NHS hero Kim Daybell aims to grab Paralympics chance

Two-time Paralympian and NHS hero Kim Daybell is one of seven British Para table tennis players bidding to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games when they compete in the World qualification tournament in Lasko, Slovenia this week.

Last chance: Kim Daybell.

Nine British players have already qualified on their world ranking and this week’s tournament is the final opportunity for the rest of the performance squad to earn a spot.

With only one place available per class it will be ‘winner-takes-all’, creating a unique challenge for the athletes in their first tournament for more than a year due to the pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While his British team-mates have been training full time since last August, Sheffield’s Daybell, who has spent most of the past 15 months working as a doctor on the NHS frontline against Covid-19, has only recently returned to training with the team at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and acknowledges that his preparation has been far from ideal.

“I’m not where I want to be right now so close to a big tournament,” he admitted.

“I’d like to have more hours of training under my belt, but you can’t change the situation. I’m just pleased to be in a position where I can be there and play after the year that I’ve had; just to be there physically fit and with a chance of doing well is enough for me so I’m looking forward to it. It would mean the world to me to go to Tokyo and would offer some closure after what has been a really difficult year.”

Daybell’s team partner, Ashley Facey Thompson, is also hoping to book his place at what would be his second Paralympic Games and says: “I thought the whole team would struggle with no competitions but as a team we’ve trained really well.”

Primary school teacher Barnsley’s Sue Gilroy will be trying to qualify for her sixth Paralympic Games and came close to winning her first medal in 2016, losing her bronze medal match 3-2.

Full qualification tournament squad: Kim Daybell, 28, Sheffield/London – men’s class 10; Ashley Facey Thompson, 26, London/Sheffield – men’s class 9; Jack Hunter-Spivey, 26, Liverpool/Sheffield – men’s class 5; Susan Gilroy, 48, Barnsley – women’s class 4; Martin Perry, 27, Paisley/Dumbarton – men’s class 6; Fliss Pickard, 26, Burnley/Sheffield – women’s class 6; Billy Shilton, 22, Stonehouse Gloucs/Sheffield – men’s class 8.