Rob Davies, Joshua Stacey And Paul Karabardak To Fly Welsh Flag For Team GB

Joshua Stacey of Team Wales. Pic: Getty Images

Rob Davies, Joshua Stacey And Paul Karabardak To Fly Welsh Flag For Team GB


By Hannah Blackwell

Four-time European champion Rob Davies and Commonwealth champion Joshua Stacey are the Welsh pair heading an 18-strong British squad for the ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championships, which start next week.

The event takes place at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield from September 4-9, only the second time since the London 2012 Paralympic Games that the stars of the British Para table tennis team have had the opportunity to compete in front of a home crowd.

The tournament also represents an opportunity for athletes to secure Paralympic qualification with the gold medallist in each singles class earning a ‘golden ticket’ for Paris 2024 and valuable world ranking points available in both singles and doubles events.

The British squad also features World doubles champions Billy Shilton and Wales’ Paul Karabardak as well as Chris Ryan, who captained the GB wheelchair rugby team to Paralympic gold in Tokyo.

Davies will be bidding for his fifth consecutive European title in men’s class 1.

The Rio 2016 Paralympic champion was unable to defend his title in Tokyo due to a shoulder injury and will face tough opposition including his teammate and fellow Welshman Tom Matthews, who came out on top in their recent meeting in the final of the Czech Open in June.

“I’m feeling excited for the tournament,” said Davies.

“Obviously having it in Sheffield is a great opportunity and hopefully there’ll be plenty of Welsh supporters.

“We haven’t had a Europeans for four years which has been good for me because I’ve been out injured a lot of the time.

“I try not to think too much about going for my fifth consecutive title because you can’t think about the outcome, you just have to take it match by match. Every match is difficult so I’m looking forward to the challenge and we’ll see how it goes.

“Tom and I are both competitive guys – he’s a youngster coming through and if he can get to the final it will be brilliant and if we could both get there it would be perfect.

“We’ll think about that if it happens but at the moment I just want to keep improving. I’ve got a way to go to be at my best but I’m going to keep training hard and think about each match as it comes.”

Stacey won his first major title at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last year, taking gold for Wales in the men’s class 8-10 singles, and reached the final in the World Championships, losing in four sets to the brilliant Belgian Laurens Devos, who has not lost a match in men’s class 9 since 2015.

“This season has been a bit up and down,” said Stacey, who took five months out after the World Championships to recover from injury.
“But having the time off I needed to sort my body out I’ve just accepted that my level and how I’m playing may not be exactly where I want it to be.

“The plan has always been to try and peak come September and I think I’m in a good place to do that.”

Stacey is also looking to improve on the silver medal that he and doubles partner Ross Wilson won in Spain last year.

“I definitely feel I’m in a stronger position going into the Europeans than I was at the Worlds last year,” he said.

“I think I’ll be less than satisfied with anything less than two gold medals. Ross and I have a good understanding and we both know one of us can pull the other out of trouble if it’s ever needed.

“Before the Worlds last year, we hadn’t practiced too much together because of our schedules so the fact we’ve been able to practice more going into the Europeans means I’m feeling confident about our chances of getting gold rather than just being stood on the podium.”

The British team for the ITTF European Para Table Tennis Championships is as follows:

Aaron McKibbin, 31 (32 on August 27), London (Wandsworth)/Epsom
Events: men’s singles class 8, men’s doubles class 14 (with Martin Perry)
Ashley Facey, 28, London (Stratford)/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 9, men’s doubles class 18 (with Will Bayley), mixed doubles class 17 (with Grace Williams)
Billy Shilton, 24, Stonehouse (Gloucester)/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 8, men’s doubles class 14 (with Paul Karabardak), mixed doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard)
Bly Twomey, 13, Brighton
Events: women’s singles class 7, mixed doubles class 14 (with Will Bayley)
Chris Ryan, 32, Welwyn Garden City
Events: men’s singles class 2
Felicity Pickard, 29, Burnley/Sheffield
Events: women’s singles class 6, women’s doubles class 14 (with Grace Williams), mixed doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)
Grace Williams, 20, Llanfyllin/Sheffield
Events: women’s singles class 8, women’s doubles class 14 (with Fliss Pickard), mixed doubles class 17 (with Ashley Facey)
Jack Hunter-Spivey, 28, Liverpool/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 5, mixed doubles class 10 (with Megan Shackleton)
Joshua Stacey, 23, Cardiff/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 9, men’s doubles class 18 (with Ross Wilson)
Martin Perry, 29, Paisley/Dumbarton
Events: men’s singles class 6, men’s doubles class 14 (with Aaron McKibbin)
Megan Shackleton, 24, Todmorden/Sheffield
Events: women’s singles class 4, mixed doubles class 10 (with Jack Hunter-Spivey)
Paul Karabardak, 37, Swansea
Events: men’s singles class 6, men’s doubles class 14 (with Billy Shilton)
Rob Davies, 39, Brecon
Events: men’s singles class 1
Romain Simon, 34, Leyton/Chigwell
Events: men’s singles class 3, men’s doubles class 4 (with Tom Matthews)
Ross Wilson, 28, Minster/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 8, men’s doubles class 18 (with Joshua Stacey)
Theo Bishop, 20, Rossendale/Sheffield
Events: men’s singles class 7
Tom Matthews, 31, Aberdare
Events: men’s singles class 1, men’s doubles class 4 (with Romain Simon)
Will Bayley, 35, Tunbridge Wells/Brighton
Events: men’s singles class 7, men’s doubles class 18 (with Ashley Facey), mixed doubles class 14 (with Bly Twomey)


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