Barnsley's Sue Gilroy and five Sheffield table tennis stars bid for medals in Rio Paralympics
Six Sheffield and South Yorkshire stars will fly the flag for Team GB in the Rio Paralympics.
Competing in the table tennis events from September 8-17 will be Will Bayley, Ross Wilson Aaron McKibbin, Kim Daybell, Jack Hunter-Spivey and Sue Gilroy.
The veteran of the team, Barnsley’s Sue Gilroy, is bidding to win her first Paralympic medal in her fifth Games.
The 43-year-old schoolteacher, who has won world silver and bronze medals, been European champion and double Commonwealth Champion, said: “This is the only one that has eluded me. But all I can do is my best. I’m playing the best table tennis of my career - I beat the World No 1 last year and in the World Championships in 2014 to get silver and I’ve been very close to the Chinese players so fingers crossed I can get that medal this time.”
Sue, who will compete in the women’s class 4 singles, added: “The top six or seven players (in my class) are all the same standard. It is a very mentally tough sport and it is basically about who is toughest on the day. Obviously winning a medal would be a career highlight.”
World champion Will Bayley will be competing in his third Paralympics and won individual silver and team bronze in London 2012.
“I’m delighted with my preparation,” said the 28 year old, “and I just want to get started and get into the tournament. I feel great and so well prepared.
“It is mainly a mental game now - I’m not getting too excited or thinking about winning medals. I literally want to think about my first match.”
Ross Wilson (men’s class 8) won team bronze with Bayley at London 2012 as a 17 year old but has since had to overcome a series of injuries which kept him out of competition for two years.
He said, “and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a medal but with everything that has happened since London success for me would be just giving it everything and taking each game as it comes - and if that results in a medal I’d be over the moon. But if not, I just want to do myself and my country proud.”
Aaron McKibbin also won team bronze with Bayley and Wilson in London and secured his qualification for Rio at the end of last season by beating the men’s class 8 Chinese World number two to win gold in the China Open.
The 26 year old said. “My personal expectation is to produce my best level. I feel that every major I’ve played I’ve improved my performance and I feel for me it is a confidence.”
Sheffield born Kim Daybell (men’s class 10) also competed in London and has taken a year off from his medical studies at Leeds University to prepare for Rio.
“I feel the best prepared physically and mentally that I can be going in to Rio,” he said, “and the experience of London is going to help massively. Having been able to train full time in the last year I have really been challenging the top players.”
Jack Hunter-Spivey (men’s class 5) will be competing in his first Paralympic Games having experienced London 2012 as part of ParalympicsGB’s Paralympic Inspiration Programme.
“The programme was a massive influence on me and it gave me a big fire in my belly to get to Rio as sitting in the crowd in London was amazing but it wasn’t where I wanted to be - I wanted to play. It means everything to me to be going to a Paralympic Games - I’ve dreamt about this since I was a little kid. I know that on my day I can beat anyone in the world so I’m just going to play my best and see what happens.”