Paralympic champion and rising star visit famous Stoke Mandeville centre

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“Sport can be so transformative for people with disabilities.”

A Paralympic champion and one rising star in disability sports were the special guests at a famous centre in Stoke Mandeville.

Will Bayley and Bly Twomey visited the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville. They were joined by Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) founder Tim Holtam.

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Will is the world number one, in Class 7 table tennis, he won the gold medal at the 2016 Paralympics and took home a silver medal four years later at the Tokyo games.

From left to right: Tim Holtam (BTTC Director), Will Bayley (Paralympian), Jack Silberston (BTTC player), Sammy (Physio Assistant), Kirsten (Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist), Bly Twomey (BTTC player)From left to right: Tim Holtam (BTTC Director), Will Bayley (Paralympian), Jack Silberston (BTTC player), Sammy (Physio Assistant), Kirsten (Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist), Bly Twomey (BTTC player)
From left to right: Tim Holtam (BTTC Director), Will Bayley (Paralympian), Jack Silberston (BTTC player), Sammy (Physio Assistant), Kirsten (Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist), Bly Twomey (BTTC player)

Bly, at just 13 years old, is ranked as the fifth best table tennis player in the same categorisation. She recently won a singles and doubles title for Great Britain at the ITTF Lignano Masters Para Open in Italy.

Both athletes represent the BTTC and were in Buckinghamshire to visit fellow player, 18-year-old, Jack Silberston. Following a tumour on his spine Jack came to the NSIC as part of his rehabilitation programme. Jack started playing wheelchair table tennis during his first admission and he enjoyed the sessions so much that he then found a local club near home.

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Since taking up the game, Jack has won three gold medals at the Malmo Open.

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Bly and Will talking to NSIC patientsBly and Will talking to NSIC patients
Bly and Will talking to NSIC patients

Will and Bly hosted two sessions for patients, both children and adults, starting with a demonstration from Bly followed by the opportunity for patients to get involved and have one to one coaching.

Jack said: “'It was a great experience to have some of the Brighton Table Tennis Club come to see where the Paralympic Games started. I think everyone involved enjoyed themselves and hopefully some of the patients are now thinking about pursuing table tennis. Sport can be so transformative for people with disabilities.”

Stoke Mandeville is often referred to as the birthplace of the Paralympics as Dr Ludwig Guttmann’s competitions involving wheelchair athletes in the late 40s are seen as the inspiration and starting point for the global competition we now see every four years.

Kirsten Hart, clinical specialist physiotherapist at the Trust said: “The visit provided such a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It was great to see the patients

enjoying the coaching and support from Will and Bly. I think we may have inspired a few potential future players.”

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