WELSH TABLE TENNIS STARTS AMONG FIRST SELECTED TO PARALYMPICS TEAM AT BEIJING GAMES

20 Feb 2008

Four Welsh table tennis athletes are among the first to be named by ParalympicsGB today as part of the British team at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.

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Paralympians Neil Robinson, aged 49 from Bridgend, and 31-year-old Scott Robertson, from Saltney, Flintshire are joined in the squad by debutantes Clare Robertson – Scott’s wife, aged 32, and 22-year-old Swansea player Paul Karabardak. This will be the sixth successive Paralympic Games for Robinson, who made his Games’ debut 20 years ago in Seoul. In that time he has amassed an impressive seven Paralympic Games medals, including individual silvers in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996 as well as team gold in Barcelona in 1992.

Qualification for the table tennis competitions at the Beijing Paralympics was based on positions in the world ranking list after it closed on December 31, 2007. British performances at events throughout 2006 and 2007 saw the GB players rise through the world rankings to qualify and subsequently be selected for the Games. These performances included an individual bronze for Robinson at 2006 IPC Table Tennis World Championships and an individual gold at the Polish Open in 2007 as well as an individual silver and team silver for Karabardak at the Slovenian Open.

Husband and wife Scott and Clare Robertson both said they were over the moon to be selected. Scott added: "It’s a big relief to know I’ve been selected. I’m really excited for both me and Clare – it’s her first Paralympics and my third.

"I had a big operation on my leg last year and couldn’t play for three months – so I wasn’t sure if I would be back in time to qualify – but I’ve recovered now and am looking forward to the Games. My aim is to play to the best of my ability and give myself the best chance of getting out of the group."

Clare added: "I’m nervous about the Games but excited. In China it’s all about table tennis so it brilliant to be part of that.

"I just need to stay fit now so that I can play my best when I’m out there. I would love to make the podium but I’m not going to say that I will come back with a medal as I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself at this stage."

Table tennis Team Manager Steve Ward said: "To be the first team selected by ParalympicsGB is a great honour for table tennis and the athletes who have achieved the tough qualification standards.

We will have a larger squad than in Athens in 2004 with a number having never competed at the Paralympics before but who have great chances to compete for medals and gain valuable experience for future Games in London in 2012 and beyond.

"We are planning to defend the two medals won in Athens – men’s class 3 team silver and women’s class 2 singles bronze – as well as take others. Beijing will however be much tougher than Athens and all players will need to perform at the highest level to challenge the Chinese in their backyard. The sport over there is like football here and we are being told the tickets are selling out already.

"The venue is outstanding and the biggest stage in world for table tennis, we need to pull out our biggest performances to maximise medal chances."

The Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games opens on September 6 and closes on September 17. The table tennis events at the Games take place from September 7 to 16 at the Peking University Gymnasium.

At the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games Britain finished second in the medal table with a total of 35 golds, 30 silver and 29 bronze medals. With competitive standards continually rising and the dominant Chinese team taking the home advantage ParalympicsGB recognises that the 2008 Paralympics will be one of its biggest challenges yet.

For further information about the British Paralympic Association, please contact Sian Davies in the Press Office on or or by email at . For news updates visit the BPA website at www.paralympics.org.uk

Welsh athletes selected:

Name Date of Birth Home Town Place of Birth

Paul Karabardak 03/10/1985 Swansea Swansea

Clare Robertson 25/08/1975 Saltney, Flintshire Cardiff,

Scott Robertson 23/06/1976 Saltney, Flintshire Mancot, Flintshire

Neil Robinson 23/07/1958 Bridgend Bridgend