’s class 1 European title in Sweden later this year.
“Last year is definitely a big motivating factor. I just want to get back to enjoying my table tennis and enjoying the matches again. The overall aim is to qualify for Tokyo and try and defend my title but I’ve just got to take it one step at a time, not get frustrated and try and get some wins on the board. Obviously I want to be fighting fit for the Europeans, so I want to get more hours on the table and get back to where I was by the end of the year. It is a building process for me now and it might be frustrating at times but I’ll get there in the end.” Rob Davies
The situation for Ross Wilson is very different; he enjoyed the best year of his career in 2018, winning the Para class 6-10 at the Commonwealth Games and the men’s class 8 title at the World Championships. Although the 23 year old from Minster admits that he is hungry for more titles he is not feeling any pressure going into the new season as a World champion.
“It doesn’t feel any different to be going into a new season as World champion. I’m just focused on Tokyo now and the Europeans. During qualification year for the Paralympics everyone is a bit sharper and everyone wants to qualify so it is going to be a tough year but I am really looking forward to it and seeing what I can do. I picked up a minor back injury recently, so I haven’t had great training for the last couple of weeks but hopefully I’m on the mend now. I’ve just got to stay positive and keep working towards Italy.” Ross Wilson
Also, included in the 16 strong squad for Italy are World Championship medallists Tom Matthews and Fliss Pickard, London and Rio Paralympic medallist Aaron McKibbin, Commonwealth medallists Kim Daybell and Josh Stacey and European medallists David Wetherill, Paul Karabardak, Martin Perry and Ashley Facey Thompson.
All are under the leadership of Gorazd Vecko, the British Para Performance Team Director.
“This is a very important year for the team. The qualification period for Tokyo finishes at the end of March 2020 and to be sure of qualifying for selection the athletes have to be ranked in the top six of their class. They have trained hard through the winter and Italy will be the first opportunity for them to test themselves against some of their toughest competitors and see where they are.” Gorazd Vecko
The full squad for the Lignano Master Open is as follows:
Men: Will Bayley MBE (men’s class 7), Paul Davies, 52 (men’s class 1), Rob Davies MBE, (men’s class 1), Kim Daybell (men’s class 10), Ashley Facey Thompson (men’s class 9), Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5), Paul Karabardak (men’s class 6), Tom Matthews (men’s class 1), Aaron McKibbin (men’s class 8), Martin Perry, 24 (men’s class 6), Billy Shilton (men’s class 8), Josh Stacey (men’s class 9), David Wetherill (men’s class 6), Ross Wilson (men’s class 8)
Women: Fliss Pickard, (women’s class 6), Megan Shackleton
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