Wales' famous five hope to find that medal-winning formula
Gary Baker on 22/06/2012
Wales has some exceptional talent in the table tennis arena at the moment and hopes are high for a bright future.
Able bodied teenagers are making their marks around the world, coached by multi-national champion Ryan Jenkins.
But this summer, the Paralympians will be taking centre stage as they compete for gold in London - and Wales are booming here as well with five players in the Great Britain team for that extravaganza in September out of 13 players (Welsh Paralympic star Sara Head pictured right).
Hopes are high for success in both the team and individual events at the Paralympics in September and Welsh national coach Jim Munkley explained that disability table tennis has come on in a massive way since it was seen just as a recreational activity.
Back in 1988 at the Paralympics in Seoul, Korea, and then four years later at Barcelona, Spain, the stakes were raised. Now, players do not simply work during the day and then practice at night. They are full-time professional athletes and, as such, have been getting ready to peak to perfection at this year's Games.
The Fantastic Five people selected from Wales for the British team this year are Paul Davies (Bridgend), Rob Davies (Brecon), Sara Head (Beddau), Paul Karabardak (Swansea) and Scott Robertson (Wrexham)
It is an incredible achievement in itself to have '40 per cent' of the British team and, as Munkley explained, they are not going down the M4 just to make up the numbers.
Munkley said: "In the past, going back to when I competed in Sydney 2000, there were four of us. That was my last Paralympics and, four years later, we had two players from Wales in the team and three in Beijing (2008).
"Now we have five and there are another six or seven youngsters all coming up the ranks for the future. There are four of them between the ages of 17 and 18 coming through."
Four of Wales' representatives this year are wheelchair-bound, with Rob Davies' story a remarkable one of turning adversity into triumph.
Rob, 27, was badly injured when a rugby scrum collapsed in 2007. He suffered spinal injuries. However, he found table tennis and is now looking forward to his first Paralympics.
Head, 32, is a real medal prospect. Munkley said: "Sara is remarkable. There is a possibility for her in the team competition as her and an English girl Jane Campbell (doubles) are ranked second in the world while, on her day, Sara could do well in the singles.
"Robert Davies has beaten a lot of top players in the individuals as well so he could do something and Paul Karabardak, in the team competition, is quite strong.
"They all have chances and, if they play as well as they have done, then why not (get a medal)."
And anyone who thinks it is an easy life as a Paralympic table tennis player can think again.
The squad, particularly Head, have been on exhaustive trips to Slovenia, Slovakia and Yorkshire on training camps, with Munkley adding: "They have been back and forth and then, in July, they have another British training camp in Slovenia again.
"The work-rate is a lot and, although they don't get paid a wage for it, they have their flights and camps paid for and are professional athletes.
"They have to put the hours in a week and hopefully now, after London, we (Wales) will be able to move on even further."
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