Stratford athlete Facey Thompson bids for Tokyo qualification

Newham's Ashley Facey Thompson in action

Newham's Ashley Facey Thompson in action - Credit: Archant

Stratford athlete Ashley Facey Thompson is one of seven British Para table tennis players who will be bidding to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games when they compete in the World Qualification Tournament in Lasko, Slovenia this week (June 3-5).

The 26-year-old Londoner narrowly missed out on automatic qualification for the Paralympic Games on his world ranking in men’s class 9 and this week’s tournament is the final opportunity to qualify for Tokyo.

This is the first time that a Para table tennis qualification tournament has been held for a Paralympic Games and with only one place available per class it will be ‘winner-takes-all’, creating a unique challenge for the athletes in their first tournament for more than a year due to the pandemic.

Facey Thompson spent four months at home during the initial lockdown last year when the British team’s training base at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield was closed. Training resumed in August, and he is looking forward to competing again for the first time since March 2020.

“I thought the whole team would struggle with no competitions but as a team we’ve trained really well,” he said. “I’m excited to play a tournament for the first time in over a year. I don’t feel nervous, I’m going to go out there and have fun. I feel that I have improved a lot mentally, physically and in life and I’m really happy with my progress over the last year; I feel I’ve improved a lot.

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“It will be a difficult tournament as you have to win your class to get to the Games but nothing changes; it is still table tennis, and you still have to win.”

Tokyo would be his second Paralympic Games after Rio in 2016 and although determined to earn his place he admits that events over the past 15 months have changed his perspective on life and table tennis.

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“It would be good to get to Tokyo and fingers crossed I can do it,” he said. “I don’t feel the pressure because this last year has taught me a lot – life goes on and you have to keep things in perspective. Many people have died and I’m just hitting a ball over a net. It’s definitely put life in perspective for me and I see the world in a different way now.”

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