Olivia Williams (Middle) with Fliss Pickard (Left) and coach Shaun Marples (Right). Pic: British Para Table Tennis.

Grace Williams Produces Superb Performance To Win World Championship Gold . . . As Joshua Stacey Looks To Add More Silverware

By David Williams

Grace Williams produced an incredible performance to win gold in the women’s class 14 doubles at the 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships, alongside Fliss Pickard, after dispatching the top seeds from Germany 3-0 in the final.

The pair, who started playing together last year, had already exceeded all expectations in beating France in their semi-final last night and they stepped up another level in today’s final against the hugely experienced German pair of class 6 World number two and Tokyo bronze medallist Stephanie Grebe and class 8 World number three Juliane Wolf.

Pickard and Williams started well and fought back from 9-7 down to take the first set 11-9 before dominating the second set 11-4. At 4-1 down in the third set Germany took a timeout but the young British pair moved to 9-6 and within touching distance of the gold.

At 9-8 GB coach Shaun Marples called a timeout and at 10-8 Pickard and Williams had two match points. Both came and went but at 11-10 it was third time lucky and when Grebe’s shot flew high into the air Pickard fell to the floor before being hugged by Williams.

For 19-year-old Williams, from Llanfyllin in North Wales, who only started playing table tennis five years ago and was awarded a wild card to compete here, these Championships have signalled her arrival on the world stage and her performance with Pickard has more than justified the faith that the team has in her talent and potential.

“I felt pressure before the match and a bit overwhelmed as it was a World Championship final,” she said, “but I knew I had Fliss beside me and Shaun in the corner and I knew whatever the outcome they’d be proud of me and I’d be proud of myself as well.

I didn’t think too much about it but once we got a good start against Germany I thought ‘I really want this now’. As soon as we won the final point I thought ‘that’s it’ but it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Williams trains with Pickard and the rest of the British team at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield where she is also studying nutrition at University.

“Coming to the Worlds as a wild card I kind of expected to come for the experience,” she said, “and learn what to do in matches – what to do on the table and off the table and see what everyone else is doing. But the fact that I’m here and I’ve got a gold medal is just surreal and I can’t believe it.”

For coach Shaun Marples, BPTT’s Pathway manager, this result is testament to the success of the development programme that he has guided since 2013.

“I’m unbelievably proud of them and what they have achieved today,” he said. “Being part of their journey since coming on to the programme and progressing into the Performance programme and for them to be able to deliver a mature performance like that on the biggest stage really shows you what great characters they both are, what champions they are and what key qualities they have as brilliant table tennis players which they’ve just become.

“When I called timeout at 9-8 in the third set we decided it was a free point because we brought the focus back on to our serve – we lost those first two match points but it was about the momentum and keeping composed and doing the same things. I just said to them ‘look we’ve got ourselves into this position by doing the right things so make sure we execute it and let’s see – what will be will be.”

For both players celebrations will have to wait until after the singles competition. Pickard starts her bid for a medal in women’s class 6 against Hanna Hammad from Egypt later today while Williams has to wait until Thursday morning for her first match in women’s class 8 against Aneth Araya from Costa Rica.

Having taken silver in the men’s class 18 doubles Commonwealth champion Joshua Stacey made a good start to his bid for the men’s class 9 singles World title at the Andalucia 2022 World Para Table Tennis Championships.

Stacey always looked in control in a 3-0 win against Bart Van der Zanden from Netherlands and progressed smoothly through to the quarterfinals tomorrow.

“I’m pretty pleased with that performance,” he said. “I think I was solid from the start and didn’t give him any opportunities to start to dictate the rallies or take a foothold in the set. I felt like I played pretty well and I think my level will go up the more I play on the tables and get used to the environment as a singles player. A couple of times I did go to give Ross (Wilson) a serving signal and realised I was on my own.

“I think it is difficult to change your mindset to singles because when something isn’t going your way in the doubles you’ve always got your partner to depend on but I think when it becomes singles your crutch is your coach and you’ve always got someone there with you who is engrossed in what is happening on the table. I’m not looking too far forward – just match by match. I think I can go far but it depends on my mindset and how I can perform.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.