Joshua Stacey will compete at the 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships. Pic: Getty Images.

Five Welsh Athletes Named To Take On The World . . . As British Para Table Tennis Announce A Strong Squad To Head To Spain

By Gareth James

Five Welsh athletes including Paralympic champion Rob Davies, Commonwealth champion Joshua Stacey, Tokyo medallists Paul Karabardak, Tom Matthews and Grace Williams will compete in the 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships taking place in Granada, Spain from November 6-12.

The World Para Table Tennis Championships take place every four years and will be run under a different format with the competitions played as a straight knockout rather than initial group stages. Team events have been replaced by doubles – men’s, women’s and mixed – with the category for pairs determined with a maximum number obtained by combining the classification numbers of the two players.

Stacey reached the quarterfinals in men’s class 9 on his Paralympic debut in Tokyo and has since gone from strength to strength, taking gold in Spain, Czech Republic and Greece and winning his first major title when beating the Chinese-born Australian former World and Paralympic champion Ma Lin to take Commonwealth gold in the men’s class 8-10 singles in Birmingham. The 22-year-old Welshman will also compete in the men’s doubles with Wilson and the mixed doubles with Grace Williams.

“Tokyo just gave me so much motivation,” said Stacey, “knowing that the Paralympics are only every four years but every year there is a major which is really good in terms of wanting to do as well as you can.

“I feel that my level and my mindset have gone up nicely in correlation and it is translating quite well on the table and I’m hoping it will do the same in Spain. Major championships are what you strive towards, and I feel I’m in a good position to show what I can do and I’m really excited.

“I feel like I’m improving week-on-week and to feel confident in how I’m playing and also confident in terms of my mindset is exciting but also quite settling. I feel that I can think my way through a match if things aren’t going as well as they could do and that is something that can be used in any stage of the competition.

“It is very special and a privilege to have been selected for the doubles as well and they are a nice goal to chase other than just the singles. When you are on the table with someone else you’re playing for them as well which is always a good thing and I think it also brings together that family vibe we have created in the team so I enjoy playing with both Ross and Grace.”

Rio 2016 men’s class 1 Paralympic champion Rob Davies will join up with the GB squad. The former World number one and Rio 2016 gold medallist who won his fourth consecutive European singles title in 2019 but was unable to defend his Paralympic title in Tokyo due to injury. Having not competed for more than two years he is still working his way back to his best form and fitness but won gold in Finland in September.

“I’m looking forward to going to the Worlds,” he said, “and being back amongst all the guys I’m used to competing against. I can still go out there and cause an upset and I’ll be playing with no pressure and just trying to play my game,” Davies said.

“I’ve got a lot of experience and I’m going to have to use all of that this year to try and get some wins in Spain – the Worlds is the one title that has escaped me and I’m going to do my best and see what happens.

“It is all about Paris for me and building towards that. Obviously I’m excited to be going to the Worlds but for me it is just a stepping stone really and my thoughts are in the future but I need to take one match at a time as that is how I’m going to improve.

“That is what I’m going to do and I’ll hopefully have some positives to take out of it looking towards next year. It’s good to be back playing again after such a long time out due to the injury and I’m grateful to be back on the table again and pulling on the GB shirt so I’ll get behind my teammates, do all I can and enjoy myself.”

2018 World bronze medallists Tom Matthews (men’s class 1) who is ranked 9th in the world will join Davies in Spain. He took bronze in Tokyo on his Paralympic debut last year and will be looking to continue his excellent form.

Paul Karabardak will be competing in the men’s singles class 6 and men’s doubles class 14. Karabardak won bronze in Tokyo, his first Paralympic medal at his fourth Paralympic Games. Also won silver with Will Bayley in the men’s class 6-7 team event, beating the World number one in the deciding singles in the semi-finals. Won gold in Argentina and silver in Finland this season.

Grace Williams (women’s class 8) will compete in women’s singles class 8, women’s doubles class 14 and mixed doubles class 18. Williams is currently ranked 18th in the world will also join up with the squad. Williams is a relative newcomer who gained valuable experience competing for Wales in the Commonwealth Games and has received a wild card to compete in the Worlds, to continue her development.

19-year-old from Llanfyllin added: “It is really exciting especially because I wasn’t expecting to go, and I’ve got a wild card so I feel really privileged to get an opportunity to go and show what I can do.

“Sometimes I feel I don’t deserve it but I’ve been given the chance and I’m going to take it. Playing doubles is really helping me to develop as a player individually because I get to have that reassurance with Fliss and Josh – they help me and that helps my singles game as well.

“The nerves are still there but it is about managing them – the Worlds is my first major Para championships, so we’ll see how it goes but I’m looking forward to it.”

 

The full British squad for the World Championships is:

Sue Bailey, 49, Barnsley – current World ranking 7

Events: Women’s singles class 4, Mixed doubles class 10 (with Jack Hunter-Spivey)

Will Bayley, 34, Tunbridge Wells/Brighton – current World ranking 1

Events: Men’s singles class 7

Rob Davies, 38, Brecon – current World ranking 4

Events: Men’s singles class 1

Jack Hunter-Spivey, 27, Liverpool/Sheffield – current World ranking 4

Men’s singles class 5, Mixed doubles class 10 (with Sue Bailey)

Paul Karabardak, 37, Swansea – current World ranking 4

Events: Men’s singles class 6, Men’s doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)

Tom Matthews, 30, Aberdare – current World ranking 9

Events: Men’s singles class 1

Aaron McKibbin, 31, London/Epsom – current World ranking 6

Events: Men’s singles class 8

Martin Perry, 28, Paisley/Dumbarton – current World ranking 15

Events: Men’s singles class 6

Fliss Pickard, 28, Burnley/Sheffield – current World ranking 3

Events: Women’s singles class 6, Women’s doubles class 14 (with Grace Williams), Mixed doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)

Billy Shilton, 24, Stonehouse/Sheffield – current World ranking 8

Events: Men’s singles class 8, Men’s doubles class 14 (with Paul Karabardak), Mixed doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard)

Joshua Stacey, 22, Cardiff/Sheffield – current World ranking 3

Events: Men’s singles class 9, Men’s doubles class 18 (with Ross Wilson), Mixed doubles class 18 (with Grace Williams)

Grace Williams, 19, Wrexham/Sheffield – current World ranking 18

Events: Women’s singles class 8, Women’s doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard), Mixed doubles class 18 (with Joshua Stacey)

Ross Wilson, 27, Minster/Sheffield – current World ranking 2

Events: Men’s singles class 8, Men’s doubles class 18 (with Joshua Stacey)

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