Sheffield athletes limber up for Slovenia test

Will Bayley. Pic: Tom Barnes
Will Bayley. Pic: Tom Barnes

Paralympic champion Will Bayley and Commonwealth champion Ross Wilson are among six Sheffield-based athletes included in a squad of 14 British athletes that will compete in the World Para Table Tennis Championships in Slovenia from October 17-20.

Bayley will be defending the men’s class 7 World title that he won in Beijing four years ago and despite achieving his dream of becoming Paralympic champion in Rio admits that he is still driven by his desire for more titles.

“It doesn’t feel much different to me going in to the World Championships as defending champion,” said the 30 year old World number two. “I still feel I’ve got a lot to prove as a player and a lot more to achieve. I’m just going there as one of 20 players in my class; I’ll take every match as it comes. Everyone has a chance to win – we start at 0-0 so we’ll see. I’ve been playing really well in the British League and beaten some good able bodied players and if I can take that form into the World Championships then that will be really good.”

Wilson has also been preparing for his first World Championships by playing in the British League and admits that becoming Commonwealth champion in April has given him the belief that he can challenge for more major titles.

“Winning gold in the Commonwealth Games has definitely helped me as it makes me realise I can compete at the very top level and perform when I need to,” said the 23 year old, who is currently ranked number three in the world in men’s class 8. “After the Commonwealth Games I had a massive confidence boost and it makes me feel a little more relaxed going into the World Championships. But I am hungry for more success and I think you always are as an athlete so I’m ready to go out there and do my best. Most of the top guys are around the same level and I just hope that my effort is good enough and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do.”

Sheffield born Kim Daybell completed his medical studies at Leeds University this summer and is now combining his table tennis career with working as a junior doctor. Since taking team silver in the European Championships last year the class 10 athlete has been in great form, winning gold in Italy and silver in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, and warmed up for the World Championships by taking gold in both singles and team events at the Czech Open last month.

“I think overall I’m really happy with my game at the moment,” said the 26 year old. “I’m at the highest ranking I’ve ever been (World number 5) so I’m in a good place going forward. I feel a lot more comfortable playing among the top players as I feel that I belong there after winning medals at the Europeans and the Commonwealth Games so it has been a confidence boost. Obviously I’d love to medal at the Worlds but I just want to play my best really. I’ve put myself in a position where I can medal if I bring my best game to the table. I’ve beaten a lot of the players this year so really I just want to play well and if I do results will follow.”

Bayley, Wilson and Daybell will be joined by London and Rio Paralympic team bronze medallist Aaron McKibbin, European team silver medallist Ashley Facey Thompson and US Open champion Jack Hunter-Spivey who all train regularly with the British squad at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.