We start with table tennis – the world’s biggest participation sport and a giant on the Paralympic programme, behind only athletics and aquatics in terms of competitor numbers.
With smashes exceeding 100km per hour, it is a sport that is just as exciting to watch as it is to play and one that very few can take their eyes off.
The GB Para Table Tennis team clinched three medals in Rio and have their sights set on more glory next summer, with nine players already qualified for Tokyo 2020 and a further seven set to battle it out in the final World Qualification Tournament in Slovenia next April.
We spoke to British Para Table Tennis to explore these ambitions further and learn more about how you can find your passion at the table.
What are some of table tennis’ greatest ever Paralympic moments?
Winning four medals in front of a home crowd at London 2012 was very special and four years later Will Bayley (men’s class 7) and Rob Davies (men’s class 1) won gold in their respective singles events in Rio.
Who are your most successful athletes?
In our Performance Squad, Will Bayley is the current Paralympic champion and a former World and European champion. We also have Paralympic gold medallist, Rob Davies who won his fourth consecutive European title last year and Ross Wilson, who is the World and Commonwealth champion (men’s class 8). Read about all our Performance Squad athletes here.
Who is table tennis ideal for?
Table tennis is one of the most inclusive Paralympic sports and is suitable for a wide range of physical disabilities, including wheelchair athletes and people with learning disabilities. It has also proved to be beneficial for people suffering from Parkinson’s. Table tennis is fast and fun – anyone can have a go and you can even play on the kitchen table using books or DVDs as a net!
What will I gain from being involved in the sport?
There are table tennis clubs all over the UK where you can make new friends and enjoy the fun, social side of the sport as well as improve your game and take part in competitions. Table tennis is great for improving your hand/eye co-ordination, reactions and general fitness.
What steps must someone take to get started?
All you need is a table tennis bat and you’re ready to give the sport a go. But don’t worry, clubs will be able to provide new players with a bat to start with and they will help you with information and anything else you might need.
British Para Table Tennis has recently launched ‘Future Stars’ - an exciting talent identification programme to bring potential future athletes into the sport. Register now and the Pathway manager will be able to support you in finding a local club and provide you with more information.
Do you have any advice for someone dreaming of becoming a Paralympian in your sport?
You need to be prepared to work hard – the athletes in the British Para Table Tennis team train for six hours a day as well as undertake regular strength and conditioning sessions in the gym. If you would like to know whether you are eligible to compete in Para table tennis, you can find more details and register online for an assessment here here.
From Center Parcs to international stardom, World and Commonwealth Champion, Ross Wilson proves that anything is possible - and you could follow in his footsteps!