UK Sport Talk

Published 8 February 2016

Friday 12 February

Disability Table Tennis: World champion Will Bayley heads a 16-strong squad that will compete in the Lignano Master Open in Italy next week (February 17-20), the first international competition of the season for the GB Para Table Tennis Team as it prepares for this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio.

Bayley, the current men’s class 7 world number one, faces tough opposition from the World number two and three from the Ukraine, Maksym Nikolenko and Mykhaylo Popov, as well as Dutchman Jean-paul Montanus, the world number six who beat Bayley to win the European title last October.

“Training has been going really well,” said the 28 year old London 2012 silver medalist. “The whole squad is playing brilliantly and we are really looking forward to playing in Italy. It is a fantastic tournament and I’m really focused on doing the best I can but obviously I want to peak in Rio and this is a stepping stone. The competition is going to be very strong but that is what I want - I was really excited when I saw the players list because I want the best players there and it is a great test for me to see where my level is at the moment.”

The GB squad for Italy also includes fellow London 2012 medalists Aaron McKibbin, Ross Wilson, Jane Campbell and Sara Head, World silver medalist Sue Gilroy and 2015 European championship medalists Tom Matthews, Paul Karabardak, Billy Shilton and David Wetherill.

“With the Paralympic Games less than seven months away Rio is obviously the main focus for this year,” said GB Performance Director Gorazd Vecko, “but there is a lot of work to be done before then. The team has been working hard through the winter and Italy will be a tough competition with many of the world’s best players competing. We obviously want the players to peak in Rio but this is an important competition for us in our preparation for the Games.”

For more info: BTTAD

Thursday 11 February

Judo: British judoka today said they were ‘ready for the challenge’ they will face in Rio 2016 as they celebrated their selection to ParalympicsGB, announced today by the British Paralympic Association (BPA). 

In a team that blends Games experience with up-and-coming talent, the four athletes Sam Ingram (Coventry), Jonathan Drane (Norwich), Chris Skelley (Hull) and Jack Hodgson (Gainsborough) become the first athletes selected for Rio 2016 this year.

London 2012 silver medallist Ingram (-90kg) will be competing in his third consecutive Games, with Drane, Skelley and Hodgson all aiming to impress on their Paralympic debut.

Edinburgh-based Ingram, who also won bronze in Beijing, will be looking to reach the podium for the third time in Rio. He said:

“My experiences in London have really spurred me on to Rio, and I’ve been working incredibly hard to ensure that I can give it everything when I go to compete. The standard of competition is so high that every day counts. We’ve got months of intensive training ahead but I’m ready for the challenge.”

Penny Briscoe, ParalympicsGB Chef de Mission for Rio 2016, said: 

“This is a very talented and committed group of athletes and I’m delighted to announce their selection to ParalympicsGB. I’m excited by their potential and by the competition that we can expect to see in Rio. I’d like to wish all of the athletes the very best of luck with their ongoing training and preparation.”

“The inclusion of three new athletes pays tribute to the positive training environment created at the British Judo Centre of Excellence in Walsall and I’d like to commend the work led by Ian Johns to help develop British Judo’s program for VI athletes.”

Ian Johns, VI Judo Head Coach, said: 

“I’m really proud to confirm that these athletes have been selected to ParalympicsGB. They are hugely committed to their sport and I’m confident that they will give world class performances when they compete in Rio.”

For more info: British Judo

Athletics: Britain’s greatest ever distance runner and double Olympic champion Mo Farah will compete at the Birmingham Diamond League on Sunday 5 June in an event which will act as the launchpad to his Olympic defence.

Farah has targeted the meeting at the Alexander Stadium as one of his major stepping stones as he bids to defend his Olympic record when the Games open in Rio, exactly two months later, on 5 August.

Mo Farah said: “The Birmingham Diamond League will be my first big European track race of 2016 and a great platform to test myself on the road to the Olympic Games in Rio – the ultimate competition for every athlete. The meet has long been a key fixture in the season and I know that having the support of that passionate home crowd will be a great motivator for me on the day and going into The Games. The British Diamond League meetings always deliver high quality competition and I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Farah said: “I’m massively grateful for all the support that the British public has given me over the years and it’s been a huge reason for my success. Having the chance to meet some of my biggest fans and take part in a fun event like this is brilliant. I’m looking forward to meeting the winners in Birmingham and taking them for a bit of a run!"

Niels de Vos, Chief Executive of British Athletics, said: “Mo Farah is one Great Britain’s greatest athletic icons and he will lead a stellar cast of global stars at the Birmingham Diamond League. This event is vital to their preparation for Rio and the perfect launchpad to the Olympic Games. The Alexander Stadium is home to major athletics events and has a rich athletics history. There is no doubt that we will witness world-class performances aided by amazing support from home crowds.”

