13 April 2018

Wilson leads home nations table tennis success

Ross Wilson conceded he was pushed all the way by close friend and teammate Kim Daybell before eventually sealing the Commonwealth Games para table tennis title he had long dreamed about.

Going in to Saturday’s medal matches, England were already guaranteed gold in the men’s TT6-10 competition – it was just a case of who out of Wilson or Daybell would be crowned champion.

In the end it was the former who came through to win 3-1 with Welshman Joshua Stacey winning his bronze-medal match to complete a British one-two-three, although England’s Felicity Pickard just missed out on a medal in the women’s TT6-10 competition.

The men's TT6-10 singles podium

Wilson, a two-time Paralympic bronze medallist, had come from behind to defeat Stacey in Friday’s semi-finals and he was down early on once more in the final against world No.6 Daybell, losing the first game 11-7.

But after a close second game, which he eventually won by just two points, the 22-year-old grew in confidence to take the win 7-11 12-10 11-3 11-7.

“It feels absolutely fantastic – to be Commonwealth Games champion is something I never dreamed of – well actually it is something I have always dreamed of. But I never thought it would be possible,” he said.

“Coming out here and playing Kim, who is a great player, in the final, I didn’t think it was going to go my way but in the end it did – I really brought out my best game and to get England a one-two, gold-silver is fantastic.

“It is a bit different going into the match, the feelings are a bit different because you know you are playing someone you train with all the time.

“We have been training together for the last two weeks so it is strange to then play a match against them but you just have to try your best to go into the game the same as you would with any other match.

“We always have a few jokes, it is always going to be like that with teammates. But we are great friends and it is fantastic we both made the final.”

European team silver medallist Daybell could still hold his head high after a strong run on the Gold Coast, which saw him beat South Africa’s Theo Cogill in the semi-final.

And while Saturday’s match was just one too far, he was delighted to be able to share a podium with Wilson.

“It is always disappointing to lose but I couldn’t ask for anyone better to lose to than my friend and my teammate,” he said.

“I am really pleased for Ross, he played a fantastic game and was just a little bit better on the day.

“You know each other so well, you always want the best for each other but obviously you want to win at the same time.

“It is hard to find that balance between competitiveness and friendship but today he was a bit better than me and I am really proud of him.

“We came here for the England one-two – I would have loved to have gone one step further, but to have Josh on the podium as well was brilliant and it really bodes well for Great Britain moving forward.”

Concentration personified for Joshua Stacey

The bronze-medal match between Stacey and Cogill proved to be a tight affair with the full five games needed to eventually separate the two.

And with one Commonwealth Games medal secured, Welshman Stacey is already targeting more in four years’ time.

“I’m happy to have won a medal at my first Commonwealth Games. I am hoping to improve the colour (of the medal) in Birmingham,” he said.

“I attacked more when the match got tight. Cogill is a left-hander which means that I needed to receive differently on the forehand. I do enjoy playing left-handers.”

Pickard was up against Andrea McDonnell in the battle for bronze, a player who finished fourth in the women’s doubles class 6-10 at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

And the Australian showed her experience to come through 11-2 11-6 11-3, although Pickard would be leaving her maiden Commonwealth Games with plenty of memories, if no medal to show for her efforts.

“I hope I can inspire other disabled people to join the sport – you can play at any level, it doesn’t matter your disability. I just want to get it out there,” she said.

Felicity Pickard competes for bronze

“The whole experience has been fantastic, especially with Team England behind me, the full support of all the girls who are still here now.

“It is massive for people to see the amount of work that goes in. Just because we are disabled, we do the same amount of work and hopefully it brings us all together – we are no different.”

Just two para-sport events remain in this year’s Commonwealth Games now with the men’s and women’s T54 marathon races taking place in the early hours Down Under on Sunday – and from 21:10 tonight UK time.

Jade Jones, Nicole Emerson and Samantha Kinghorn compete in the women’s race with Callum Hall, John Smith and Simon Lawson going in the men’s race.

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