One last chance for Sheffield Paralympic table tennis star and NHS hero Kim Daybell to qualify for Tokyo Olympics at World Qualification Tournament

Sheffield’s Paralympic table tennis star Kim Daybell faces a crucial week in his bid to qualify for this summer’s Tokyo Games.

Monday, 31st May 2021, 1:39 pm

Having spent most of the past 15 months working in a north London hospital on the NHS front line dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, the junior doctor has the chance to make it to his third Games at this week’s World Qualification Tournament in Lasko, Slovenia, which starts on Thursday.

Daybell, 28, missed out on automatic qualification on his world ranking in men’s class 10 and this week’s competition is the final opportunity to qualify for Tokyo, with just one spot available per class.

“I’m not where I want to be right now so close to a big tournament,” Daybell, who only recently returned to training at the English Institute of Sport, admitted.

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Sheffield's Kim Daybell has one last chance to qualify for Tokyo (photo: YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images).

“I’d like to have more hours of training under my belt but you can’t change the situation. I’m just pleased to be in a position where I can be there and play after the year that I’ve had personally.

“Just to be there physically fit and with a chance of doing well is enough for me so I’m looking forward to it. It will be a good tournament and good for Para table tennis so hopefully we can put on a good show after so long away."

Having put his ambitions as an athlete on hold to serve his country, Daybell has now switched his focus back to table tennis.

He said: “If anything, the last 15 months have made me feel more grateful for sport – being at work and dealing with such a serious situation has made me realise how important sport is to me and to the rest of the country and how it is a release for a lot of people.

"I missed it a lot and I feel very privileged to still be able to play and very grateful to UK Sport and to the British team here in Sheffield that they have supported me through everything.

“I hope the Games can go ahead safely; there is a lot of chatter and concern surrounding the Olympics and Paralympics at the moment, which is justifiable, but I think it can be done safely and I’d love to be there.”