For more info: British Athletics

Boxing: The British Lionhearts has named a strong team for its first home match of the season in the World Series Boxing (WSB) against the Mexico Guerreros at York Hall on Thursday 18 February 2016 (doors at 6.30pm, boxing from 8.00pm).

The line-up includes 2013 World Championship bronze medallist and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion, Antony Fowler, at middleweight; 2015 European Championship silver medallist, Pat McCormack, at light-welterweight and 2015 European Championship and 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Qais Ashfaq, at bantamweight.

The experienced trio will be joined by WSB debutant, Galal Yafai at light-flyweight and heavyweight, Lawrence Okolie, who will be boxing in front of his hometown crowd. All five boxers are part of GB Boxing’s World Class Performance Programme based at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield.

The Lionhearts will be looking to continue their unbeaten start to the season and build on away wins in the USA and Morocco against a Mexican team that will be trying to bounce back after losing its last match to the USA Knockouts.

For more info: GB Boxing

Wednesday 10 February

Para-Athletics: Six-time Paralympic champion David Weir will lead the British Athletics team at the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup held at the Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 24 April.

Weir, who returned to the track to bag silver over 1500m at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha last November, will take part in the race which has provided many special memories for the Londoner during his career. After matching Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson’s record of six wins in 2012, Weir will be determined to go one better than his second place finish in 2015.

Joining Weir in the T53/T54 classification is John Smith and Simon Lawson Smith started 2016 with a marathon personal best and victory in Dubai and will be targeting further improvements to his 1:35.56 clocking last month on his maiden appearance in a British vest. Meanwhile, Lawson will also have his sights set on building on his 10th place finish in 2015, while Rob Smith will head to the startiline in the T52 class.

Paralympic Head Coach Paula Dunn said: “This will be great preparation for our athletes ahead of the IPC Athletics European Championships in June and the Paralympic Games in Rio just a few months later.

“2016 is a huge year for the sport and we will be looking to get off to a strong start at the IPC Athletics Marathon World Cup in London.”

For more info: British Athletics 

Tuesday 09 February

Swimming: The British Swimming Championships and British Para-Swimming International Meet are set to be streamed live for both heats and final sessions.

Both events will act as an opportunity for athletes to qualify their places for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and fans will be able to share every moment as the drama unfolds.

Swimmers such as triple World Champion Adam Peaty, double World Champion James Guy, world champions Ross Murdoch, Siobhan-Marie O’Connor and world medallist Jazz Carlin will make a return to Glasgow’s Tollcross International Swimming Centre following impressive performances at the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

“The 2016 British Swimming Championships is one of the most important competitions of the four-year cycle and to be able to share this live with all of our fans through live streaming is a massive boost,” British Swimming National Performance Director Chris Spice said.

“These championships are a key moment on the road to Rio for all of our swimmers. I know there will be some excellent races on show and through the streaming our fans will be able to immerse themselves in the action.”

For more info: British Swimming

Monday 08 February

Badminton: Chris and Gabby Adcock, England’s top pairing, raced to their fourth English National Championship title together at the University of Derby Sports Centre on Sunday.

The Adcocks beat Chris Coles and Sophie Brown 21-11, 21-11 as Gabby racked up her ninth national career doubles title on a finals’ day which saw six Yorkshire players in action.

After their 28-minute win, the Adcocks then focused their attentions on next month’s YONEX All England Championships in Birmingham, the first major Superseries event of the year.

Chris said: “We just want to go there and play well. We know there’s some great pairs out there, but we also know if we play well and do our best we’ve got a great shot.

“We’ll take it one round at a time, but it would be nice to be involved on the Sunday, that’s for sure.”

Warwickshire’s Fontaine Chapman, meanwhile, won her first national women's singles title after two previous finals' defeats thanks to an authoritative 21-15, 21-16 victory over second-seeded Chloe Birch.

Favourite Rajiv Ouseph won his eighth title as England’s top men's singles player ousted debutant finalist Alex Lane 21-10, 21-9.

Meanwhile, Heather Olver and Lauren Smith had to come from behind to beat the all-Yorkshire duo of Sophie Brown and Kate Robertshaw, the second seeds, as they retained their title 19-21, 21-18, 21-7. It was Smith’s fourth title in a row.

For more info: England Badminton

Judo: Sally Conway (-70kg) and Natalie Powell (-78kg) secured Britain's first medals at the Paris Grand Slam since Euan Burton in 2008 as they both came away with bronze medals at the Bercy Arena on Sunday 7 February.

