British table tennis players step-up Rio 2016 preparations

Training camps, partnerships and matches against Olympic counterparts are all part of the British masterplan for success at Rio 2016. 10 Feb 2015
Will Bayley

Will Bayley returns the ball during his table tennis match with Brazil's Paul Salmin during Great Britain's National Paralympic Day at London's Olympic Park on 7 September 2013. More than 5,000 spectators were there to cheer Bayley on at the match.

ⒸGetty Images
By GB Para Table Tennis Team

“Giving our players as much experience of training with and playing against top class international opposition can only help their development.”

The Great Britain para-table tennis team has been looking overseas as it continues to prepare for next year’s Paralympic Games.

The 2015 season will be a key time for the team with athletes needing to qualify for Rio 2016 by the end of the year and looking to medal at October’s European Championships in Denmark.

Hours of hard training during the winter are spent preparing the athletes for the international competitions which begin in March, and Great Britain Performance Director Gorazd Vecko and head coach Greg Baker believe that regular training with international opposition will help their elite athletes to keep improving.

An August 2014 training camp in Slovenia with other European countries has become a feature of the team’s preparation for the year’s major championship. Four British athletes, including world champion Will Bayley, have just returned from a week-long training camp in Slovakia where they had the opportunity to train and play matches against Olympic players as well as fellow para players.

“It was a brilliant experience,” said Bayley. “The level of the other players was unbelievable and it really pushed us. We all improved dramatically during the week and it has taken us to a new level.”

With preparation for Rio 2016 in mind, Vecko has been forging close links with the Brazilian Table Tennis Federation and their best medal hopeful Bruna Costa Alexandre who is world ranked number three in the women’s class 10. Alexandre is currently on a 10 day visit to train with the British team at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

In March, one of Great Britain team’s brightest young players, 16-year-old Billy Shilton, will travel to Piracicaba in Brazil to take on fellow class 7 player Paulo Salmin in a match that will be shown live on national Brazilian television.

“Giving our players as much experience of training with and playing against top class international opposition can only help their development,” commented Vecko. “We do not have a women’s class 10 player and Bruna is a great sparring partner for our standing athletes. Billy is one of our most talented young athletes and the experience of travelling to Brazil and playing against one of their top players in a major venue will be invaluable for him at this stage of his career.”