ROTHERHAM-based Paralympic champion Will Bayley and World and Commonwealth champion Ross Wilson head a squad of 11 players from the British Para Table Tennis Team competing in the Japan Open in Tokyo this week.
Although the tournament is being played in a different venue to next year's Paralympic Games in the Japanese city, the experience of travelling to and competing there is benefitting the players who will be hoping to return in 2020 to compete for ParalympicsGB.
Will is joined in the squad by two more players based in Rotherham, Josh Stacey and Martin Perry.
After the disappointment of losing his World title last October, Bayley has bounced back this season with gold medals in Italy and Slovenia that have seen him regain the world number one ranking in men's class 7.
“This has probably been one of my best seasons ever in terms of results but I haven't played my best yet so I'm hoping I can play even better in Japan this week,” said the 31-year-old, who trains full time with the British squad at the EIS in Sheffield.
“My targets in January were to try and do well in every single tournament whereas before I've just focused on the majors. But every single tournament is very difficult now and I've definitely improved my match play in the smaller tournaments leading up to the majors which is good.
“We play a lot of tournaments in Europe so to go outside of Europe to play in Japan, especially as the Paralympics are going to be there next year, is a real test. There are some really good Japanese players in class 7; they are all training full time and are professional players so it will be tough as they have really improved and it is always a challenge against players in front of their home crowd.”
Perry is competing in men's Class 6 and Stacey goes in men's class 9.
The three-day tournament finishes tomorrow.