Powell showed her range throughout the day as she started off with good tactical win over the experienced Yalennis Castillo (CUB) by two shidos before throwing France’s Julie Pierret for waza-ari and ippon in quick succession to book a spot in the last eight.

The Welsh judoka came up against Olympic champion Kayla Harrison (USA) and was forced to tap out early after being caught in an arm lock. In the repechage Powell ground out another strong tactical win this time over world number four Guusje Steenhuis (NED) which set up a bronze medal contest with fellow Brit Gemma Gibbons.

In the quarter-final Gibbons took the lead through waza-ari against Mongolia's Lkhamdegd Purevjargal however she picked up a knock and was forced on the defensive to see out the contest. The British judoka was unable to challenge in the semi-final match with Mayra Aguiar (BRA) as a result and dropped into the bronze medal match with Powell.

The bronze medal match between the two British judoka was another tough, tactical encounter with Powell just having too much for her teammate in the end winning by three shidos to one.

Speaking afterwards Powell said: “I’ve had a great day getting my first Grand Slam medal. I have beaten a player in the world top eight and gained more points for Rio qualification.”

For more info: British Judo

Fencing: Great Britain’s Men’s Foil Team today secured qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by finishing ninth at the Bonn World Cup. The team won their trip to Rio as the highest European World ranked team outside the World top four.

The day did not start well as they lost to their nearest rivals for that qualification berth, Germany. However results over the course of the season meant that Germany had to finish in the top two at this World Cup in order to overtake the British team. They could only manage seventh place losing to France in the quarterfinals. China also presented a threat but they had to win the event and lost to Russia in the semi-finals.

Alex Newton, British Fencing’s Performance Director, said; “Today has been a roller coaster of emotions after yesterday's high of James's gold medal. We fenced so well against Germany and to lose by one hit meant we had to play a waiting game to see how all the teams finished. Whilst continuing to focus on our own fencing to get the highest finishing spot we could took all of the fencers’ concentration. 

“With France beating Germany in the quarterfinal, it meant that we needed China to finish below the gold medal spot, he added. With Russia putting on an amazing display of fencing to beat China convincingly in the semi-final we secured our qualification spot. I am thrilled for the boys and Andrey that they have, subject to BOA ratification, secured their place at the Olympic Games. This has been a long journey which doesn't end here. Now the focus turns to Rio where we will focus all our efforts on delivering a medal.”

For more info: British Fencing

Amateur Boxing: The British Lionhearts maintained the team’s unbeaten start in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) with a 3-2 away victory over the Morocco Atlas Lions in Casablanca last night.

An inexperienced Lionhearts line-up, which featured three boxers that had never competed in WSB, overcame the Atlas Lions to put the British team top of Group B and gain revenge over the Moroccan outfit that defeated the Lionhearts home and away in last year’s competition.

Wins for Luke McCormack and WSB debutants, Frazer Clarke and Muhammad Ali in the first three bouts of the evening gave the Lionhearts an unassailable lead which the Atlas Lions were unable to claw back despite restoring some pride by taking the final two contests of the night.

For more info: GB Boxing

Saturday 06 February

Badminton: Devon’s Alex Lane believes he can challenge Rajiv Ouseph for the English national title after a brilliant men's singles semi-final win on Saturday night.

Lane beat second seed Toby Penty to advance to Sunday’s final at the University of Derby, with four defending champions gunning to retain their titles.

Lane said: “That’s a huge win for me because Toby is a really good player and a great friend so to beat him like that and make my first final I am really happy.

“I’m quite emotional because I left full time training six months ago to go to University but I have worked extremely hard since then so that’s a big result.

“I think if I play well tomorrow I can certainly challenge Raj but we’ll just have to see.”

For more info: England Badminton

Friday 05 February

Badminton: Avon’s Christopher Coles kept alive his bid for a brace of doubles’ titles at the English National Championships after vastly contrasting victories in Derby on Friday night.

Coles, 23, first partnered Sophie Brown in the mixed doubles as the seeded pair ousted Gary Fox and Lauren Smith, last year’s beaten finalists, at the £10 million University of Derby Sports Centre.

Coles and Brown won 21-15, 14-21, 21-9 in a gruelling battle which, at 62 minutes, also proved the longest match of the day.

“It was a tough match but we expected that before the game,” said Coles. “I had a bit of a setback in the first set with a bit of cramp but Sophie pulled me through.”

Chris and Gabby Adcock, England’s top pairing and number one seeds, will play Harley Towler and Heather Olver in the stand out clash in Saturday’s last eight of the mixed doubles.

For more info: England Badminton

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