Paralympic Table Tennis scouts Cardiff talent

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Picture: CNP

The Rio 2016 Paralympic games might just be a few months away, but the British Paralympics Table Tennis team is already preparing for the Tokyo 2020 games. They are open to new talents in Cardiff who may potentially make their team.

The GB Paralympic TT team, has been holding series of events all around the United Kingdom, to recruit new talent for their Tokyo 2020 pathway and development squad. A talent identification event was held in Cardiff over the weekend where people with varying levels of disabilities were given a chance to prove themselves in table tennis.

According to Shaun Marples,  the team’s pathway and development coach, these events give people with a wide range of disabilities including ambulant and wheelchair-bound athletes, and those with learning difficulties, a chance to excel in table tennis.

He said “Once we find potential in someone to become the next Paralympic star , we will work closely with the local sports centers to train them. For example, in Wales we will work with Disability Sports Wales and Table Tennis Wales to begin their training. I will then get involved in  few years time to recruit them into the Pathway and development squad of Great Britain.”

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Picture: CNP

 

Event in Wales

The talent identification event  held at the Sports Wales National Centre in Cardiff, saw many youngsters participating. Fourteen year old Jack,  was very excited to try out table tennis. He is already  a part of Disability Sports Wales training with the Javelin Paralympics team. He said “table tennis is more difficult and needs more focus than javelin, but i am excited to try the game and begin training if given an opportunity.”

Jack’s mother Tania thought this was a great opportunity for her son . “Jack will hopefully represent Wales in the javelin championships in summer, but if he likes table tennis and ends up being good at it, I would be thrilled to see him as a champion in both, ” she said.

The talent event in Cardiff also saw Rio athlete Sarah Head helping some of the participants with the game. She said “Unfortunately there weren’t any events like this in my time, I went and took some sneaky lessons and the rest is history. But now with such talent identification events, new talent is given a chance and there is more time to train.” Sarah has been training for the Rio games since 2001 and stressed on the importance of training from an early stage to be ready for Tokyo 2020.

Picture: CNP

Picture: CNP

Idea behind talent identification days

According to Shaun Marples,table tennis being a fine skilled sport, requires a lot of training. He said “After the Olympic games in Beijing, it was identified that we need to get people in early and give them enough time to train and get experience.”

The Great Britain’s table tennis athletes experienced a disappointing performance in Beijing where the team did not win any medals, having consistently won at least two medals in the previous four Games. Since then under the guidance of Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, the team has witnessed continuous success winning medals at the Championships in China 2014 and the European Championships in 2015 to name a few.

Vecko brought in a new regime concentrating on training the players much earlier, giving them more time to train. This also included identifying talent at an early stage and recruiting them to the pathway and development squad, by holding such talent identification events.

Thomas Matthews who is from Wales and currently in the pathway and development squad said “We train just as hard as the main performance squad and are exposed to a lot of international competitions which will get us ready for Tokyo 2020. ” Thomas is currently training for the games in Slovenia in May and working towards a place on the Performance Squad.

Currently,according to the British Table Tennis Association for People with disabilities, most of the players in the Pathway and Development Squads are under the age of 15, providing the team with huge potential for the Paralympic Games in 2020 and beyond.

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    Para Table Tennis

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    Thomas Matthews

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    Rio athlete Sara Head

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