Local table tennis star Fliss Pickard is part of a 16-strong squad from the British Para Table Tennis Team in Italy this week for the Lignano Master Open, a tournament that marks the start of the sport’s qualification period for Tokyo 2020.
Pickard made a major breakthrough at the World Championships in Slovenia last year, taking bronze in the women’s class 6 singles, and is now training full time with the British squad at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
“It has been great moving to Sheffield and training full time,” said the 24 year old from Burnley, who represented England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
“Taking a medal at the Worlds was massive and a huge turning point for me.
“I always believed in myself, but to be able to do it on the big stage has given me massive confidence and motivation.
“I’ve just got to take each match as it comes and believe I can produce those performances again.
“Obviously Tokyo is at the back of my mind but I’ll take one match at a time and just stay in the moment.
“As long as I keep the processes the same then anything is possible.”
The Lignano Master Open starts today and runs until Saturday.
Also included in the 16-strong squad for Italy were Pickard’s fellow World Championship medallist Tom Matthews, London and Rio Paralympic medallist Aaron McKibbin, Commonwealth medallists Kim Daybell and Josh Stacey, and European medallists David Wetherill, Paul Karabardak, Martin Perry and Ashley Facey Thompson, as well as Todmorden’s Megan Shackleton.
“This is a very important year for the team,” said BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko.
“The qualification period for Tokyo finishes at the end of March 2020, and to be sure of qualifying for selection the athletes have to be ranked in the top six of their class.
“They have trained hard through the winter and Italy will be the first opportunity for them to test themselves against some of their toughest competitors and see where they are.”