Rob Davies heads field at Para table tennis championships

By Patrick Edwards in Other Sports

BRECON’S Paralympic gold medallist Rob Davies heads the entries for this year’s British Para Table Tennis National Championships which take place at Grantham Meres Leisure Centre in Nottingham on April 8 and 9.

Wheelchair-bound Davies, who heads the world rankings in men’s class 1, will have tough competition in his class from US Open champion Tom Matthews.

"It will be a good measure of how I am playing," said the 32-year-old. "Playing against Tom will be a good indication of what sort of shape we are in. It is a big boost having him and Paul (Davies) in the squad as they keep pushing me and that is what I want to do. I want to get even better than I was in Rio and I think I can and those boys are only going to help me do that. Training has been going well Ð it is a slow process getting back into things and you can’t rush it but I feel that I am playing well and getting towards where I want to be. I really want to go to the Nationals and do well."

The championships provide an opportunity for young players to test themselves against the stars of the British Para Table Tennis Performance Squad, many of whom are among the best in the world in their class.

Joining Rob among the star names at the championships will be Will Bayley from Tunbridge Wells, who is fancied as a strong favourite in the standing categories.

Bayley’s celebration after winning gold in Rio made headlines around the world and the 29 year old world number one has been in good form already this season completing a clean sweep in the class 7 singles, open standing singles and open standing doubles in the Draycott Para Open at the beginning of March.

"I really enjoy the Nationals," said Bayley. "It is a good challenge for me playing against my GB team mates, especially in the Open class. It is different playing against team mates as we know each other’s games so well but I am looking forward to it."

Aaron McKibbin and Ross Wilson, who won Paralympic team bronze in London and Rio with Bayley, will face strong competition in menÕs class 8 from 18-year-old Billy Shilton. In men’s class 6 although Paul Karabardak will be missing due to injury fellow three time Paralympian and European medalist David Wetherill will be challenged by US Open champion Martin Perry and five time Paralympian Sue Gilroy’s opposition in women’s class 4 will include her 18 year old GB team partner Megan Shackleton.

"It is brilliant to have such strong competition within the squad," said Wilson. "The standard is rising all the time and I hope we can keep pushing each other to get better results internationally. To have three players in the same class competing at the top level internationally can only be a good thing."