14 September 2019
Europeans beckon for Davies and co on the table
Great Britain will head to Helsingborg with hopes high as the 17th edition of the European Para Table Tennis Championships gets underway in Sweden.
After eight medals, two of them gold, in Slovenia two years ago, the bar is set for the squad of 18 – replete with reigning champions and Paralympic medallists – to improve again this time around.
One of those with a title to defend in Sweden is Rio gold medallist Rob Davies, going for his fourth consecutive European crown in the class 1 singles.
After being knocked out in the last 16 at the Worlds in 2018, Davies took gold at the Italian Open back in March, before claiming bronze in the recent Czech Open.
“I’m happier with the way I’m playing this season, but I’ve still got a way to go,” he said.
“It’s nice to pick up a few medals but for me it is all about building for Tokyo now. I’m proud to have won three European titles but I don’t want to think about it too much.
“I’m just going out there to enjoy it; I play my best when I’m enjoying my table tennis and hopefully the results will take care of themselves.
“I’ve played really well this season."
“Of course, it is special to be going for my fourth; I’m proud of the three I’ve already got and another one would be nice but I’m not putting all my hopes on it.”
Also involved in the class 1 singles are Paul Davies and Tom Matthews, with the trio hoping to repeat their standout 1-2-3 at the 2017 championships.
The class 7 singles sees Strictly Come Dancing star Will Bayley, fresh from regaining his world No.1 ranking, ready to blitz the competition before he returns to the UK to embark upon his ballroom adventure.
“I’ve played really well this season,” he said.
“I’m really enjoying my table tennis and I’m a bit more relaxed. It is going to be a tough tournament, so I’ll take it one match at a time but I’m playing well and I’m happy with my game.
“It’s been such a long time since I won the Europeans – it seems like a lifetime ago – and it would be so nice to win it again.
“I’ve come up short a couple of times and lost in two finals and a semi-final since I won it so I’ve had some good runs.
“It would mean the world to me to go all the way but I’m going there to enjoy it and have fun and I think that is when I play my best table tennis.”
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Paul Karabardak, Martin Perry and David Wetherill compete in the class 6, while Jack Hunter-Spivey is hunting for his first major medal in the class 5.
Sue Gilroy is a former European and Commonwealth champion
Aaron McKibbin, Billy Shilton and Ross Wilson go in the class 8, with Ashley Facey Thompson and Josh Stacey in the class 9, and Kim Daybell in the class 10.
The women’s competition sees a trio of Brits looking to podium: Megan Shackleton and Sue Gilroy in the class 4, and breakthrough star and 2017 World Championship bronze medallist Fliss Pickard in the class 6.
“I’ve got used to the full-time training environment now and the mental and physical demands that come with that so I’m excited to get out there and play the Europeans,” she said.
“I feel as long as I focus on myself and what I can do and what I’m capable of then I believe that the results will just follow.
“As long as I get my processes right and stop looking at what the opponent may be doing then I believe I can beat anyone in the world.
“Taking gold in the Czech Open has given me massive confidence, especially to get wins against the Russians who I have struggled with in the past, so that has given me huge confidence and I’m excited to go.”
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