Burnley’s Felicity Pickard believes she can become the best on the planet after claiming bronze in the women’s class 6 as the World Para Table Tennis Championships.
Pickard came of age in last week’s tournament as she reached the semi-finals, where she went down to World number two and European champion Raisa Chebanika.
The 26-year-old put in another solid performance as she levelled the match at 1-1, and saved match points in the fourth set, before the hugely-experienced Russian – Paralympic champion in London 2012 – secured the set 14-12 and the match 3-1.
“I thought in parts I played really well,” said Pickard, “and things I had been working on in training came off.
“Obviously there is lots to work on, but that is always the case in table tennis.
“I’m disappointed now but I think I’ll look back in time and realise I’ve had some good wins, and definitely under the pressure I think I’ve performed quite well.
“I always believe I can win a match. I can be 10-0 down and I’ll still keep fighting for every point because I believe I can win.
“I’ve got massive motivation now. I’m new to the full time programme and I’m only at 5% of where I want to be and what I believe I’m capable of.
“I’m not half the player I want to be yet, so bring it on.
“It’s just little tweaks here and there; keep working as hard as I can and I can be the best in the world.”
British Para Table Tennis Team Performance Director Gorazd Vecko was satisfied with his team’s performance in Slovenia, as Ross Wilson took gold in men’s class 8 and Tom Matthews added bronze in men’s class 1: “We are very happy because we have three players who have never medalled at a World Championship taking medals, and a new World champion in Ross Wilson who is still only 23 years old.
“We also have medals in two new classes for us with Ross in men’s class 8 and Fliss Pickard in women’s class 6.
“Obviously we want to have more medals but it was too much to expect that everyone could take a medal. The target from UK Sport was two to five and we have three medals including a gold.
“If you had asked me a year ago if Fliss Pickard could take a medal at the World Championships I would not have said she has no chance, because I believe in all my players, but what she has done here is fantastic.
“I think the results at this competition show the strength of our programme, because when our Paralympic champions Will Bayley and Rob Davies were not able to take a medal, here we had other players who stepped up to take medals.
“So I think overall we had some disappointing results and some amazing results.
“We will review everything to see what we need to do better to be ready for next year which is our qualification year for Tokyo.”
Pickard showed all her fight and determination to come through the group stage.
In her first World Championships, she could not have picked a tougher opponent than World number one Marina Lytovchenko, the Ukrainian who has won gold in Slovakia, Slovenia and China this year.
However, she kept battling and was far from disgraced in a 3-1 loss.
She then beat the World number nine Gabriela Constantin in her final group match, holding her nerve in the deciding set after the Romanian came back from 0-5 to level at 5-5 and taking the match 11-7 in the fifth.
The win took her into the quarter-finals, and she produced an even better performance to defeat the World number four and former World champion from Poland Katarzyna Marszal 3-0.
She said: “I can’t quite believe it. I just had to believe in all the training that I’ve done, and I just went for it. I was really nervous but I’m just trying to stick to a game plan and keep positive. I just decided to take it one match at a time.”