Paralympic champion Rob Davies is included in a 16-person squad to compete at the European Para Table Tennis Championships in Slovenia.
The 33-year old Welshman won gold at Rio last year and is hoping to win a third straight European singles title.
Olympic and world champion Will Bayley is also picked as he bids to hold all three major titles at the same time.
Welsh pair Paul Davies and Tom Matthews will also defend the men’s class one team title won in 2013 and 2015.
Paul Davies – men’s class 1 singles and class 1 team
“I’m really looking forward to the Europeans. It would be nice if I could repeat what I did in 2013 and get to the final but you never know. We are definitely favourites for the team gold and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve had some good tournaments this year already and beaten the players who are the main threats in the Europeans except for a certain Rob Davies. Experience counts for a lot and having played in the Excel in 2012 and in front of the Brazilian crowd in Rio I think I can cope with anything but you’ve still got to keep your head together. You never stop learning but as you get older you mature more in the sport and your mind-set is different. I don’t get nervous playing in major tournaments – I just enjoy the buzz of it.”
Rob Davies MBE – men’s class 1 singles and class 1 team
“I just like competing and trying to be at my best for the major competition every year – whether it is Europeans, Worlds or Paralympics. It was good to get the gold in the Czech Open. I’d lost a few matches earlier in the season but I wanted to concentrate on other things in my life after Rio – including getting married in July. It is nice to be World number one – I think I was on honeymoon when I heard that I had gone down the rankings – but to be honest, it is not as important for me as winning the major titles. I’m looking forward to going to the Europeans and hopefully playing my best table tennis. The Czech Open was really good match practice and I was happy with my performance there so I’ve just got to try and up my level again for the Europeans.”
Paul Karabardak – men’s class 6 singles and class 6 team
“Preparation has been really good and I’ve been training really hard. I’ve had some competitions at home and been playing really well so I’m excited about playing in the Europeans. Hopefully, I can draw on my experience and that can set me up for a good competition. I need to play my game and not let my opponents dictate the matches – just do what I do best. I did well two years ago and I think I’m playing better now and I’m more used to class 6. We also have a fantastic chance in the team event – I’m playing with two really good players and I think we have a great chance to do really well.”
Tom Matthews – men’s class 1 singles and class 1 team
“Training has been going really well. Having taken a singles medal and team gold in 2015 definitely gives me confidence and hopefully we can retain the team title. Playing with Rob and Paul has helped me a lot. It is great to have a Paralympic champion alongside you in the team event telling you to calm down and giving you little techniques to help with concentration. I think my mentality has improved over the last two years. Before I could easily get frustrated if I wasn’t playing well but now it takes a lot to get me frustrated. I’m feeling quite confident going into the Europeans and I’m looking forward to it – I can’t wait to get out there.”
British squad: Will Bayley (class 7) – Tunbridge Wells/Sheffield, Paul Davies (class 1) – North Cornelly, Rob Davies (class 1) – Brecon, Kim Daybell (class 10) – Sheffield/Leeds, Ashley Facey Thompson (class 9) – London/Sheffield, Sue Gilroy (class 4) – Barnsley, Jack Hunter-Spivey (class 5) – Liverpool/Sheffield, Paul Karabardak (class 6) – Swansea, Tom Matthews (class 1) – Aberdare, Aaron McKibbin (class 8) – London/Sheffield, Martin Perry (class 6) – Paisley/Sheffield, Felicity Pickard (class 6) – Burnley, Megan Shackleton (class 4) – Todmorden, Billy Shilton (class 8) – Stonehouse (Gloucestershire)/Sheffield, David Wetherill (class 6) – Torpoint, Ross Wilson (class 8) – Minster/Sheffield